The interest in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies is growing rapidly. And Amazon’s announcement earlier this week of a new patent that may allow them to sell the identities of cryptocurrency users added even more fuel to the fire of interest. This high level of interest was obvious at last week’s CRM Evolution conference, as Never Stop Marketing founder and blockchain expert Jeremy Epstein’s session — ‘Blockchain and the CMO: The Next Era of Marketing’ — was a real crowd pleaser.
For those who weren’t able to attend Jeremy’s session, you really missed out. Fortunately, conference co-chair Paul Greenberg and I were able to record a conversation with Jeremy to get a taste for a few things he talked about during his session. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. And while it’s worth reading the transcript, watching the video definitely adds important perspective because of Jeremy’s passion for the subject. I mean the guy paces and lifts weights during our conversation because he’s so jacked about the subject. So do yourself a favor and check out the video if you can to not only be educated and informed, but also get a glimpse as to why we dubbed him The Blockchain Gangsta. And you might also want to check out his free new ebook, The Decentralized Marketing Organization: How Crypto-Marketers Can Increase Token Value by Empowering Community Members.
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Small Business Trends: What do marketers today have to know about blockchain in order to really survive and go into the future?
Jeremy Epstein: One of the things I looked at over the last couple hundred years is how marketing evolved with the arrival of each new technology. There are the fundamentals of marketing — I call it Peter Drucker marketing — like customer value. That stuff hasn’t changed since we’ve been painting on the walls of caves, fine. But as each new technology comes along, marketing as a function, as an execution, evolves. So the penny papers in New York City in the 1800’s changed the game of advertising. Radio makes it auditory. TV makes it visual. Internet makes it faster. Social, as we all know really well, makes it two way. Mobile makes it location independent, right? So the question I’ve been asking for the last two years is this crypto decentralized thing. What’s that going to do?
What we did is we broke down six areas: advertising, loyalty, customer experience, data management, and how this can change. The answer is honestly, I don’t really know, but there are a couple things to think about. This thing is a technology that allows us to replace the trust in third party intermediaries, and remove people, and rely on the map that is sort of the heart of these machines and these algorithms.
You and I may not agree on politics or sports teams, for example, but we can all agree that 10 times 10 is a hundred. And we may not like the fact that 10 times 10 is a hundred, but it is, and there’s nothing that can change that. So that creates this uniform layer for trust. That’s what the technology does for the first time ever, and it’s 9 years old, since January 3, 2009, when the bitcoin blockchain was released out into the wild. Then you have to ask yourself, ‘Okay. If this removes those intermediaries, where in the marketing tool kit, stack of activities, are there intermediary laden activities and executions?’ And one of them, of course, is advertising. You need to study advertising for all of three seconds to know that is a total cluster when it comes to advertising. A stat that I quote often is basically, for every dollar that a brand spends on advertising, by the time all the middle men have taken their pieces out along the way, you’re ending up with like $0.44 of value.
That just has blockchain written all over it. There are DMPs (data management platforms) and SSPs (supply side platforms) and all that stuff sitting there. That’s just asking to be ripped and replaced, which is no surprise why if you look at the blockchain marketing technology landscape, centralized organizations, SaaS companies, are basically centralized entities. Well, if the theory of decentralization holds, and if the value that is normally amass in these centralized systems … excuse me, in a decentralized, token fueled world, then instead goes out to the participants, is it possible that we will see decentralized marketing offering alternatives to everything that’s sitting on Brinker’s [Marketing Tech] 5000 Landscape.
One thing we know about marketers is that they need technology to do their job at scale. It’s just not going to happen otherwise. Okay, so you start looking at these things, and I started to go out and find how many decentralized crypto projects are trying to solve these marketing problems, but in a decentralized way? We found 22 back in September. The large majority of which were concentrated, not surprisingly, in display and programmatic advertising. Because they all see what we all see, which is, let’s go blow this thing up and make it more efficient.
