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Why marketers should ignore blockchain in 2019

04.02.2019

The term “growth hacker” is one that’s always sat a little awkwardly to my mind.  

I understand that, in reality, it’s simply someone who helps the growth of a company.

Often through means which, after implementation, are able to run and scale with lower oversight.

But I think the term itself is somewhat dangerous.

There’s already a worrying level of focus on quick fix tactics in marketing, and labelling a career path a hack only fuels that worry and the misguided belief that there are shortcuts to growing a successful business.

Growing a business takes time.

It takes a keen focus on solving a real problem and treating your customers as they want to be treated.

But for those who are just getting their feet wet in marketing and business, these shortcuts can seem like miracle cures.

Which of course leads to an increase in the number of “marketers” willing to exploit their lack of knowledge.

Growth hacking is by no means the latest, or even the most recent buzzword. Nor is it one that was created with the intent to deceive.

However, as with any buzzword it has been exploited by many out there.

Buzzwords = Ammunition for Snake Oil Salesmen

A skilled developer friend recently received a referral to help a brand who claimed to leverage AI and blockchain for gambling on esports.

Without going into too much detail they sold the concept as a two-fold approach.

1) AI to help with personalisation

2) Blockchain to recuse risk of fraud

On the face of things, it seems like a great idea.

The AI element is pretty self-explanatory.

A computer can analyse a user’s actions and recommend the most relevant action to them far faster than a human.

However, blockchain is something that’s a little more complex.

Not being experts in blockchain (but understanding the current buzz around the topic) I asked my friend for more information.

In short, he said that the blockchain element for gambling was a great security addition due to the nature of blockchain.

If you’re not aware how it works here’s a quick explanation (I’ve taken this from elsewhere as we’re not yet experts on the topic).

But here’s the thing.

According to my friend, these guys had no business plan.

They were approaching developers, marketers, and business developers to help them figure out the direction of the company and what was possible.

All after securing funding.

And here’s the best part. Apparently, the founders weren’t sure about how AI and blockchain could be used.

They weren’t experts but had noticed that they could leverage the buzz around the terms.

They’d basically leveraged two of the most overused and overhyped buzzwords of 2018 to secure funding without a business plan.
 overhyped marketing words
It’s highly unusual to see a brand get through due diligence without having a solid plan in place.

But that’s the power of leveraging buzzwords in a believable way.

People will believe the hype and suspend their disbelief. Chalking their confusion up to not yet understanding the terms and their applications.

I’m not saying that this idea won’t work or the business won’t take off - we wish them luck with the endeavour.

However, the point I want to make is that there are a lot of people who will use buzzwords as a smoke and mirrors approach to running their business.

You’ve got to be careful who you trust and what they’re purporting to sell. If not, you could find yourself working with someone who:

  • Uses terms most of us don’t understand to hide their lack of skill and a lack of results

  • Leverage tech only they can assist with to lock you into working with them (despite poor results)

  • Sell something most of us don’t need on the back of industry buzz

Blockchain in particular could be something that the marketing world needs. However, no one is certain right now how it’s going to be used effectively.

If you Google around the topic you’ll see results like the below.
 is blockchain the future of marketing

Notice how all of those results are speculative?

How all the results use terms like “could change”, “poised” or are questions around what the term is or what the future holds?

And these are articles from some of the largest marketing brands in the world like HubSpot.

The message here is no one really seems certain what blockchain holds for the future.

And people believe the buzz around AI is a little overhyped.

Sure, everyone is excited about them. And sure, everyone wants to leverage it to get a head start on the competition.

But for marketing, no one has really figured out how you could best use the technology.

And yet, there are brands out there using the term to sell their products and services.

It’s dangerous, and dishonest.

Here’s the Truth About Effective Marketing

One of the best books I’ve ever read on marketing is this beauty.

 scientific advertising

This single book has helped improve countless campaigns.

It’s one of the few books that is referenced as a must read by marketers and advertising greats across the globe.

But here’s what makes this extra special.

Take a guess when this book was first written?

1923.

That’s almost 100 years ago. And yet, the lessons contained within are still useful in a world that’s unrecognisable to the world in the 1920s.

Which goes to prove one fact in the world of marketing and advertising.

Communication channels change, people don’t.

