Blockchain technology and its many use cases have hit the mainstream over the past two years.
While the technology has been with us for longer, rapid digitization in the face of a pandemic and other economic concerns have led to many new, exciting projects.
So, with the blockchain more relevant than ever, it’s high time we explore blockchain marketing.
To do this, we have covered what blockchain is for those that don’t know, then what blockchain marketing entails. Then we have a brief history of blockchain marketing, from its early inceptions to what it is today.
We have also included the advantages that come with using the blockchain to build and operate a marketing outfit.
When it comes to blockchain technology and the developments around it, so much is speculative or emerging.
That’s why we have included current examples of blockchain-based marketing solutions, along with links to supporting materials that allow readers to explore this topic in more detail.
To start, let’s cover what blockchain is and what it looks like when geared toward marketing.
What Is Blockchain Marketing?
For those who are new to the blockchain or are still unsure of what it is despite seeing the term everywhere – let us help you out.
Then we can go on to understand how marketing intersects with blockchain technology to create new and exciting opportunities in that space.
A blockchain can be summarized in three words – distributed digital ledger.
The digital ledger part is easy enough. It hosts data electronically that can be read and processed without giving away any personal details of its participants. The data in a blockchain is stored – you guessed it – in blocks connected via a linear chain.
Each block is encrypted with something called a hash and then secured with a timestamp. When new information is added, a new block is formed, but the hash and timestamp explicitly contain information from the previous block too, forming the chain.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know the intimate details of how the blockchain is formed to learn about blockchain marketing. However, there are free blockchain education courses online that can help with that.
The real interesting part of the blockchain is its distribution. Centers of information are often centralized, so they’re stored in one or few places, and can easily be managed and manipulated by somebody who has that power.
The blockchain is designed to be distributed, meaning that the ledger is copied and hosted across a great many computer devices, called nodes.
By doing this, the ledger becomes decentralized and it becomes practically impossible for an individual to change the data stored there.
Most blockchain adherents, especially in the cryptocurrency space, assert that decentralization is necessary for a successful blockchain. It’s easy to see why, as that’s where most of the system’s security, transparency, and anonymity benefits come from.
If one person holds all the data, then they can alter it, keep things secret, and see the personal information of those interacting with their network.
A decentralized system also cuts out middlemen, like banks in the world of finance, and so it allows for the exchange of currency without putting money into somebody else’s pocket or experiencing service delay.
While blockchain started with cryptocurrencies and alternative markets in mind, it can be used for so much more. That’s where marketing enters our equation.
With all of the above understood about the blockchain and how it works, we can go deeper into blockchain marketing and what that looks like.
Since blockchain data cannot be altered at all, users have more trust in the data that they’re creating and receiving.
Tech ensuring a high-trust environment is a godsend for marketers, whose entire industry relies on building trust and brand integrity with customer prospects.
In a blockchain marketing environment, every consumer has more control over their data. This means that your data isn’t getting scraped daily, as happens on all the big social media sites, and so marketing interactions become more voluntary as a result.
While that may harm some businesses’ spammy email campaigns, it means that every customer interaction is mutually engaged by both parties and is virtually guaranteed to lock in the product/service sale.
As it stands now, data is taken from you all the time. On so many websites and social media platforms, your data is taken and then sold to marketers based on what you have clicked on before.
While there are treasure troves of information out there, most of the recorded data is noise. Blockchain-based marketing aims to create a data exchange between brands and individual consumers.
This would allow users to voluntarily offer or record their browsing data to the blockchain – possibly with a paid incentive in the form of cryptocurrency – and cut out the middleman that indiscriminately steals data, whether it’s good or bad.
Besides improving trust and customer interactions, this should also result in higher quality information being provided to marketers, so they can do their job more effectively. In a line – it is democratizing marketing.
That’s the idea of blockchain marketing – blockchain-facilitated platforms that allow data exchange voluntarily.
This means they can decide if they share data, have more trust in brands and blockchain tech if they do, and will provide more accurate, valuable information to brands when they do.
Without the middleman, digital advertising costs will also be cheaper for marketing teams, so everybody wins.
History Of Blockchain Marketing
While many blockchain projects seem to have appeared out of nowhere in the last five years, the truth is that it has been a very long road to get to where we are today. There are at least 31 years of history behind these technologies and their applications.
Before we cover individual years, let’s understand that we can broadly separate blockchain history into several epochs.
First, we have the 1991-2008 period where the ideas behind cryptographic data were established, making blockchain possible.
Then there is 2009-2018, where Bitcoin had been minted and exploded in value over the decade.
Lastly, there is the 2018-Present period, which is where we are right now.
We’re starting in 1991, but it’s important to remember that cryptography as a practice has been around for thousands of years.
The average person would know it was writing or speaking in code, where you know potential adversaries are listening and want to convey information directly to the target, and only the target.
