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How marketers will use blockchain technology and NFTs in 2022 for identity, branding and engagement

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How marketers will use blockchain technology and NFTs in 2022 for identity, branding and engagement


Blockchain technology and NFTs aren’t going anywhere, and some big brands have already dipped their toes in and demonstrated that they can generate real engagement.

Marketers are always in search of new strategies and technologies to gain a competitive advantage, so it’s not surprising that in outlooks for the upcoming year, there’s been a lot of talk about how NFTs and blockchain technology can give brands a lift. The digital landscape has expanded to include 3D AR and VR environments. Meanwhile, Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook) has gotten out front with the concept of a connected metaverse.

When weighing all of the options that appear on the horizon, marketers should set clear goals and expectations instead of chasing the next flashy gimmick. But they also shouldn’t miss out on the transition to blockchain and virtual environments going on right now in some marketing channels.

Blockchain’s benefits for identity

“The industry has known for a while that blockchain’s transparent, decentralized nature, and immutability have valuable applications in preventing ad fraud and securing the ad supply chain,” said Mel Bessaha, Senior Vice President of Demand for video platform Connatix. “Those same benefits also deliver great value for brands that are dedicated to building strong first-party data strategies. Those strategies will naturally require as much first-party data as possible.”

Because the location of all data in a blockchain is recorded in a decentralized, public ledger, this makes the blockchain much more transparent to consumers when it comes to their data’s provenance. Companies using blockchain technology for data also have a number of security options in handling and storing the data, either on or off the chain.

The advantage concerning transparency of customer data is that the data isn’t being managed privately out of view on a company’s database, or shared with a third party without a customer’s permission. This way, there’s no disconnect between how a business uses customer data and how a customer expects it to be used, regardless of how customers interpret a particular data-sharing agreement when they check the box to grant permission. Sharing their data by way of blockchain is a way for brands to build trust with customers who fear that their customer data is being exploited in other transactions and lengthy permission agreements.

“Consumers want to be able to opt out of data sharing, and they want transparency into what data is being collected,” said Bessaha. “Brands that can offer that transparency – which blockchain offers – will win consumers’ trust, and incentivize them to continue engaging with the brand and sharing data. Businesses in digital need to prove consumers are getting a fair trade when they share their information, and blockchain provides that proof.”

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If companies gain more trust with consumers by using blockchain technology, this sweetens the deal for acquiring more first-party data, which every brand needs now more than ever.

NFTs in the metaverse

Non-fungible tokens are digital objects that use blockchain technology to make sure that they are unique. Anybody who acquires an NFT can prove their ownership because the transaction is recorded in the decentralized, public ledger.

This is important, because the visual representation of the NFT on a computer screen can easily be copied with a screenshot. It’s the blockchain itself that designates who owns this rare digital gem.

For brands, NFTs can generate brand value and brand love in a number of ways, but as a virtual souvenir it makes the digital object more personally significant to the customer. It’s not a Burger King crown that any BK fan can pick up at a store. Instead, it’s a unique object that a customer jumped through specific hoops to acquire, and they can prove it on the blockchain.

There is already an environment where consumers can show off their NFTs, provided by blockchain vendors who mint NFTs and provide digital wallets and trophy cases where users can keep them. But when operating in a virtual environment, those NFTs can follow a user wherever they go. This makes NFTs essential to VR experience, and a reason why they would grow in importance as a VR metaverse takes shape.

NFT responsibility

One thing marketers should pay attention to is the bad rep certain blockchain technologies get for using up lots of energy. To update the ledger for each unique token or coin, computers in a decentralized network are put to work generating a new chain. Many blockchain venders have gotten out ahead of this concern by pledging their sustainability practices.

When marketers introduce an NFT promotion or other blockchain strategy, they will want to let consumers know that the technology they are using is environmentally responsible.

“Consumers will be thinking through the impact of carbon emissions released by the creation of NFTs and other digital tokens,” said Libby Morgan, Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer for the digital media and marketing trade association IAB.

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Marketers in the metaverse

“Marketers are going to begin exploring branding opportunities in the metaverse,” said Stephen Hoelper, President, North America, at programmatic messaging company Doceree. “Brands that deliver an engaging and less invasive experience than the current digital marketing landscape will gain the greatest impact out of the gate in the new space.”

“Brands are being put on notice: prepare for the metaverse,” said Sanjay Mehta, Head of Industry, e-commerce at cloud-based experience company Lucidworks. “This is a chance to reimagine virtual experiences and find better ways to do all the things we’ve been trying to do in the real world, including building community among customers, experiencing physical goods virtually, understanding shopper behavior, and creating more personal (AI-powered) concierge-style services.