We now live in a world with email, social media, digital banner ads, Google, mobile devices, TV, and countless other new methods to contact your potential customers.

But the lessons from 100 years ago still influence how we use those channels.

It shows that at the heart of every successful marketing campaign and brand are the customers.

The best brands out there focus on their customers first. Then they look at how they can deliver the message that would best resonate with them.

That might be through a new channel and leveraging a new technology.

However, it could just as easily be through a platform that many would think is now “outdated” like print media.

The tech you use and the channels you leverage are secondary. What your customer’s need and what’s going to help them achieve their goals are primary.

As Richard Branson put it:

"A business is about people. A business is about making connections. A business is about finding solutions. A business is about creating opportunities. A business is about making things happen. A business is about going the extra mile. A business is about love.”

Put the people you’re trying to help first, and the rest will fall into place.

I know it sounds simplistic, but the best ideas often are.

Should You Discard Blockchain and AI?

We’d never tell anyone to discard something that has even a tiny bit of potential.

So no, I would say that you shouldn’t discard AI or blockchain.

However, I would also say that they shouldn’t be your focus right now.

Keep up on the trends and keep a watchful eye on how they’re affecting the marketing industry. But keep the majority of your attention and time on providing a great customer experience.

AI will, in our opinion, be the bigger deal for marketing in the next few years.

Many brands are already using it in ways that make their job easier such as data analysis.

 how companies are currently using AI

However, there’s always going to be a need for real people with AI.

A robot won’t be able to tap into the emotional persuasion triggers that have informed marketing campaigns over the last 100 years.

AI will make changing on site elements to suit a user’s needs much easier - but the messages will still need that human touch.

It’ll help highlight trends for segments and of your audience as a whole much easier - but you’ll need to reach out to them.

But the best brands will be those who take that information and leverage it with the creative flair only a human can.

AI will be a huge part of marketing in the future, but you can get started with it right now for data analysis and personalisation with the below tools.  

As a place to start we've been working with Microsoft's Azue Machine Leaning Studio

But blockchain is a different kettle of fish.

It’s very difficult to see how blockchain could change the marketing world right now. And if you look at the service offerings out there, you’ll notice there’s an awful lot of whitespace.

 martech space

Seems like we’re not the only ones struggling to figure out how this fits into the existing marketing landscape.

There is, of course, obvious applications with things like secure form submissions.

With 2018’s discoveries around data privacy and incidents including the Cambridge Analytics fiasco, having a decentralised, anonymous collection of data will be a major draw for users.

But beyond this most obvious application, there’s a lot of speculation and grey areas.

For now, blockchain shouldn’t be at the top of your implementation strategy.

There’s a lack of understanding around implementation and a lack of services that make it accessible to the majority of users.

As it stands right now, pursuing a blockchain solution will most likely result in a lot of wasted man hours and a severe headache.

What Should You Focus on in 2019?

I could take a leaf out of some marketers books here and highlight how we’ve got a brand new, shiny blockchain solution you just have to get on board with.

That this will be the defining campaign of your 2019 and for one low low price of £X,000 we’ll implement it for you.

And explain how you’ll be printing money in no time.

But the truth is far different.

We’re not blockchain experts and we’ve no real compulsion to become them just yet as we can’t see how this will play into strategies in the near future.

AI is something we are looking into implementing with our campaigns, but there’s still a lot of grey area there.
Unfortunately, the answer to what you should focus on is kind of boring.

It’s also kind of repetitive as we’ve spoken about it here, here, and even recorded a webinar on it here.

Yup, if you want to have a breakthrough 2019, you should focus on the customer.

You should be looking at how you can implement more personalised campaigns to speak to your ideal customer’s specific needs.

Try to foster that 1:1 relationship with personalised campaigns. Even making a small change like the text within a CTA can have drastic effects on conversion rate.

 conversion rate

Your focus should be on making both minor and major changes to make your campaigns more personal.

We’re not saying you should ignore blockchain and AI. But don’t get drawn into the buzz just yet.

Right now, your time is better spent on actions that are known to increase conversions.

Stay on top of your blockchain and AI research, but put your time into actioning personalisation strategies.

If you’re not sure how to best implement a personalisation strategy, reach out right here for a quick consultation call with our specialists.