Blockchain; we've all heard about it, but do we really know what it is?
On the face of it, it appears to be some gobble-de-gook backend tech that has got people excited and will probably live out its own course (Remember smart homes).
To put it very simply, Blockchain technology can be equated to an Excel sheet with access points where users can update their data together and in real-time. Blockchain, therefore, allows information to be stored and distributed while preventing copying and modification. This data can then be put to multiple uses, some of which are detailed below.
From a perception perspective, Blockchain and Bitcoin go hand in hand, but the truth is, Bitcoins are only one possible and definitely the earliest use of Blockchain technology.
Closer to home, in the digital marketing (note, I didn't say advertising) space, Blockchain has been actively discussed with conversations ranging from - how important this is going to be in future and the possibilities of direct advertiser-publisher transactions owing to the incorruptible nature of record-keeping that this technology offers, to the impact on ad-safety and viewability metrics and a host of other topics.
This piece is to bring out the potential benefits of this technology on developing communication through collaboration. Yes, tech to develop communication!
1. With Smart-Contracts, crowdsourcing of ideas becomes a tangible reality.
a.) Blockchain allows us to create a network of content creators, unrestricted by geographies or time zones. Essentially how this can work is:
b.) You upload a brief - one of your creators/colleagues accesses it and responds with ideas and the process starts. With decentralisation in play, the information uploaded is incorruptible. It ensures credit where it's due and encourages transparency and collaboration.
2. With access to 'Real' Consumer Data - Bots will die. Social media today is a trade-off where platforms like FB and Instagram allow usage in exchange for a consumer's personal data. Online advertising is based on consumer data where currently the consumer has no say in what gets released to advertisers. In the foreseeable future, Blockchain will allow all of social media users the ability to manage and control/release their online activity data. Communication professionals can then access this data as required, to create messaging that'll connect because of consumer relevance and centricity. Trend-spotting will become a tangible and predictable reality.
3. Influencer and Blogger Marketing - Currently, there is no third party regulating terms of agreements and costs, leading to operational and budgetary issues. With Smart-Contracts, the terms of understanding can be automatically enforced across all stakeholders. Payments will be made upon delivery and on time.
4. IPR - Copyrighting of work and ownership will become seamless. Blockchain will facilitate the sale of creative work online. So advertisers and agencies can source relevant work transparently and efficiently, whenever desired.
5. AR-based Research - The way primary consumer research is done will undergo a change. Blockchain will allow research respondents to experience products using AR, record their experiences and get paid online in a transparent and seamless manner.
Reality check: While all of the above are very plausible and appealing, the fact is, Blockchain today, is largely deployed in the world of finance. Other industries are still testing and debating. Adoption in the communication business is probably not going to happen anytime soon.
Having said that, we practitioners of digital marketing and advertising are no strangers to evolution. Like all the small and large steps we've taken in our journey to evangelise this medium, Blockchain is the next port of call - that's for sure.
(The author heads Quasar Media, a full-service digital marketing agency owned by WPP)