Then, in the ‘70s as data-storage technology was getting off the ground, modern cryptography emerged in computer encryption.
As such, we have publications like David Chaum’s “Computer Systems Established, Maintained, and Trusted by Mutually Suspicious Groups” in 1982. It describes something similar to a blockchain – it’s close, but no cigar.
That leads us to 1991, where Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta created a system that uses cryptographically-secured blocks to timestamp and tamper-proof documents.
They made their system even better in 1992 when they incorporated Merkle trees that allow more data to be written to a single block. This made the service more efficient and viable and so, by 1995, their company Surety was licensing it to other businesses.
One of their biggest customers is The New York Times, which has secured its publications with cryptographically secured hashes for decades.
The Merkle tree is essential to the speed, efficiency, and viability of blockchain technology. If you want to go deeper into blockchain mechanics, it’s something you should learn more about. Check out a basic explanation of Merkle trees.
While there may have been other developments in the world of cryptography and computer science (and smartphone tech, which has been instrumental in decentralized app tech), there’s one name that everybody associates with the blockchain.
That’s right – Satoshi Nakamoto. The mysterious person, or group, that we only know as Satoshi first came up with the idea for a decentralized blockchain that uses formerly established Hashcash protocols and timestamping to secure data blocks without needing to be signed.
The result is a peer-to-peer network that isn’t at the mercy of middlemen and authorities when exchanging finances. Of course, such a system would need a currency, so Satoshi established one – Bitcoin.
After dropping the Bitcoin whitepaper, the technical manifesto made a splash in computer science circles. Despite how important blockchain and cryptocurrency have become, we still don’t know who Satoshi Nakamoto is today.
Shortly after the whitepaper was published, Bitcoins were minted in 2009. Bitcoin is mined by early enthusiasts, some spending thousands of Bitcoin on simple services like ordering pizza, which would be worth billions nowadays.
It’s the first stress test of Satoshi’s concept and, as you can probably guess, it worked pretty well.
Bitcoins can be mined but, as more coins are unearthed (which coincides with more blocks being stacked onto its blockchain) then it becomes harder to mine new coins.
As it stands, there can only be 21 million Bitcoins in the world, which adds natural scarcity to the digital currency. This stops too many from being created and cheapening the value of the currency.
As the early cryptocurrency scene develops, Satoshi Nakamoto appears to abandon the Bitcoin project to others in 2011.
2015 was a big year for blockchain technology because it saw entrepreneur Vitalik Buterin invent Ethereum. While many may know Ethereum for its cryptocurrency, Ether, which is considered the silver to Bitcoin’s gold.
However, Ethereum quickly became the world’s largest blockchain and it still is today.
You may be wondering what cryptocurrency has to do with blockchain marketing.
Assuming that cryptocurrencies aren’t used on future blockchain platforms, which is unlikely since cryptocurrencies get their value from their native blockchain, there is not much stopping fiat money from transitioning into a digital format and taking advantage of the blockchain.
After Bitcoin and Ethereum (and some joke coins like Dogecoin) burst onto the scene, they steadily fluctuated in value until 2018.
Bitcoin and Ethereum experience a drastic rise in value, though they later crash down. By modern standards, it’s a blip, as Bitcoin hit $8k that year while it’s worth more than $30k today.
In the wider world of blockchain, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, and other significant captains of industry show interest in blockchain tech online.
By now, there are many blockchains available:
- Linux Hyperledger
After 2018, we see many new projects building on blockchain technology. This challenge to Ethereum’s primacy as the world’s largest blockchain is welcomed, as every industry explores the tech and seeks to implement its applications.
Just as this age of blockchain expansion starts, the worldwide pandemic shuts down many public institutions in the world and forces many people online.
This results in renewed interest in cryptocurrency and the technologies surrounding it, becoming increasingly popular and mainstream in 2020 and 2021.
That brings us to now, 2022, where both centralized and decentralized technologies are set to revolutionize finance and communication over the next decade.
It is in this environment where blockchain marketing can and will find its footing and result in democratized, trustworthy data transfer between brands and individuals.
The Advantage Of Using Blockchain Marketing
Now that you know what blockchain is and how it has developed over the last three decades, maybe you can see why marketing is one of the many industries that can transition to a blockchain-based digital economy.
As services and even products (if the loftier use cases of NFTs are true) become increasingly digitized, digital advertising is set to become easier and more intertwined with blockchain tech.
There are about nine immediate benefits that can come from blockchain marketing, and those are just the ones we can anticipate!
More Democratic Marketing
Starting with the more intangible, philosophical benefits – we’ve already said multiple times that blockchain marketing can democratize marketing. What does this mean?
Well, it doesn’t mean that your marketing campaign stops until everybody votes on it.
Instead, it’s all about handing some power back to consumers. Through years of nudging and convenient terms and conditions, the average consumer has signed away any rights to the data they put out on the Internet.
