Blockchain is a funny one. Part hailed as the solution to currency interference and privacy concerns, part laughingstock thanks to shady links to the dark web and the electrocardiographic price of bitcoin, the jury is still very much out regarding the technology – many are unsure what blockchain even is.
Despite this, plenty of players are throwing investment at potentially legitimate uses for blockchain, as our Business Development Manager, John Hebden, discovered at the recent IoT Tech Expo 2019, where countless blockchain businesses had set up shop.
This got us future-gazing. What could blockchain’s transformational effects on B2B marketing be? Will it manage to persuade results-oriented B2B decision-makers not usually geared towards flights of technological fancy? Here are some of our thoughts.
What is blockchain?
We get it, blockchain is complicated, so here’s a straightforward definition of blockchain and its constituent parts.
Put simply, blockchain is about recording information digitally and transparently but not allowing anyone to edit it.
Blockchains are decentralised databases in which records of transactions is made. The record (a ledger – the ‘chain’) is maintained across several computers, linked via a peer-to-peer network. Each entry (‘block’) includes non-identifiable records of the buyer (a digital signature or username of sorts); information on the transaction, including the seller, sum, date and time; and a piece of data that ensures the block can be distinguished from others, known as a ‘hash’.
When a transaction happens, computers across the network verify it by solving complex mathematical equations, storing it in a block that’s added to the chain, distinguished from others by the hash. These computers are rewarded for their hard work (‘mining’): in the case of Bitcoin, they’re given some of the cryptocurrency.
The hash is key to the much-hyped security of blockchain. If you want to change the information in the block – say, to alter transaction information – then you would have to alter the hash. The next block also contains this hash data though, so you would have to change that block too, and the one after, and so forth, until you got to the end of the chain. Do-able? Not really, since the computing power required would be gigantic: more than 50% of the processing power within the P2P network, in fact.
Anyone in the network can read the ledger, but they can never identify the users behind the transactions – all you can see is the anonymous username; no other user data is recorded.
Okay, now you’re in the know, how is blockchain going to transform B2B marketing?
Businesses use selling points to flog their products and services. Most of the time, they’re telling the truth, but you can always trust some unscrupulous apples to ruin the bunch, eroding customer trust in the process.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. By baking blockchain within their businesses – suppliers, ingredients or internal processes, for instance – organisations would be able to prove their spiel with an irrefutable ledger. It could be just the answer to the recent, sobering statistic from the American Association of Advertising Agencies: 96% of consumers don’t trust the integrity of advertisers and marketers. Eep.
For search engine marketing, companies like Google and Facebook are the middleman between advertisers and the owners of websites. They match them up, ensure their validity, make sure they’re properly paid, then take a cut.
With some kind of Blockchain-based directory of advertisers and owners, these middlemen wouldn’t be required, as both advertisers and sites would already be validated, as would ad clicks and the amounts paid for them. Monopolies tend to crumble eventually; perhaps Blockchain technology could end up toppling the defining examples of our time? Even if not, it could definitely remove all sorts of other middlemen – payment processing companies, for instance – reducing business costs in kind.
If users adopt blockchain as a means of controlling access to their data and reducing privacy concerns, marketers and advertisers will have to incentivise the sharing of that data, and perhaps even audience attention itself.
In this scenario, marketers would have to bid for the user’s information and eye, paying them via micro-transactions. This means they would also be forced to ensure that their ads were befitting of the user’s time, energy and data, which audiences may refuse to hand them over to a boring or annoying ad provider.
Guess brands won’t be holding onto much of that freed-up middleman cash after all!
B2B Blockchain is one to watch in the coming decade. Will it upend the status quo? We can’t say – but we’ll keep on producing boundary-breaking B2B marketing regardless. Contact us to find out more, or learn about our wide range of B2B marketing services.