The hype surrounding the new kid on the block, ‘the blockchain’ is real.  While some call it the early internet, others simply believe it to be an extended fad, and the rest of us are on the fence watching closely on how this new kid matures.  The technology has the potential to disrupt many industries as it allows end users to conduct transactions without a middleman in a secure and transparent manner.

I wouldn’t want to get down to explaining the nuts and bolts on what is a blockchain and how it works. There are numerous great examples which would bring up to speed all those who are unaware of it. The focus of this article is to understand how the blockchain impacts marketing.

The first revolution in marketing happened a little over 15 years ago when the digital space began to boom. Classical marketing took a back seat and gave way to digital marketing. Using data, omnichannel relationships with consumers and real-time feedback from customers, digital marketing redefined the way marketing is done. And thanks to the cloud, the marketing technology landscape exploded with nearly 5,000 companies (as of 2017), providing all kinds of martech solutions. Is marketing been overrun by software?

With the blockchain, it seems marketing may be on the cusp of a second revolution. One of the biggest foreseeable disruptions that could occur may affect Google itself, unless the search giant finds a way around it.

The impact of blockchain on SEM, or search engine marketing would be huge. In the digital marketing world, the giants such as Google and Facebook, connect advertisers with website owners. As an example, Google runs the Google display network and acts as a middleman that helps advertisers and website owners trust each other. With a blockchain, they wouldn’t need Google, at least in theory, if they already trusted each other. The blockchain can easily verify that every user is genuine with 100% accuracy and that the website owner is only charging the advertiser for genuine clicks through to their site. In such a scenario, the website owner and the advertiser deal directly and would not need a middleman to arbitrate their agreement, which would save them both money. Blockchain thus presents a big threat to Google’s display network revenue.

Another potential area of impact of blockchain is on online advertising. The stats like clicks, engagement etc., counted on social media may not always be true and could be controlled by bots. Companies end up paying much more to distributors than actual clicks on their ads. Bots cost companies more than $ 7 billion damage in 2016 alone. Advertising fraud is big and blockchain can help address that. Due to transparency and encryption, companies can now, using the chain, determine if people viewing their ads are members of their target audience or bots who are simply draining money. Simply put, companies now can make sure they get the advertising they pay for.

Marketers also can improve their brand perception and value proposition by using the blockchain. For example, food companies and retailers can now trace the source of their products right from the farm to the shelves of retailers. This applies across industries where products can be verified for authenticity and safety using the blockchain across the supply chain. Marketers can work with their supply chain counterparts and turn the message around for customers to build their brand. Blockchain thus not only helps in creating transparency in business operations, but helps improve customer experience and build the brand.

There are many other ways that marketers could use this technology to improve their marketing. Rewarding consumers for viewing content, verifying customers, crowdsource new products and services, verifying content, contests and awards etc., are just some of applications of blockchain in marketing. The blockchain is still in its infancy. It’s not only marketers, but even professionals in other business functions like HR or finance across industries need to wrap their heads around it to appreciate its potential applications.  There is eventually going to be an explosion of blockchain martech once the dust settles down on the chain applications. As Jeremy Epstein, the authority on blockchain in marketing puts it, marketers need to be aware and closely follow the developments in blockchain if they don’t want to miss the boat on the second big revolution in marketing.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Orion Business Innovation.

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