Come on you reluctant marketers, you can only dismiss the utility of blockchain for so long without making an effort to properly understand it.

So here’s the article you need – a trio of marketing experts (who use blockchain) helping you to understand the possible use cases, challenges and opportunities of blockchain.

Feel free to click on one of the questions below to jump to the content you want, or scroll through and digest the whole lot. 

  1. For newbies, do you have a particularly succinct way of explaining blockchain?
  2. How is blockchain used in your solution(s)?
  3. Can you see blockchain being used eventually to verify consumer ID? What are the barriers to this kind of solution?
  4. What other uses excite you as an observer, in martech and the wider world?
  5. How can blockchain tech be proprietary? 
  6. What advice would you give companies considering creating a blockchain solution?

1. For newbies, do you have a particularly succinct way of explaining blockchain?

Adam Hopkinson, COO and co-founder, Truth Media Agency:

A record of consensus between parties that can never be altered. 

Miro Walker, CEO, Cognifide:

From a mechanical perspective, it is a ledger or a database with a difference; a way of recording information that cannot be changed. Every record is immutable, hence all the history is available all the time. 

From a real world point of view, imagine a world, where you can trade anything with anybody without the need to trust a certain middleman. It introduces and makes possible the idea of self governance where technology provides an irrefutable vehicle of trust between two parties.

Barbara Soltysinska, CEO, indaHash:

The best option to explain blockchain and crypto is via simple videos. Here’s an example from Deloitte.

2. How is blockchain used in your solution(s)?

Miro Walker, Cognifide:

Cognifide currently doesn’t use blockchain in our solutions but we have many clients who are working on proof of concepts. …these first applications tend to be more related to processes such as supply chain and data storage. 

Barbara Soltysinska, indaHash:

Our goal at indaHash is to create innovative solutions according to market demand. We believe in a decentralized vision of the influencer space where brands and influencers can cooperate in a transparent and secure way. [We have] decided to move to a blockchain based approach to achieve this goal.

We want to develop our platform and give influencers and brands the possibility to run campaigns via smart contracts and use indaHash tokens as a remuneration and reward solution. Imagine an influencer who wants to run a campaign and creates an auction via a smart contract (using the indaHash app) and brands can bid for that influencer’s post (or vice versa)

Imagine performance campaigns for influencers based on referral programs where influencers see rankings of other influencers engaged in a fully transparent way. But to do all that influencers and brands need a user-friendly interface and technology created solely for their needs. This is our vision of indaHash as a solution provider, creating unique and useful technology for both parties.

Adam Hopkinson, Truth:

See above! Too many points are open to misinterpretation and/or mistrust in the digital media ecosystem. Blockchain is used to minimise this by demonstrating consent and transparency.

(As Truth’s website puts it “We operate under a single fully disclosed fee and your advertising spend will reach their intended destinations fully intact. No unwelcome surprises. No black boxes. No grey areas”. Ed.)

3. Can you see blockchain being used eventually to verify consumer ID? What are the barriers to this kind of solution?

Miro Walker, Cognifide:

Today, consumer identity is verified by checking with a trusted third party, whether that’s a bank, a driver’s license issuing office or with Google/Facebook. That’s because we trust those third parties to ensure that the data is secure and cannot be changed.

Blockchain opens the door to ensuring your identity data cannot be changed, without recourse to third parties at all. Any attempt to modify your (encrypted) data would be obvious to everyone, as everyone can see the blockchain and its history of transactions.

Estonia already provides a central ID used by citizens to control access to data held by health care providers, government agencies and the like. Originally this was held centrally by the government until a 2007 cyber attack took access to the central database offline. Since then, Estonia has moved to using blockchain to ensure the database is widely distributed and near impossible to take offline, while still being securely encrypted.

Blockchain could be applied to a multitude of businesses to resolve existing challenges and to catalyse and democratise trade and data storage and processing. Think identity management, banking, real estate, vehicle leasing, medical records etc.

