Blockchain technology. Picture: ISTOCK
Blockchain technology. Picture: ISTOCK

Seismic shifts in trends and technology happen during the careers of most marketers: in the 1990s the introduction of the World Wide Web and then e-mail revolutionised the way we worked and communicated. The introduction of the Internet shortly thereafter opened a whole new world for marketing.

Around a decade later yet another seismic shift occurred with the introduction of social media, which moved the balance of power from brand owners to customers, who now had a voice.

Fast forward yet another decade and we have Blockchain and the digital currency underlying it, Bitcoin. Investopedia defines Blockchain as a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed. What makes Blockchain technology so unique is the fact that it has no centralised authority – in fact, no single party or organisation has control of it – which, ironically, makes it one of the most secure systems globally.                        

To date Bitcoin and Blockchain have been used primarily for digital financial transactions, including currency transfers and secure data applications. While it’s almost impossible to predict the extent to which Blockchain will affect marketing in the years ahead, there is no doubt that it will have an effect one way or another.

Demystifying Blockchain at a recent Heavy Chef event in Johannesburg, consultant Simon Dingle said Blockchain has the potential to disrupt any business. “Blockchain will potentially shake up not only the banking and insurance industries, but also the creative world,” he said, adding that it will force both convergence and irrelevance.

In the UK, a platform called Project Provenance encourages brands to become more transparent by tracing the origins and histories of products. It believes that Blockchain provides the transparency required of product supply chains by enabling secure traceability of certificates and other relevant information.

Walmart has plans to track the provenance of the pork it buys in China digitally using Blockchain technology. This is in response to consumers demanding greater transparency about where the products they consume come from, and a desire for increased food safety.

According to Shareen Pathak, writing on, other possible uses for Blockchain include the ability to conduct an inexpensive decentralised audit to ascertain whether or not a particular ad appeared in the medium it was supposed to be in; accountability of corporate social responsibility initiatives; and more authentic consumer engagement.

Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman and CEO, was quoted in late 2016 saying that while Blockchain “might seem like a trinket for computer geeks . . . once widely adopted, it will transform the world”. Watch this space.

The big take-out: In the years ahead, Blockchain has the potential to cause disruption in a number of industries.

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