Marketing technology, great visualizations, disruptive innovation — these are a few of my favorite things. So I was delighted when Jeremy Posvar and Todd Wells — the two fellows who shared Microsoft’s marketing tech stack in last year’s Stackies awards — reached out to share a paper they had created to help explain blockchain in marketing with their visual explanation skills.
You can download a copy of their paper right here — no “fill out this form” gate. I also had a Q&A with them on the topic of marketing, martech, and blockchain, below:
1. Why did the two of you develop this perspective on the future of blockchain in marketing and martech?
We partnered together on an earlier MarTech Stackie slide while at Microsoft and thoroughly enjoyed the development of the visualization and the conversations that it sparked across the industry.
It received a great deal of attention and received a Stackie award (thank you!). We were thrilled with the collaboration and feedback we got from others across the industry, with many great discussions about its inception, the work it represented, the form of the visualization, how it compared to similar work in other companies — and ultimately, how it could help others developing a modern martech stack.
(Editorial note: The Stackies 2018: Marketing Tech Stack Awards are now open for entries.)
But there is always more to do and more areas to explore. At a get together with some friends and colleagues, we were discussing Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and blockchain, and we had a side conversation about its potentially massive implications for marketing.
Subsequently, we each spent a great deal of time researching blockchain – papers, books, videos, podcasts, interviews – “down the rabbit hole” as they say. Through all of our research though, the one thing we found missing the most was a visual simplification – a CMO “Cliff Notes” if you will – that detailed the possible impact of the technology on marketing and martech.
From there, we realized an opportunity to develop another slide that could have the same power as our prior “Stackie” to help other marketers understand and begin to prepare for the implications of blockchain.
We also partnered with a couple of brilliant industry leaders – Aseem Badshah (founder and CEO of Socedo) and Ajoy Krishnamoorthy (vice president of platform strategy at Acumatica) — who were both incredibly helpful in providing feedback on the visualization as well as perspective on the marketing and engineering implications of the technology.
As with our original Stackie slide, we are very much looking forward to discussing this across the industry, receiving feedback, and working on the subsequent deep dives that we mention in the paper.
2. Assume that all I really know about blockchain is the popular news around cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. What is this technology going to give me as a marketing and business leader?
As a first step, we want to be clear that, while blockchain is a fascinating technology and has the power to significantly disrupt marketing, it will take time for this to happen.
Our paper is written as a technology primer and an assessment of the potential implications. Marketing and business leaders should begin to understand the technology and where it may help them realize their objectives — or require them to evolve and understand new challenges coming.
Blockchain has the potential to essentially open source and componentize much of what are considered the proprietary capabilities across the martech industry today.
Rather than being beholden to particular tech providers, marketers will be able to more easily alternate between them with little to no switching costs.
An often used example is an Uber driver. In current state, the Uber driver’s profile, driving history, customer rating data, etc., is all retained by Uber and subject to its proprietary model. If the driver wants to switch and drive for Lyft — she’d have to start from scratch to rebuild her driving history and reputation within Lyft’s proprietary environment.
However, if that same data were managed and controlled by the driver in public blockchain protocols, she could allow Lyft access to her driving data and quickly shift or alternate between driving for Uber and Lyft in a relatively friction-free way.
Marketers could similarly alternate between marketing automation providers, for example.
In the same vein that the driver in this example controls their data, the consumer may just as well rescind access to their data from the marketer.
This will require the marketer to demonstrate an adequate value proposition to the consumer — including creative and personalization — to be able to maintain and continue that dialogue, or risk losing access.
Of course, there are also potential benefits to the marketer in this scenario, including the minimization of the current workload to manage prospect and customer data quality – it could be validated and maintained by consumers themselves in the blockchain.
3. Can you describe a couple of specific use cases for blockchain in marketing?
One initial use case is online ad serving, which is fraught with inefficiencies and challenges. On the advertiser side there is fraud and poor targeting and reporting. On the consumer side, there are privacy issues, malware risks, and the annoyance of being the recipient of poor targeting.
Blockchain has the potential to disintermediate the ad servers and put the consumer in control of what they experience and see. Arguably even more interesting is the redistribution of the advertising budget blockchain affords – with the potential for the consumer to be compensated by advertisers with blockchain-based tokens in exchange for their willingness to view ads.
Another interesting use case, on the other end of the spectrum, is digital asset management. Digital assets are typically expensive to produce, involving a variety of creative parties (photographers, writers, videographers, etc.) exchanging value in the development process.
Moreover, in today’s enterprise, these assets are often not stored centrally, nor are they adequately tagged with taxonomy to enable enterprise-wide leverage and efficiencies. The entire lifecycle of these assets could be managed through the blockchain – inclusive of attribution of intellectual property ownership and management of access privileges and use rights, etc.
Of course, there are dozens of other examples, and we will be progressively working through them. We even had a conversation about the impact of blockchain on Super Bowl advertising.
4.What do you think the timeline is for those use cases to materialize? What are the hurdles to be overcome?
Of course, timelines are the million dollar question and are difficult to answer specifically. But we will be assessing what we think are the next progressive phases and timing of the transformation — as well as more about the risks and benefits to marketers — in our next paper.
We think it is less about hurdles, per se, than it is about what who ultimately drives the disruption and transformation. It seems to be a classic chicken-and-egg scenario between consumers and tech providers. We think that given the preeminence of issues such as privacy and data security — whether it be the EU GDPR compliance regulations or the recent Experian incident, it will most likely be the consumer that is drawn to the advantages of blockchain and will drive the disruption.
5. Is there anything a marketing leader should be doing today to prepare for this future without getting too far over their skis?
Well, that is what we are hoping this paper facilitates. We want to get leaders thinking about the potential impact blockchain could have on their ecosystem and fuel discussion and dialogue.
Our advice is to stay current with industry reading on blockchain. The quality of the articles seems to be progressively maturing, and they are now less intimidating than even a few months ago.
We will also be writing several follow up papers, as mentioned on the final slide covering The CMO and Marketing Skillsets, Martech Applications, and Customer Data, Permissions & Privacy. We welcome everyone to join us and participate with us on this journey onto the blockchain.
You can download Blockchain & The Future of Martech right here:
There’s also a 1-page version of the paper, if you’re looking for a great slide to add to a deck.
Thanks, Todd and Jeremy! We’re looking forward to your next papers.
Dear readers: we will also have a session covering blockchain in marketing at the upcoming MarTech conference in San Jose, April 23-25. Early bird prices on tickets expire February 10 — reserve your seat now for the best deal.