16.10.2019

The future is now: How AI, blockchain may solve some of the industry’s biggest challenges

Michael Trapani, global product marketing leader at IBM Watson Marketing.
With new privacy laws, new technology and more customer data than ever before, what do marketers think about the future?

The future is now: How AI, blockchain may solve some of the industry’s biggest challenges

Some of the most seasoned professionals in the space told us just that during Wednesday’s keynote at this year’s MarTech Conference East in Boston.

Customers now set your competitive benchmarks. “There’s too much data,” said Michael Trapani, global product marketing leader at IBM Watson Marketing. “We’ve been throwing software at the problem. But there’s just too much. Customer expectations are higher than ever. You’re no longer being compared to your competitors, you’re being compared to the best experience that customer ever had.”

With 90 percent of the world’s data being created in the past 12 months, Trapani said, analysts take too much time wrangling data and are beginning to look like data scientists. AI is the next generation of software, it’s “the next stage of humans using technology to do their work,” he said. “When the tools we have at our disposal are no longer good enough to deal with the task at hand, we have to try something new.”

Trapani says that AI-powered marketing has benefits for both the marketer and the customer. “First, it helps you create better experiences. Second, it helps you work smarter,” he said.

Don’t forget about the creative. Michael Tidmarsh, chief technology officer at Ogilvy Worldwide, said that it is important to keep creative development in the mix as technology advances.

A number of factors, including the growth of social, platforms, experience, and programmatic and dynamic content, have accelerated rapid growth in the industry, said Tidmarsh. Ogilvy needed to keep its creative reputation intact while incorporating tech into its processes.

Oglivy tries to keep several things in mind when bringing tech into the creative realm, including knowing what is possible, shooting for capabilities at scale, using data to power solutions, being aware that it’s a collaborative process and remembering that “if you try to persuade someone to take an action, you need to pull on the emotional strings first,” Tidmarsh said.

Blockchain provides some answers. Andrew Park, distinguished analyst at Gartner, said that there are quite a few major challenges facing marketers today. He said the primary pain points are the concentration of media power in the hands of a few, restricted use of personal data and a growing mistrust in media.

Enter blockchain.

As a decentralized platform, Park said blockchain can provide a way to operate outside the black data boxes of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. These so-called “walled gardens,” have advertising walls, search and discovery walls, payment walls and an identity and consent walls.

“It makes no sense to have media markets that are operated by the largest businesses in media,” said Park.

He said that blockchain provides security, transparency and quality assurance that can be used for advertising contracts. “Blockchain can liberate media markets from the walled garden,” he said.

Similarly, since actions on the blockchain cannot be altered, it can also help build trust with customers by establishing verifiable sources and prove authenticity for its content, Park said.

And while new data privacy laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), along with possible federal legislation in the United States, reduce the amount of data that marketers have available, blockchain can add more clarity to consent gathering, a rule-laden process that can be very complicated.

“GDPR has made consent the most powerful form of digital currency in the world today,” Park said. “Blockchain will move permission and transaction records out of the walled garden.”

Park concluded by saying that marketing needs to take the lead.

“The future is digital business and marketing needs a seat at the table,” he said.

Is blockchain past the hype phase? Maybe. Jeremy Epstein, chief executive officer of Never Stop Marketing, gave a preview of companies currenty offering blockchain solutions to marketers. Adoption of these tools is significant, and rising. For example, Peepeth, a blockchain-powered Twitter platform, boasts 10,000 users.

Epstein also mentioned other tools that use blockchain including the reddit-inspired Steemit,  a YouTube replacement Libry and forecasting tool Augur.

Epstein says that using tools that use blockchain will lower the cost of marketing by stripping away third-parties and allow them to develop more granular, customized experiences with their customers.

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