3 Questions to Ask When Determining if Using Blockchain Is Right for Your Brand

Not all emerging tech is worth moving forward with

Jumping onto the latest tech trends isn't always the best choice for your brand. Getty Images

It’s easy to get swept up and go along with something that buzzy and popular—after all, human brains are hardwired to want to fit in and belong. For sports bandwagons, the biggest downside is the increase in ticket prices—and that bandwagon fans are more of an annoyance than an actual problem. However, when it comes to brands and bandwagon technology, there is a lot more at risk.

Innovative technology partnerships can become one of the pillars of a brand’s identity. One of the best examples of this type of partnership is Red Bull and GoPro. Working together on projects like “Stratos” delivered great results for both brands, and many of their joint projects have become synonymous with both.

However, sometimes it doesn’t work, Anheuser-Busch partnered with a startup to create a zero-knowledge age check beer vending machine. This is a vending machine that operates by using a blockchain-based identity system accessed through an app that verifies to the vending machine that you are over the age of 21 in order to get a free beer.

I think Jackson Palmer on Twitter said it best:

Deloitte presented a survey on recently at CoinDesk’s Consensus conference with some telling results. The 1,000 respondents represented a population of companies from U.S., China, Mexico, the U.K., France, Germany and Canada who have annual sales of at least $500 million from a range of industries. Here are some of the results.

  • 44 percent of the survey responders based in the U.S. think that blockchain is overhyped, compared to 39 percent globally.
  • 34 percent of companies are already testing some form of a blockchain.
  • 41 percent aiming to launch a blockchain application in the next year.
  • 68 percent of firms are afraid of losing competitive advantage if they don’t embrace blockchain.

Given that it is very likely that blockchain is here to stay, the real question becomes: How can my brand leverage this technology to improve our customer experience?

When attempting to integrate blockchain into your company’s core offerings, make sure it actually improves your offering.

When attempting to integrate blockchain into your company’s core offerings, make sure it actually improves your offering. In the case of Robinhood, the addition of cryptos to their investment app dovetailed well with their existing users’ demand. It would not be a reach to assume this smart strategic move was part of what helped them raise a $363 million round with a valuation of over $5 billion. Or look at IBM’s partnership with HyperLedger Fabric and Amazon’s addition of an AWS product designed to help streamline blockchain implementation. Both of these are excellent examples of a company embracing new technology and the hype to offer a better customer experience.

Just like before launching any new brand partnership, there are some questions it’s helpful to ask before getting started with blockchain or any technology.

What is the goal of this campaign?

It is impossible to measure success without knowing the definition of success. Is the goal of this partnership to gain new customers? To save our company money? Or to provide a better experience for our existing customers? To revisit the beer vending machine example, it would be hard to justify that as a successful campaign if the goal was to save money. If the goal was to get mentioned in the news positively or negatively, then it might have been a successful campaign.

Does this partnership facilitate an interaction I want to have with my customers?

Sometimes it is more about building brand perception than anything else. Watching someone do extreme sports via GoPro footage doesn’t make drinking Red Bull inherently taste better, but that partnership does make customers think Red Bull is cooler. It allows Red Bull to move out of being a beverage and into being a way of life. So, if a partnership with an innovative tech company allows you to change the quality and type of interactions with your customers, it can yield a significant ROI.

Am I willing to devote the time/attention/resources to make sure this is well-executed?

The startup ethos of “move fast and break things” works exceptionally well when there is little being risked. Early adopters of technology tend to understand when things don’t work, however, main street consumers are far less forgiving of a bad experience. Oftentimes startups lack the ability and experience to deliver a campaign to the standards of a major brand. It is important to spend time ensuring that the messaging of this partnership matches the rest of your brands.

Really thinking about the answers to these three questions might help your brand not get caught up in the hype and instead focus on the only important thing serving your customers. As a brand, you will always be caught between the fear of missing out and the risk of jumping too soon. By defining the goals, setting up the right expectations and delivering an on-brand experience, it is possible to balance the risk of both FOMO and getting left behind.

Mc Kenna Walsh is head of business development at VentureDevs.