With the blockchain, those consumers have ownership of their data again and can be directly compensated for sharing it, instead of the mega-corporations that take their data and hand it to marketers nowadays.
This creates good faith with consumers too, who appreciate honesty and would rather deal directly with marketers than underhanded data-scraping tactics.
More Reliable Marketing
To make some profit, social media sites and other large online services house data from pretty much anybody that interacts with them. That’s a lot of data and a lot of it is trash.
With blockchain marketing solutions, consumers can elect to share/sell their data, which should be more accurate than the unrelenting wave of poached social media data that marketers currently have to sift through.
Also, with products, the blockchain can make the source and manufacturing process more transparent.
This has positive ramifications for ethical business practices as consumers can choose businesses that make quality products and make sure that everybody in the supply chain is paid properly and treated with respect.
Auditing supply chains becomes much easier when the process is more transparent and accessible. It also fights scams and cheap, knock-off products!
Cheaper Marketing Prices
There may be a concern for marketers when they hear about the power going back to the consumer. When given the chance to share their data, what if they simply don’t or they charge exorbitant, unfeasible amounts for it?
First, as we said above, the quality of the data should improve. Instead of relying on third parties that gather any and all data, no matter how imprecise or irrelevant, the consumer gives their own data away on things that they are interested in.
This means ad metrics will be more accurate and not filtered through a giant conglomerate before it hits your market research. Metric tracking in general becomes a lot easier on the blockchain too.
Those third parties, the middlemen, often mark up the data they sell to marketers because it’s one of their main profit lines. Social media is free, after all, which means that you – or more specifically your data – are the product.
With that considered, plus with digital advertising becoming the priority over other forms of advertising, the cost should decrease.
A big part of decentralized blockchain tech is the free-market theory, which dictates that prices will be anchored by supply and demand.
If there’s a big demand for data and everybody is high-balling marketers, then there will always be a savvy consumer out there who undercuts them and gives marketers a good deal.
As a result, the consumers will need to price their data fairly for marketers, and the marketers should treat consumers fairly in return.
No Third-Party Agencies
Getting rid of third-party influences is an advantage in and of itself. Banishing middlemen from the process brings marketers ‘closer’ to their customers, so to speak.
This means that marketers can study prospects one-to-one, gathering data from them and then seeing how marketing campaigns fare once they have launched.
Some marketing outfits may rely more on middlemen than others, so this may not be an advantage for some.
For example, very small marketing businesses may not have the resources or manpower to do their own comprehensive market research, so having it drip-fed by a third-party aggregator may be more viable for them.
Then there are the basic advantages that come with all blockchains – the first being transparency.
Marketers rely on information but, throughout history and especially in places where money changes hands, information is often obfuscated, censored, and strictly controlled by authority figures.
With a blockchain for marketing, all of that is swept aside and marketers can enjoy vivid, free-flowing information that they can use to make firmer decisions when orienting their business.
This should lead to more pointed, effective advertising campaigns and make it much easier to find interested prospects who will make it to the end of your business’ sales funnel.
As time moves on and more kids are raised with a smartphone in their hands, hacking is going to become more common. In those kinds of environments, the added security of a blockchain becomes much more appetizing.
Social media sites get hacked all the time. A hacker’s reason for hacking may vary, with most wanting to profit from poaching and selling data. Of course, hackers can also be malicious, and just want to delete vital data that’s stored on a website or database.
With a decentralized blockchain, it becomes virtually impossible to meaningfully alter or delete the data that is housed on it.
A competent blockchain is housed across thousands of computers across the world, spanning continents, cultures, and political affiliations.
These nodes all have backups of the blockchain so, even if a node is hacked and things are tampered with, the damage is at most temporary.
That is not to say that hacking isn’t a problem with blockchains. In more time, we have no doubts that some vulnerabilities will be found that hackers can exploit.
However, for every person profiting from exploiting those vulnerabilities, there are many more who can profit from patching it or creating a new solution.
If you were around in the early days of blockchain or even the early days of the Internet itself, you know how obtuse emerging technologies can be.
As tech becomes more mainstream, more ubiquitous, then it becomes easier to access and more compatible with other systems that we use in everyday life.
Over the past two years, we have seen the steady rise in cryptocurrency ATMs that show best how blockchain can interface with pre-existing tech.
As it stands, accessibility is the main obstacle to the widespread adoption of blockchain.
Once the transparency and security benefits become obvious for the world to see and that adoption takes place, both marketers and consumers will enjoy blockchain without restriction.
Since most blockchains operate as a peer-to-peer network, it enables marketers and consumers to communicate directly. This means consumers can reach out to brands and better hold them accountable.
Unmonitored Data Flows
This one is closely tied to the banishment of third-party monitors on data flow. One of the byproducts of that is the unmonitored, unrestricted flow of data from consumer-to-consumer, consumer-to-marketer, and marketer-to-marketer.
