Will Blockchain Re-Establish Trust Within Marketing and PR?
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when we throw out the term “Blockchain”? Many people associate Blockchain with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but that’s not all that Blockchain is good for. You’d be surprised… Blockchain is actually highly relevant to the marketing and PR industry as well. And for all the PR professionals out there, Blockchain technology will impact your workflow and processes directly – it’s only a matter of time. Read on to find out more!
What is Blockchain?
In a nutshell, Blockchain is technology that stores encoded data over a network of computers, thus giving us access to verifiable and searchable information. Because there’s no single gatekeeper involved with Blockchain, all authorized users have equal access to that information. On top of that, because Blockchain involves data being dispersed widely, people aren’t able to tamper with records without getting caught.
The history of Blockchain
Let’s turn the clock back to 2008. Before Blockchain, there was Bitcoin, which is a form of decentralized virtual currency which can be exchanged without a central bank or administrator. In order to make the concept of Bitcoin feasible – and to keep everyone accountable for the transactions that they undertake – the founders of Bitcoin invented a ledger that keeps a timestamp and record of every transaction. That’s how Blockchain was born.
While Blockchain came about as a way of regulating Bitcoin, Blockchain technology is now used in a lot of different ways, especially in marketing, advertising and PR…
Blockchain applications in marketing, advertising and PR
Blockchain is now being used to get around certain challenges or problems that communicators across PR, Marketing and advertising often face. Here are a few examples:
#1: Verifying ad buys
If you’re working in PR, you might have experience working with companies to drive clicks and views on your client’s website. But here’s the thing: up until recently, there was no way to tell if these clicks and views your clients are paying for are legitimate or if they were driven by bots. And according to statistics, bots cost companies more than $7 billion in damage in 2016 alone.
Thankfully, with Blockchain in the picture, it’s a lot easier to ensure that your client isn’t pouring money down the drain. Companies such as AdChain, for example, use a native token to provide cryptographically secure impression tracking to their users. Now, your clients can finally ensure they’re spending their ad budget how they intended it.
#2: Making ad buys more cost-effective
Are your clients complaining that the ad buys you’re recommending are too expensive? Not a problem. Experts are now predicting that companies will soon start reaching out to their target audiences directly and paying them to view their ads. This approach cuts out the ad buy process and the middlemen.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Brave browser, which uses a Basic Attention Token (BAT) to allow advertisers to pay consumers to view ads. Using BAT, these advertisers are able to connect with customers who find their products relevant and pay these people based on their “Attention Value”.
#3: Cracking down on counterfeit consumer goods
Counterfeit consumer goods are a huge problem in the fashion industry – they drag down a brand’s reputation and destroy shoppers’ trust. Luckily, Blockchain allows shoppers to enjoy greater transparency when purchasing branded items. With Blockchain technology, shoppers can look into where a product is made and how the different components come together through the supply chain.
#4: Improving Influencer Marketing
Many influencers claim to be well connected, measured by their respective numbers of fans and followers, and therefore ‘influential’. But, when investigating the quality of their followership, many followers turn out to be fake. Sorting out influencers with a real following will reduce the number of influencers available to marketers and PR pros but improve campaign effectiveness.
If that’s not enough, blockchain technology may actually be able to help to solve one of the biggest problems for news organisations and publishers: Fake News.
Taking on disinformation (= fake news) with Blockchain
As Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2018 demonstrates, disinformation – a.k.a ‘fake news‘ – is a substantial threat to the public discourse in many societies. Many people’s trust in media, business and many other public or private organisations has substantially deteriorated in recent years. As Blockchain news platforms grow in popularity, though, we’re expecting to see less fake news being distributed across the board.
Take The World News and Decentralized News Network, for example. These Blockchain-based news services compile articles and peer-reviewed content from various news sources, all of which are verified as “trustworthy”. You won’t find any sensationalized, clickbait type material here; if there are any changes to stories, these portals will even document and verify said changes and disclose these to readers.
Brands who are using Blockchain technology
There are plenty of brands who have recently started using Blockchain technology. Retail conglomerate Walmart uses Blockchain to track its pork supply in China and it documents and stores every part of the process (including how the pork is sourced and handled) in a Blockchain. Now, this isn’t to ensure that their team doesn’t take shortcuts in the process – they already have other measures in place for this – but rather, to document their procedures. If Walmart ever experiences a crisis wherein consumers accuse them of not adhering to standards, Walmart can simply pull out the information and clear their name.
Using blockchain to manage flight data, British Airways intends to minimise conflicting flight info displayed in gate monitors, flight apps and its website thus directly improving customer experience. Another example comes from Comcast’s advanced advertising group which plans to let marketers, publishers and programmers share data without having to pool it in one place. Marketers could use data from content producers such as Hulu to understand how to target its ad buys without receiving the actual data itself.
As technology advisor Paul Armstrong says, it’s less about the technology and more about the “stories of trust” that Blockchain – seen essentially as a “currency of trust” – can help a company tell which explains the technology’s huge potential for brand management.
Risks with Blockchain technology
While Blockchain does come with plenty of benefits, like anything, it has its inherent risks. First and foremost, because Blockchain enables peer-to-peer transfer of assets, identity and information without referring to a central intermediary, this naturally exposes the interacting parties to risks which were previously managed by said intermediaries.
On top of that, companies who are looking into incorporating smart contracts into their business models should also take note. Sure, these are a great way to increase transparency and facilitate negotiations, but these can potentially encode complex financial and legal information and arrangements. Bearing this in mind, companies will have to take note of the risks derived from the mapping of these arrangements from the physical to the digital framework.
How to work effectively with Blockchain
Seeing as Blockchain is highly technical and specialized, companies who are looking into this technology will have to hire Blockchain engineers to aid them in getting started.
For communicators and PR professionals handling clients who work closely with Blockchain, a certain understanding of how Blockchain works is also required. For those who don’t have any technical expertise, consider taking this Blockchain For Business introductory course to learn about the different applications of Blockchain technology.
On top of that, PR professionals should also keep themselves abreast of the latest updates in the Blockchain industry. Resources include the Unchained Podcast, which talks about how Blockchain technology affects the different sectors, as well as Never Stop Marketing which deals with Blockchain’s implications on marketing.
The future of Blockchain
Gartner predicts that the business value Blockchain technology adds will grow to $176 billion by 2025. But, with the numerous benefits that it brings to the table, it’s clear that Blockchain will eventually become a mainstay when it comes to many aspects of our daily lives, on areas as diverse as data verification, voting, audio, crypto transactions and education. This alone should push many professional communicators to deal with Blockchain as many of their clients will integrate the technology into their strategies and tactics. But, Blockchain will soon directly impact workflows in PR, marketing and advertising and, therefore, communicators should make it a priority to train their staff in using Blockchain and make strides towards adopting this new technology.