Blockchain has easily become the hottest topic of 2018 with both skepticism and promise of it’s impact on the media industry. Our very own Louisa Wong, Chief Transformation Officer, and Sarah Stringer, SVP Head of Innovation, participated in this year’s CDX Blockchain Brand Innovation Summit in NYC which aimed to unpack the complexities of blockchain and to generate an open and honest discussion. After hearing perspectives from platform, brand, agency, and regulation sides, we’ve compiled our top 5 learnings:
1. Make blockchain invisible to the consumer
The average consumer won’t care what kind of technology is behind the product or solutions, but they will care what benefits they get from it. Adding “blockchain” to the mix could have adverse effects by causing confusion as the concept itself isn’t the easiest to understand. Additionally, most people who have heard of blockchain associate it with bitcoin and all the negative press around it, which can result in a resistance to adopt. Unless the use of blockchain technology is necessary for the consumer to know, it’s best to almost keep it hidden until there is a mass understanding of it.
2. Blockchain should be the answer, not an answer
As with most technologies, our main innovation principle is don’t do it for the sake of doing it — make sure there is a purpose. The same applies to blockchain. Blockchain should not be utilized for processes/systems that are already working or for challenges already solved, it should only be considered for issues that haven’t been solved for yet. Blockchain technology can be complex, not to mention costly, so it should be looked at as the answer vs being an answer.
3. Efficiencies will lead to control & trust
Although there are watch outs with blockchain technology, there are many benefits if executed correctly. During the conference, we heard many inspiring and grand applications for blockchain that paint a picture of an efficient and trustworthy future of data. Louisa Wong, Chief Transformation Officer, Carat US helped to kick off the CDX Blockchain Summit with Laurie Tolson (General Electric) & Kate Merton (J&J), discussing how they see blockchain impacting their industries. Laurie cited that 20% of all transportation costs are administrative, in which blockchain could help lower. The efficiencies of administrative processes and costs through smart contracts will trickle down and result in consumers seeing a boost in overall experience and, to refer to point #1, not have to be outwardly facing as a blockchain technology.
Data control and trust are key benefits for the healthcare industry, pointing at the current state of medical records not being owned by each patient and the inefficiencies of patient record transfers. There is also an opportunity for quality control regarding origin of materials. Consumers will be able to trace back where oils, supplements, or vitamins are from, which could be used for clothing, as well as to know which factories and materials originated from. Blockchain can help empower consumers to make better decisions in their lives and allows them to take away inefficiencies via having their own asset knowledge.
4. We are still far away from meaningful consumer adoption
It was noted in a panel that blockchain is still in its infancy stage at the moment and will have to go through three layers before reaching critical mass. The first stage is developing the tech/protocol layer (probably the easiest out of the three). Then begin developing applications to enable parties to use and transact in a secure way. Lastly, being consumer focused on having multiple interfaces for each party and providing value (we are still very far away from this stage). Although it seems like the promise of blockchain is out of reach, companies and brands are still able to have first mover advantage by testing and trialing with the technology at this stage. Learning early on what to/not to do will prove beneficial once the market is ready for adoption.
Blockchain is a platform business, getting people to use it to achieve critical mass for meaningful change, cost efficiencies, and innovative business models. Just like any other platform business that monetizes off of its consumer base, it takes time to build those networks.
5. Data as a human right
We’ve recently seen the need for more accountability with the platforms that collect and monetize our data (Facebook, Google, etc.) and blockchain has been seen as a potential solve for data ownership. Discussions were focused on a future where everyone had control over their own data — able to grant or revoke permission on who was able to access or monetize it. It was noted during the “The Next Data Revolution” panel that in 100 years, Europeans will say Europe’s greatest export of the 21st century was the idea of data privacy is a human right, not a commercial right. This is a very profound idea and we can imagine the implications here. There are already a couple of platforms, such as Data Wallet, that are allowing consumers to control their data permissions and get paid for it too, all built on blockchain. We expect platforms like Data Wallet to continue to grow and bring awareness to the everyday consumer that they should be able to control their own data and if it’s monetized off of, they deserve a cut as well.
Even though the first applications of blockchain technology are in operational tasks, consumer facing use cases are already being tested. In the advertising industry, the few betas we’ve seen in market are all around transparency and efficiencies within the ad serving, verification, and payment realms. Although blockchain is in its infancy, we cannot disregard its potential.