There are no restrictions or censors, besides any that are inherent to the blockchain being used.
In theory, this should expand the pool of data that is available to marketers. Remember, all data is still offered voluntarily, and then that data is also high-quality, raw, and unmonitored.
So, the data comes with no baggage and should be more effective for marketing use.
Direct Interaction Between Brands & Customers
Lastly, the blockchain can facilitate more direct interactions between brands and their customers.
This is something we saw with the emergence of the Internet, where brands had to keep up with the zeitgeist and join in on the fun or be ridiculed as being out of touch and irrelevant.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of direct brand-customer Internet interactions is the humorous, sarcastic, sometimes brutal tweets by Wendy’s Twitter account.
Those kinds of interactions would have been a brand risk twenty, maybe even ten, years ago.
With widespread blockchain adoption and marketing, we wouldn’t be surprised if we see more genuine, sometimes humorous interactions between brands and their customers.
It’s still marketing, it just looks different and works well in irreverent Internet communities.
As explained earlier in this list, it isn’t just about the gab that marketers send to their customers. It’s also the negotiations, where brands can buy data for fair prices.
Also, directly reaching out to customers for polling purposes can become easier through the blockchain.
Blockchain-Based Solutions For Marketing In 2022
Blockchain-based subjects can often fall into theoretical exploration or speculation. While it’s clear to see why, with how bright the future of blockchain is, it doesn’t help those who want to see what blockchain marketing would look like.
That’s why we have gathered several examples of blockchain-based marketing solutions that are active right now, in 2022.
Perhaps the best-known example of blockchain-based consumer activism is Brave, the browser that is taking the search engine space by storm.
For those who are cryptocurrency-oriented or just don’t trust Google and the other mainstream search engines, Brave uses its proprietary blockchain to block ads.
So, how is that helping marketing?
Well, users gather Brave’s cryptocurrency – the Basic Attention Token (BAT) – then can reward the sites and content creators they frequent with them.
The blockchain prioritizes pop-ups and harmful malware too, so it provides more protection than you get with the average search engine.
Where marketing is concerned, IBM is the biggest name that has dipped its toes into the world of blockchain advertising. We’re sure that IBM needs no introduction, they have been around forever and have industrial ties all over the world.
So, how do they use the blockchain to improve their marketing efforts?
That’s where their consultancy branch – IBM iX – comes in. They use Mediaocean, a ledger that limits third-party disruptions and exposes fraudulent and spoofed data.
Built specifically by and for marketers, Rebel AI is targeted towards ad fraud using a cryptographic verification process that helps advertisers.
The blockchain helps to root out domain spoofing, which is where less savory ad networks obscure and control marketing traffic data for their gain.
When using Rebel AI, marketers are given a unique identity that cannot be spoofed.
Then, it uses the transparency benefits of the blockchain to show customers who paid for an ad, where you can find them, how long it has run, the supply chain involved with the ad, and how many of your fellow consumers have interacted with it.
That combination of features is perfect for marketers who want honest, upfront marketing and consumers who are fed up with not knowing who is trying to sell them stuff.
Lucidity is another blockchain that has a great impact on modern digital marketing.
Their proprietary blockchain stores and verifies marketing campaigns so that data is transparent and accurate for both the marketer and consumers.
It uses smart contracts to make transactions and agreements ironclad against fraud or participants getting cold feet.
It also lasers down bot views and reviews so that you can be confident all your data comes from living, breathing human beings. This allows marketers to shift their budget to target sites and spaces that have a lot of genuine interaction, not fake bot activity.
Some big companies like Toyota have already started using Lucidity and have had great results with it.
For marketers who prefer to crunch numbers on the move, Kiip is a mobile advertising network that makes use of blockchain technology. This allows for supply chain profiles and data auditing at the swipe of your finger.
As a mobile platform, it also focuses heavily on UX and so it’s accessible for everybody. It’s easy to use and has streamlined its payment processing apparatus.
Then there’s the Kiip Koin, which marketers can use to arrange smart contracts and buy other media that is used in real-life campaigns.
With that, we have arrived at the end of our guide on blockchain marketing. No matter how familiar you were with blockchain and what it can do, you should now understand how it can revolutionize media communications and advertising.
It’s also a great way to bring security, transparency, and privacy to many other corners of our increasingly digitized lives.
The principles inherent to the blockchain are ideal for marketers who want to stand out as honest, good-faith participants who have something to offer consumers.
Likewise, it empowers consumers with the rights to their data and helps them cut through the noise, finding marketers that will interest them.
While we have early examples of blockchain adding security and other handy use cases to businesses, this is an industry that’s still in its adolescence.
There are still many unknowns, though one thing is certain – the coming decade is an exciting time to be a digital marketer.