Blockchain will enable a new generation of digitisation, a paradigm shift where people are self governing their identities. It is entirely possible that soon our passports and driving licences could be held on blockchain, available in a secure yet public ledger of records. Individuals will determine how much of their personal information is made public and how much remains private.

A good analogy would be your home address. This is public information, anyone can access the address of a particular building but that does not mean that they can gain access to your house and look around inside. This is only possible if you consent to that access. Blockchain will enable the concept of public key vs. private key so it will be easier for people to self-manage their identities without centralised systems.

Key barriers currently, as with any new technology, are lack of general understanding, scalability issues and, to a certain extent, the uncertainty and fear when it comes to everything public. I’m sure that we will see earlier implementations that will be based on private blockchain networks before the concept of an entirely public blockchain materialises.

In some ways this mirrors the initial fear of big corporations to deploy their applications on the cloud rather than on their own on-premise servers. Again, the biggest barrier is lack of knowledge and the need to demystify this technology for the masses.

Barbara Soltysinska, indaHash:

Yes it’s possible and there are many projects like that waiting for mass adoption, such as Civic. However,  people need time to understand the benefits of blockchain and implement them via good and easy tech solutions and to be  comfortable with the process.

Adam Hopkinson, Truth:

Yes we can.  Having your identity stored on a blockchain and giving out a key for access to only those people you want to have access to your data will be revolutionary. 

4. What other uses excite you as an observer, in martech and the wider world?

Adam Hopkinson, Truth:

We are only focussing on our application in martech, but in the wider world, the use of blockchain in Aid distribution, in bringing financial services to those without bank accounts, to speeding up land transactions, and protecting copyright are all pretty interesting.

Barbara Soltysinska, indaHash:

We believe that issues around trust (and the lack thereof) in intermediaries is something that will change in a blockchain-based world. We believe that the advertising and marketing world will observe a huge change in terms of transparency. In future, advertising can be handled in a decentralised way – distanced from large platforms. Rates will always be visible as well as the cost of items. Business models that lack transparency are already outdated.

5. How can blockchain tech be proprietary?

Miro Walker, Cognifide:

Currently it’s good to see some early adopters implementing their own private blockchains. JP Morgan have invested heavily in blockchain proof of concepts and have come up with an open source framework called Quorum that enables enterprise use within a permissioned group. Companies can download this and start using it today.

In Martech this technology will initially be used to power the backend of digital marketing systems and will probably not be at the visible end of a digital landscape for the consumer. Typical applications would be within account management, to record transactions or to log key events. 

However, as the data landscape changes – particularly with the advent of GDPR this May – it’s not too big a leap to see a future in which individual consumers manage their own personal data accesses. For instance, they might allow brands and companies who have earned their trust and who offer a relevant and meaningful value exchange greater access to personal information. This kind of self-governance could mark a tide change in the management of data and put the power firmly back in the hands of the consumer.

Adam Hopkinson, Truth:

The blockchain isn’t proprietary, but the applications built upon it are. Think the internet and Amazon.com

6. What advice would you give companies considering creating a blockchain solution?

Miro Walker, Cognifide:

  1. Educate yourself.
  2. Don’t think that blockchain is just about cryptocurrencies. It’s not! 
  3. Consider what value you can get out of blockchain. Not everything is suitable for blockchain. For instance, it is not currently very scalable or well equipped to cope with high throughput performance systems. (However, the technology is improving and quantum computing may solve these problems).
  4. Look at solutions which allow you to run a hybrid solution of blockchain and an off-blockchain platform in an integrated manner.

The blockchain is here and this paradigm shift is real and here to stay. So equip yourself with the knowledge and tools while the technology is going through a stabilising phase and be ready to run with it when the time is right.

Adam Hopkinson, Truth:

Ask yourself can the business operate without a blockchain and ask yourself to thoroughly investigate why blockchain makes the business work better. If you can show why, you’re in business.

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