He added, “There are a million directions retailers could go, but those with clear intentions and a desire to enhance the total experience with the metaverse (versus building something from scratch just because) will be able to pull ahead.”

With a lot of publicity generating the idea of the metaverse, it still remains largely conceptual, according to Jack Smith, Chief Product Officer for ad verification company DoubleVerify.

“It’s early days for both the technology – hardware and software – and the content required to meet the ‘meta-opportunity,” Smith said. “Interoperability is also key. For the metaverse to function like the physical world, virtual environments must be interconnected. It can’t be a series of individual walled gardens. While the metaverse will take years to be realized, it’s not as far away as we might think given the rapid advancements in VR and AR amid the pandemic.”

Brand theft in the metaverse?

When taking their first dive into a virtual environment like the promised metaverse, marketers should understand that some of the strategies and logic on traditional channels might not carry over. That’s because laws protecting intellectual property are rooted in the real world, aka “meatspace.”

“The most significant difference in IP and licensing issues between the metaverse and meatspace is clarity of ownership,” said Aron Solomon, Chief Legal Analyst for attorney lead gen company Esquire Digital. “If we look at a Nike sneaker in our tangible world, we know that a counterfeit pair of bred toe Jordan 1s from Sneaker Street in Hong Hong is inauthentic because we can accurately trace its provenance – the original licensed Nike shoe.”

He cautioned, “Tracking ownership on the blockchain-based metaverse is going to be impossible by traditional legal measures because of uncertainty of ownership and the potential for (otherwise very cool) infinite alterations of the thing in issue, here, lets say, an NFT of a pair of bred toes.”

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As the metaverse becomes more connected with greater participation, a cat and mouse game might likely develop, possibly resembling ad fraud in the advertising landscape or other forms of deceptive digital scams.

Marketers should be pay close attention to how they might release NFTs, selecting proven partners in this emerging space.

As with any new digital channel, there is an excitement for discovery among consumers that marketers can also share. But eventually the buzz will need to lead to revenue.

About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.



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MARKETING

How To Plan a Content ‘Season’ Like a Hollywood Showrunner

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How To Plan a Content 'Season' Like a Hollywood Showrunner

What should we talk about in our content?

This question plagues many content marketing teams. The brand message might be crystal clear. The products have clear value propositions and differentiators. The marketing team understands its paid media schedule, the agency is working out the creative elements, and the PR team is readying news around new hires, products, and partnerships.

The content team, however, struggles with topics.

Content marketers often approach this by getting a meeting together to brainstorm.

Here’s how that usually goes:

Someone from the demand generation team suggests creating a list of all the questions buyers might ask about the company’s particular approach.

The product marketing manager likes that idea and says, “We could create articles answering those questions and then sprinkle in how we solve those challenges.”

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The brand marketing manager says, “Why don’t we write some posts about our new brand mission and how our products and services are helping solve climate change?” They punctuate their suggestion by throwing a copy of Simon Sinek’s Start With Why onto the table.

The product marketing manager chimes in: “Yes, and we could sprinkle in a bit about how our product solves those challenges.”

“I know,” says someone from PR, “let’s write posts that feature profiles of our executives and their thought leadership in the market.”

The brand marketing manager nods in appreciation. “Yes, great idea. That’s storytelling. It’s got a hero.”

The product marketing manager stands up and says, “I like it. And maybe the executives could talk a little about how our product solves difficult challenges.”

Only the content marketing team sits silently, looking down at their notebooks. They’ve taken exactly zero notes.

The pizza arrives, and the meeting ends. The brand marketing manager says, “I don’t know what you all were so worried about. We’ve got tons of things to talk about.”

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

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Finding the bigger story

I work with content marketing teams for brands all over the world. I’ve noticed that when teams struggle to find a focused editorial direction for their content platform, it’s usually because they haven’t set the foundation for a bigger story.

Without a focused story (or stories), any alternative feels valid. As a result, their blog feels like an ad hoc collection of answers to FAQs. The resource center is a random collection of promotional materials and case studies. Their webinar program is just a catch-all featuring whoever is available to talk about how their product solves things.

I’ve discussed the importance of planning before. But within that planning process description lies the assumption that the relevant teams have met to decide on a bigger story to use as a foundation for planning.

But what if that hasn’t happened yet? How do you go about finding that bigger story?

As it turns out, you can learn a lot from media operations.

