The road to the adoption of blockchain and crypto in the marketing industry is a long and winding road. But make no mistake about it: Transformation is well on its way and the road will soon turn to a highway.
As someone who has been a creative director, agency owner/partner, strategic planner, chief marketing officer for fintech startups and an entrepreneur, I’ve seen the marketing industry from multiple vantage points.
What’s common in marketing revolutions?
And while every so-called “marketing revolution” takes a somewhat different path, there are many commonalities. First of all, marketing agencies will get ahead of the curve as a way to exhibit their competitive advantage and value to their clients. But a majority of brand marketers will move more slowly: They have the challenge of “socializing” change internally, are lured by the opportunity for competitive differentiation but also inherently more cautious, often have large and complex systems issues, and require leadership with a certain risk tolerance. It’s why companies like McDonald’s and Walmart are dipping their toes into crypto, yet still have a way to go.
Secondly, as with most transformative moments in marketing, a core challenge is a behavioral one: How to get customers/consumers to take that first step … to overcome confusion, fear/distrust, or simple inertia to make that first transaction. Think: the early days of the internet and connecting a modem for a dial-up connection; having to incent folks to adopt online banking and pay their first bill or electronically deposit their first check; or QR-codes, which were a big dud until Apple built a QR reader right in the iPhone’s camera.
The common denominator: simplicity. It’s why asking mainstream consumers to navigate an infinite number of exchanges, Metamask, Uniswap, hot and cold wallets, and the like is a tall task. Yes, early adopters are doing just fine, but they’re just a sliver of the total universe of the general population.
Third, innovation happens because there are problems to be solved. From the Cypherpunks to modern-day evangelists, champions of crypto talk of transforming how privacy, decentralization and the democratization of money will change the world. For marketers, the issues that have prevailed so far are related, but a bit more modest.
For example, projects like Lucidity and Rebel AI (now Logiq) offer to tackle the vexing issue of bot-driven ad fraud in digital marketing. The browser Brave, and its corresponding token, BAT, promise to tackle data privacy when searching the web. And AdsDax and IBM are working to drive more accountability and transparency in digital marketing performance.
Just around the corner
The onramp to the blockchain/crypto highway in marketing can be found all around us, right now. Consider:
Payments: With the rise of crypto credit cards like those offered by Coinbase, Crypto.com, BlcokFi… the ability to pay with crypto on PayPal… buy now, pay later (BNPL) platforms like Klarna integrating Safello… and the dominance of stablecoins, it’s safe to say the payments category is rapidly evolving and will have a material impact on how products and services engage their customers.
Analytics: Data analytics is core to the digital marketing revolution, and the ability for marketers to leverage it shows tremendous potential in a decentralized ecosystem. The use cases for oracles like Chainlink, querying tools such as The Graph and onChain analytics have only scratched the surface of their potential for brand marketers.
Content creation: The rights of content creators and publishers have long been a hot button in the marketing ecosystem. Projects like Audius are demonstrating how a decentralized ledger has the potential to be a gamechanger in protecting copyrights, giving consumers more choice in how they pay for and consume content, and how content is stored and distributed.
Social media: Twitter recently announced an executive role to spearhead its “BlueSky” exploratory for a decentralized standard for social media. Facebook is purportedly piloting a stablecoin-based digital currency of its own, dubbed Diem. Social media and content marketing have, arguably, been at the forefront of the brand marketing playbook over the past five years; there’s little reason to believe that that will not remain the case.
Loyalty: Loyalty/customer relationship management programs, which often struggle with creating a “currency” to deliver as a reward to motivate true behavior change vs. merely defending defection, will find an entirely new avenue to go down in NFTs — which projects like Cryptibles and Enjin is offering. Moreover, as experiences outpace “stuff” as a coveted reward for loyalty, the promise of NFTs for “digital tickets” to unique experiences like that offered by Microsoft, collectible trading and auctions, and the ability to connect in-person events with a digital experience is an exciting new frontier.
Gamification: The impressive growth of Axie Infinity demonstrates just how powerful the potential for play-to-earn gaming and NFTs can be. Though Axie is a self-contained game, it portends a future where brands will gamify marketing strategies of their own in a semi-decentralized way, and even create their own play-to-earn games.
