The use of technology was one of the key themes running through this year’s Cannes Lions festival, with an emphasis on boosting creativity through innovation. Beyond that, many conversations centered on technology’s ability to build consumer trust. And one of the key conduits cited for fueling this valuable brand asset is blockchain.
Blockchain is rapidly growing in importance across the board, with spending on the technology expected to grow globally by 42.8% year-on-year, reaching $13.96 billion by 2022.
But until now, blockchain has largely been seen as a transactional tool, with its permanent records and clear chain of interactions offering security to all parties. However, it could have applications far beyond that. As Jessica Groopman, industry analyst and founding partner at Kaleido Insights, told CMO.com earlier this year: “Virtually anything could be a transaction. It could be money, it could be a vote, it could be the exchange of information, it could be that a document or product has been accessed. It’s a shared way of verifying that an action or a transaction has taken place.”
It also has the potential to improve transparency and safety for consumers, according to Thomas Müller, general manager of Accenture Interactive's design agency Fjord, who spoke at Cannes on this very subject. Müller memorably chose Metallica anecdotes as an analogy for the two-stage verification that marks blockchain as an infrastructure for transparency and truth. In his example, the band’s bass guitarist Cliff Burton is bragging to lead guitarist Kirk Hammet about a stage dive he performed the night before, that Hammet didn’t see. It’s only after Hammet has asked other bandmates, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield, independently of each other and Burton, that he can be sure the aerial heroics definitely took place.
“In many ways this borrows from history,” Müller explained. “People have always sought multiple, independent confirmations of the facts to accept something as the truth. That’s what blockchain offers. What’s more, every modification is open and tracked, so you can see any changes that have been made, when and by whom.”
Müller wants brands to turn “touch points into trust points,” building momentum and good feeling. “Every time we interact with consumers can be a moment of truth. If we can make each of those moments an opportunity in which the brand instils trust, it’s an incredible win,” he said.
Some of the trust deficit, as Müller sees it, is simply a result of the opaque way that consumers’ data has been used up until now. GDPR is making some progress in this area by demanding consumer consent.
“Wouldn’t it be incredible if we lived in a world where we all had a digital identity powered by blockchain, which means that we will always have a sense of where our information is travelling, who’s touching it, and how it’s being modified?” he posited.
Simplicity Creates Engagement
Müller’s vision involves a profile, similar to a credit check, that would offer consumers an at-a-glance view of how their data is being used. Profile preferences would be the basis for a consumer’s “data score,” which could then give them a simple traffic-light-style result to indicate if their wishes have been heeded.
It’s this simplicity that he sees as vital. Müller explained: “As individuals, we don’t want to be bothered every day with 20 updates about how our data is being used. It’s about giving control back to me and the information that I put out there. If we can achieve that with blockchain, I think that would be a game-changer.”
This is all great in theory, of course, but what about implementation? Financial services companies have been working with the technology in recent years, and Müller said he sees some valuable lessons in that industry’s willingness to experiment.
“Don’t wait and hide because nobody’s going to solve it for you,” he advised. “Pick which experience would benefit most and run a pilot. Learn from those experiences and appreciate that it’s not going to go right from the very start.”
Müller also encouraged brands that might be nervous about the technology to bring in expertise by hiring talent from the blockchain space or through partnerships, adding credibility to those initial forays.
Measurement, he added, is an extremely important part of these early excursions into blockchain, and finding the right form of benchmarking will be a challenge in itself.
“Don’t just use Net Promoter Scores or any of the other quantitative metrics that we use for existing technology,” Müller said. “Try to understand where you are from a trust perspective right now and put a benchmark in place, so you can understand if you’re actually moving the needle.”
He acknowledged that “everybody is going to navigate a bit of a grey area for a while,” but he didn’t see that as a valid excuse for brands not to engage. Reasserting the value this technology for brands and their customers alike, he concluded: “Overcome your fear by partnering with the right people, and then try to position yourself as a leader in the space.”