An overarching story helps #Content end the struggle to find editorial direction, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What TV showrunners know

Television series are created by teams representing all aspects of producing great content. There are writers, directors, actors, editors, production specialists, and so on.

Similarly, multiple teams come together when a brand’s content marketing team embarks on a thought leadership program or content marketing initiative. These teams also rely on diverse experts: writers, designers, subject matter experts, and others.

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Both teams face similar problems. This chaotic, creative process requires participation from many different groups.

How do you align all those disciplines and develop a cohesive story?

The question in Hollywood: “What’s the story?”

The question in content marketing: “What’s the story?”

Here is an approach that I’ve seen work in both situations.

Find the story – then plan it out over a season

The first thing I advise content marketing teams to do is this: Find the focus for a story they want to tell over a specific period on specific platforms.

I’ve talked before about the approach of using your brand story to find your content stories and even rebooting your story from content you’ve written before.

But another (often overlooked) aspect of this first step is to plan how your story will play out over time.

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Hollywood showrunners do this by bringing all the writers together to generate ideas about episodes and character development arcs.

Content marketers can learn from this. Why not bring the team together to plan out a bunch of ideas that would help you tell a complete story?

Think of it like planning out an entire season of content. For example, you might theme your editorial strategy for the coming quarter, build it around a curriculum, or even align it to the seasonal calendar.

With this approach, you’ll end up with more than a list of titles of articles, posts, or assets to create. You’ll have planned different chapters (or episodes) of a broader story that may end up as many kinds of digital assets for different platforms.

Think of #content planning like plotting out an entire TV show season, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Outline the chapters – then create your packages

The next step for showrunners is to create outlines of the episodes that make up the show’s season. These detailed story outlines help the other professionals understand when things like specific locales, guest actors, or bigger budgets may be necessary.

In content marketing, outlining your story’s upcoming chapters can help you decide which formats would work best. For example, you may decide that for the initial “episode,” you want to create an article and a blog post. But you want to combine the second episode with a white paper, a webinar, and a blog post.

Deciding on these packages separates the content development from the digital assets you’ll package them into. Creators get a heads-up that they’ll need to write the content for the various interfaces selected to optimize accordingly. Designers will have a complete portfolio of content that they can use to create all the assets needed.

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Planning at this level of detail enables the true benefits of a content calendar. All the teams can see plans for the story to unfold and all the different platforms where it will be told. They may start to see that the content season will meet their needs – reducing the demand for ad hoc assets.

Planning a full season of #Content lets internal teams see how the story will meet their needs, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Create the content ­– not necessarily the assets

In the next stage, Hollywood showrunners assign the writing for the various episodes. All the writers know the story and the outlines for upcoming episodes so that the showrunner can choose the optimal writer for each episode.

A content marketing team might assign the first couple of episodes to one writing team, then assign another team to take up the project for episode three.

Think of it like this: If you’ve mapped out your entire story, you and the team know what’s coming. You can work on the chapters simultaneously, knowing that things can change if needed. More importantly, this approach lets you work ahead instead of constantly chasing deadlines.

The key here is to write the content, not necessarily the digital assets. The goal is to have the stories created well ahead of the deadlines in your story schedule. For example, one successful content marketing team I’ve worked with makes a “content digest” for each of their episodes. This single document includes all the written content for all the places it will live (e.g., promotional ads, blog posts, social posts, long-form articles, etc.) and a creative brief for all the asset elements the content will be packaged into. Once the content reaches production, the creative team creates all the design containers simultaneously.

Approaching content separately from production means you may have 10 or more episodes ready to go before the first one even publishes. This lets you adjust the production schedule as you learn from each episode as it rolls out. If episode 1 goes exceedingly well, for example, you can make changes to episode 6.  You’ve seen this in action with your favorite series. A character becomes a fan favorite in episode 1 – and suddenly has much more screen time by episode 5.

Additionally, it’s a much more efficient process. You know episode 3 (which is already written) will need a thought leadership paper, a webinar, and a blog post. Fantastic. Now, you know how to help the production team schedule their efforts. And, you have the room to change if the first webinar is so successful that you want to add more.

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One story to rule (out) them all

Setting the bigger story in place and working the plan through cross-functional teams does more than give you production efficiency. It also provides focus. You can weigh any proposed idea against something important: the bigger story.

So, when that inevitable “Yes, and can we sprinkle in a little more about how our product solves that challenge” comment comes in?

You can look down at your copious notes and say, “I’m sorry, that’s not part of this particular story.”

Remember, it’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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