Ingredient brands: Will there come a time when the blockchain that a product/service is built on becomes an “ingredient brand” much the way Visa or Mastercard is to an issuing bank’s credit card, or Intel is to a Windows-based computer? Will we see the likes of NBA Top Shot powered by Flow? Given all the investor interest in crypto projects, it’s not an outlandish thought.
Peering into the future: The Metaverse
If history is any guide, the decentralized digital future will fundamentally change how marketing is done, as the UX of the technology gets easier and more intuitive, the utility becomes more obvious and profound, adoption increases, and behavioral hurdles are slowly but surely overcome.
So while I previously offered my thesis for the rise of the user-generated brand (UGB), I’d like to now peer into the future and paint a picture of a personal Web 3.0, decentralized consumer community.
Imagine this: Web 3.0 is firmly in place and blockchain technology and crypto are ubiquitous. The battles over regulation have largely been fought. Transaction speed, scalability and resilience are no longer questioned. And, after several waves of merged projects, consolidation and an inevitable shakeout, there are dominant projects in every category.
Now, everyone on the internet has a private key on a blockchain within their personalized metaverse, within which they can build their “private house” (which they can name as they wish). Simple to access, their Metaverse House (MVH) will be where they can store, explore and procure using their universal wallet.
Their MVH will be home to their electronic health record and legal documents, profile including interests and preferences, NFTs (which they can “hang” on their virtual walls), and transaction histories. Those items that they wish to be public can be accessed utilizing a privacy “view key.” Everything else is private and secure.
Here, consumers get paid in crypto for agreeing to be targeted for advertising. So, for example, if someone wants a brand like Nexium to tell them how they can eliminate their acid reflux, they’ll simply have to make all or part of their health record public using their view key. When they demonstrably engage the ad unit, they’ll receive their “reward” as stipulated in their smart contract. If they’re researching a new car and would like a brand to show them stuff, send offers, etc., they’ll simply drop their public key on its website and voila! it’ll show up in their MVH… and keep showing up as the advertiser deems strategically effective in moving a prospect down a decision funnel until said prospect revokes the key.
Because consumers aren’t always aware of what could solve a problem or add value to their lives, they’ll toggle on the option to Surprise Me! For this, advertisers will have to pay a premium — which means they’ll need to be more selective, not less, in whom they target, using AI/predictive modeling that analyzes those publicly accessible profiles and transaction histories.
And because, by this time, virtually all advertising will be addressable, the ability to deliver what people truly want, when they want it, will be profound.
When people consume content — whether it’s streaming video, an article online or podcast — they’ll pay for it using their universal wallet. It won’t be a monthly subscription, mind you. You’ll have a choice: By the amount of time on site, individual content accessed or any other arrangement that the publisher wants to offer its customers. Instead of big monthly chunks, it’ll be in very small bite-sized payments.
Because their MVH chain time-stamps transactions across multiple sites and services, a new kind of loyalty program will be conceivable — one in which a family of cross-sector brands on a truly global scale can band together to create something the likes of Upromise and Plenti could never pull off.
Need auto insurance? Instead of getting it from an underwriter like Geico, Progressive or State Farm, you’ll connect with others in a peer-to-peer smart contract cooperative, with arbitrators who act as adjusters and receive fees for every “verdict.”
I can go on and on.
Whether you have stablecoins issued by the country you live in or any other coins in your universal wallet, you’ll be able to do all your shopping and “banking” directly from your MVH. You’ll be empowered to ask retailers to essentially bid for your business — by price, added value services, bundled offers, etc. Want to buy something from a store halfway around the planet? No problem; the currency exchange is decentralized and automatic.
Consumers will have full control over how much, if any, of their shopping transactions they want to be “public” — meaning open to marketing analytics for the reasons described above. Done prudently by advertisers, consumers will see great value over time in just how helpful, vs. harassing brands that covet their business can be.
So is this vision of a new, blockchain-centric marketing universe fanciful? Possible? You decide.
Regardless, in the inimitable words of Ken Kesey, when it comes to roads worth traveling, either you’re on the bus, or you’re off the bus.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.