Sunday, November 26, 2017

Blockchain & the Future of Brand Strategy



Trust is the foundation of brand equity--meaning, the added monetary value that the brand provides over and above a commodity--and therefore of the brand itself.

If the customer does not trust that the brand will deliver its promised benefit, the conversation is over before it starts.

This holds true no matter what kind of benefit we are talking about:
  • Functional -- that the brand performs better than the competition. 
  • Emotional -- that the brand makes you feel particularly good in some way. 
  • Communal -- that the brand affords you a sense of belonging to a group. 
  • Spiritual -- that the brand affords your life a sense of meaning. 
Blockchain by its nature will transform the way consumers come to trust in brands. Rather than a linear relationship, with the brand producer "creating" a trust relationship for customers to either accept or not accept, the responsibility for trust is distributed.

In the blockchain model, all transactions--financial and contractual--are validated and revalidated continuously through a distributed network. The best metaphor I've heard to explain how blockchain works is that of a Google document, where updates to the core are made and recorded by many individuals (nodes) on the network simultaneously.

You can see this shift happening right now in the collapse of the mainstream media. Per Gallup (September 2016): "Americans' Trust In Mass Media Sinks to New Low."

Concurrent with this we see the rise of independent "micro-journalists." In this model:
  • The journalist is not funded by a colossal corporate network and their fact-checking isn't supported by a salaried person employed by said colossus. 
  • Instead, anyone can contribute facts to the collective and a seemingly infinite number of anonymous individuals do that, on platforms made to collect and/or preserve information. 
  • Asynchronously, content is developed, produced, and distributed, and the credibility of the distributor is continually questioned. 
Over time, some journalists emerge as "trusted quantities" whereas others are discarded as non-credible.

The new media will be about a consistent brand experience, but that consistency comes from a silent mass of people converging to anoint certain people and not others over time, and based on a history of repeated transactions that are open and accounted for to the public. Those transactions are information-based, and they are preserved in perpetuity for anyone in the public domain to examine.

We have trouble admitting when the old ways are dying, but we do ourselves a financial disservice by failing to come to terms with reality. Powerful companies are "getting into" the blockchain and related cryptocurrency space, but even a cursory review of the news demonstrates that blockchain thinking has barely made a dent.

How do we know this? Companies are still trying to get their employees to represent a perfect image of a perfectly consistent brand, that some mythical Wizard of Oz is engaged in creating.
  • That is an old model, Branding 1.0.
  • It was superseded by Branding 2.0 several years ago--this is where people talk back to the brand.
  • Branding 3.0 is where people co-create, and go one step further, by curating multiple brands together.
  • The new age of branding, Branding 4.0, will be where people collectively transform the nature of entire industries, without even trying to do so.
Paradoxically we will say "branding is over."

But in the sense that trust powers all financial relationships, and imbues our professional world with a variety of "known characters," the act of branding and the strategy involved in crafting some brands as "more trustworthy than others" endures as both art and science.
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Posted November 26, 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Image credit: geralt/Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)

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