In October 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto launched bitcoin with a white paper, creating and deploying the world’s first decentralized cryptocurrency. As part of the implementation, the first blockchain database was devised. Despite being released almost a decade ago, blockchain technology has only recently come into the public eye.
Today, brands are exploring whether blockchain can help solve transparency issues in marketing and advertising. This is especially pertinent as GDPR and privacy concerns make data security even more important to consumers and enterprises alike.
Here are five examples of brands using blockchain to grow their businesses and improve customer experience.
Asian airline Cathay Pacific and its rewards program, Asia Miles, have teamed up with Accenture to launch their first application of blockchain technology. The airline will issue air miles to customers over a single distributed ledger, allowing customers, airline partners, and the airline itself to manage member rewards in real-time.
The new campaign, called ‘Unlock More Miles,’ ties in with a promotion in Hong Kong where Asia Miles members see miles earned credited to their accounts the following day. The blockchain platform automates data fulfillment procedures, enabling a full transaction history between the airline and dining partners by sharing the data set. This improves business efficiency by minimizing back-office administration.
Cathay Pacific is just one of a number of airlines exploring the applications of blockchain technology. Air Asia has announced that it will migrate its rewards program to a new cryptocurrency called “BigCoin.” The firm may also hold an initial coin offering (ICO) to fund the development of a new financial services division.
Elsewhere, German airline Lufthansa has announced its investment in a Swiss blockchain startup – through an ICO – after revealing plans to launch a B2B blockchain marketplace on a public Ethereum blockchain.
Ad agency Havas is making significant moves in the blockchain market. In March, the company announced the launch of Havas Blockchain, an integrated communications offering designed to support blockchain businesses and entrepreneurs.
Havas Blockchain is initially focused on supporting ICOs, an area of significant investment over recent months. However, typical communications support is also offered to blockchain startups.
Meanwhile, as part of the wider Havas Blockchain initiative, Havas Sports & Entertainment has launched a blockchain-powered loyalty program for sports organizations and sponsors that rewards fans for their engagement. Fans participating in the programs can be awarded digital coins for being a “Key Opinion Leader” and trade them with other fans, swap them across different loyalty programs, or exchange them for branded swag, exclusive content, or other experiences.
This solution could create new marketing opportunities and revenue streams for sports organizations. The virtual currency can also collect data on fans, which advertisers may use for better targeting, or “fanalytics.”
Havas has also collaborated with TD Ameritrade to create the first ad placement on the bitcoin blockchain.
In March 2017, IBM launched its Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) solution and has long been involved in a range of trials in several different industries. The 107-year-old company has already collaborated with Danish shipping giant Maersk on global supply chain inefficiencies and retail colossus Walmart on food supply issues. Now, Big Blue has turned its attention to programmatic advertising.
Based on data gathered from industry sources, eMarketer recently reported that in 2017, around 55 percent of client budgets allocated for programmatic ad spend went toward paying the ad tech supply chain, one that is crowded with a large number of players, many that add very little value to transactions. This may explain why the 500 largest publishers in the U.S. cut their supply-side platforms (SSPs) by 20 percent in 2017.
When one considers that digital ad fraud could hit $19bn in 2018, it’s clear that programmatic advertising faces a number of challenges. In separate collaborations with Salon Media and Unilever, IBM is harnessing the power of blockchain to crack down on ad fraud. Using a product created by AdLedger, IBM and Salon are looking to iron out weak-link intermediaries between advertisers, publishers and consumers in an effort to combat growing problems like bot fraud and domain spoofing.
Meanwhile, Unilever is working with IBM Blockchain and IBM iX, IBM’s business consultancy arm, on a blockchain solution for media buying to improve efficiency and accountability across the digital media supply chain and ad trading processes. Speaking at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in February, Unilever CMCO — and 2017’s most influential CMO — Keith Weed elaborated on the partnership: “This is really going to bring transparency into the media world. We’ve done a pilot, we’ve looked at some historical data, and we can see where some discrepancies are.” The two companies’ blockchain pilot detected discrepancies almost immediately, as opposed to having to wait out the entire campaign.
In March 2017, Nasdaq announced the launch of NYIAX (New York Interactive Advertising Exchange), the world’s first guaranteed advertising contract exchange.
NYIAX provides an electronic marketplace for publishers, advertisers, and media buyers to buy and sell future advertising inventory. Participants on the exchange forward-like contracts, or agreements to buy and sell an asset at a specified price and a set future date. The goal is to offer a better solution for players in the ads market to buy and sell inventory.
NYIAX’s platform was built using Nasdaq’s exchange technology, which incorporates blockchain as its core ledger for transactions.
More recently, NYIAX rolled out a series of partnerships as part of its preparations for a full launch. First, it announced a partnership with Colorado-based startup Rebel AI. Rebel uses the cryptographic capability of blockchain’s wallet component to verify that inventory is where it should be. Additionally, Rebel AI uses cryptographic signatures to validate that the ad was delivered to a given page.
Second, having filed a patent last December for trading any physical or digital asset on an exchange, NYIAX recently announced a new partnership with mesmr. This is the first effort — outside of NYIAX’s own exchange — to implement the patent-pending approach. The central idea behind mesmr is that content creators upload their creative work into channels and then buy and sell value around that content.
It remains to be seen whether NYIAX’s approach pays off. However, $5.65 million in new seed funding will undoubtedly help.
Swiss coffee brand Latesso recently unveiled a blockchain-based loyalty system that rewards customers with digital tokens. The Lattessocoin digital currency is hosted on the qiibee API, and run on the Ethereum blockchain.
Each cup of Latesso purchased comes with a code that guests can redeem for Lattessocoins. The system is managed through an online app, and the Lattescoins themselves have no use restrictions or expiration dates.
Because Latesso uses the qiibee system, customers can exchange loyalty points for other cryptocurrencies, cash, or for more coffee depending on preference. This is somewhat unique in the consumer space, where most brands require loyalty points to be applied toward future purchases.
The Lattessocoin loyalty program has been successfully rolled out throughout the brand’s market in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Benelux, and Russia.
Reimagining the future
Although blockchain development and adoption is still in its early days, the transformative potential is clear. The world is still some way from a “blockchain transformation.” However, if the predicted growth of the global blockchain market is anything to go by, then it’s not a question of if, but when.
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