Now if crypto enables self-sovereign identity, where I am the total owner of all of my own data, and I can grant permission on an as-needed basis and then withdrawal it and there’s no trace left on your quote en quote servers, if that becomes the case, then help me understand, why would I need a CRM platform? I might need what I call a WRM, a Wallet Relationship Management platform, where I have relationships with the wallets on my network as people hold their tokens for participation in those networks on their phones or on their laptops or whatever. And I might say, this wallet has been holding its coins for a long time, this one doesn’t have that much, I don’t care who the person is, but I know based on the number of transactions, maybe in my network, I want to incentivize transactions, so the people who transact a lot, using my crypto? Fantastic, I’m going to incentivize them by having the protocol written in such a way that it automatically gives them bonus coins or whatever.
You can see all that, but I don’t actually know at any given moment it’s Brent, and here’s his Gmail, and here’s his phone number, and it doesn’t matter. It’s just this wallet. And you might have six of them and I don’t care because it’s about the growth of the overall network. I realize that this stuff is way out there. I totally understand that, but if you combine that technology with the larger macro scenario of Equifax being exhibit A-Z, our current systems are not designed for this heavily centralized, information rich … these honey pots that attract either hackers, ransomers, Russian guys, or even bad actors internally, and there’s so much data there.
So if you’re the CMO or the lead marketer, I don’t even think it’s going to be chief, because it’s going to get decentralized eventually, but if you’re the lead marketer of one of these organizations, that’s a very different kind of landscape that you’re operating in. You still have the same objectives of you need to drive awareness about what you’re doing. You need to drive perception, and you need to drive leads or activity or whatever, but you’re doing it with different sets of information. You’ll have decentralized identity and wallets, and you’ll have decentralized advertising, and how are you going to deliver a meaningful customer experience, which has to be there? Basically, customer relationship management as we’ve always thought of what it’s supposed to be, this ultimate Peppers & Rogers one to one future, why I fell in love with marketing in like 1997, the promise of CRM to me is totally there.
You want that, you believe in that, and you know that’s a differentiator. I’m just starting to say, wait a second, that optimal customer experience that we’re going to deliver, we’re going to have an entirely new tool set, and with that, good things that we’ll be able to do, like much more innovative loyalty programs that drive better customer experience at very, very hyper-local levels because you can have the brand governance that you need, but you’ll have the local flexibility that empowers innovation in the customer experience on these edge use cases.
I know that’s a lot. You guys let me go on. The coffee’s really kicking in, here. And my wife is always like, ‘Why are you yelling?’ I’m like, ‘I’m not yelling. I’m just super jacked up about this stuff.’
Paul Greenberg: All right. I know you’re time short, so one last question. I’m a marketer, just a regular old marketer. I’m a junior marketer. I just got into the idea of it. I just heard everything you said, and my boss totally gets everything you just said. I don’t get a damn word of it, though. I’m a junior, man. I just want to do what I’m supposed to do. How’s my life changing? What am I doing differently?
Jeremy Epstein: Great question. If you’re a young junior marketer now and you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to keep yourself relevant and add value in a crypto first world, which the only thing I don’t know is whether it’s going to be here next week or in 20 years, but it’s going to be somewhere between that. Odds are, it will be closer to the nearer side than the farer side, given how fast things are evolving, but we’ll see. Better to be early than late, I suppose. I think there are a couple things you need to do because marketing is continuing its march towards more data, so you have to really be savvier. The data is going to move to these data utility lakes that everyone can just access on blockchains, so you have to start thinking like a quant almost. You should be able to use an Excel pivot table and understand what’s going on there. You should be able to run queries and talk with data scientists, and you have to understand that’s a hard skill, but the soft skill is curiosity.
Any good AI or machine learning person will tell you it’s not the technology, it’s what questions are you asking. And that’s the first thing that marketers really have to do is the curiosity. The second thing is you really need to work on your integrity. Everything’s going to become visible, clear and transparent. You can’t be like, ‘Oh, we promise our coffee is organic.’ But the blockchain says it’s not. You’re done. That’s over. It’s good for ethics. It’s bad for corrupt politicians and people like that. So sorry for that guys. Then I also say I think it’s important to start learning more about the code itself because so many marketers don’t have a good understanding of the technology, and I think that’s continuing to erode.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.