Is decentralisation the next step for marketing?
The introduction of the Metaverse, blockchain, and DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations), amongst other disruptive technologies, are changing how people access, interact, and behave on the internet. This will have a transformational impact on digital marketing.
Decentralisation is already happening across digital platforms. If marketers shifted their own activities here, this could completely disrupt what we know to be best practice. This could be hugely beneficial for both businesses and consumers, connecting them in a safer, more sustainable, and more valuable way than ever before.
Let’s explore why decentralised marketing could be a positive next step and what this may look like in future.
Why Big Tech platforms are unsustainable for marketing
Access and ownership
Big Tech platforms, or the many platforms people use for marketing, are not owned by the users. In a scenario where Business A is trying to talk to consumer B – neither of these players can directly control the engagement.
Although businesses build or buy audiences to market to, they don’t own them and certainly can’t guarantee where their material is going.
Similarly, consumers can follow or subscribe to certain content or companies. But this doesn’t guarantee you’ll see every one of their updates. And yes, to be honest, we may not want to, but the fact is that we never specified we didn’t.
Consumers also provide a lot of data to these platforms with every use and it’s being shared throughout the paying usership of that platform, but they still don’t own it.
Black box behaviour
We all know how mysterious some algorithms can be. From SEO to paid advertising, sometimes it feels absolutely spot on and sometimes you’re left wondering how you were possibly targeted by something so wildly off your radar.
Paid media is probably the biggest culprit, nevertheless all Big Tech companies have some choice over when and to who they show your content. While you can find some information around how this works, most rules remain wholly unknown.
This puts companies trying to market or sell online at their mercy. Businesses either find themselves working against the algorithms, or tirelessly tailoring everything they produce to satisfy them, rather than their audience.
Even when you can win at these games, the fact remains that it’s the third-party platforms that are driving and manipulating your relationship with your audience.
The majority of the world use the same handful of platforms, and we’re all subject to the same rules of engagement while we use them. This means that the competition to target your chosen audience is fierce. This gets even harder when narrowing down your audience too far, no matter how relevant it may be to do so, essentially knocks you out of the running.
As the environment becomes more competitive, businesses must try even harder to play the system. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
The era of Web 3.0
Web 3.0 is an evolution of the internet that deals with a lot of these problems. This Twitter thread describes the progression really well.
Interestingly enough, it’s almost moving in the opposite direction to which the internet is currently headed. Instead of morphing into the AI-controlled environment that was predicted, the internet is being handed back over to the people.
The idea is that “no permission is needed from a central authority to post anything … there is no central controlling node, and so no single point of failure … and no “kill switch”.
This very much adds a layer of transparency, ownership and control to the users of the internet, rather than the companies currently ‘running’ it. Monolithic giants who create the rules to which organisations must try and adhere (if they can understand it) would no longer hold all the cards.
This will facilitate a future for decentralised marketing.
Take social media platforms as an example.
In an ideal world, a decentralised marketing environment would allow you to build your own audiences. Companies could communicate directly with their followers and skip out the middleman. If a subscriber has explicitly chosen to be part of a community, then they will see that provider’s content – no algorithm will get in the way.
The Metaverse already represents a digital world where businesses can build their own platforms, their own environments to be shared directly with their audience, that don’t require the supervision or control of a third party.
This is a much more useful gateway for businesses to engage with their consumers, and vice versa (whether B2C or B2B).
Decentralising could create more sustainable marketing
With direct decentralised access, there’s no battle for attention.
The constant battle businesses must take part in when marketing today – on social or on search engines – stokes the fire for unsustainable marketing tactics. This environment rewards, or even necessitates – noise-making tactics like clickbait or sensationalism. Businesses are encouraged to jump on new trends, be extremely reactive, or bend to the will of algorithms rather than delivering an authentic message.
This isn’t sustainable for businesses, marketers, or consumers. It’s energy zapping. And not everyone wants to deliver their marketing this way, but when they’ll struggling to succeed otherwise it’s not always a choice.
Related: What sustainable marketing means for the conscious marketer
Decentralising could facilitate marketers to leave these bad tactics behind and focus on adding value. People can choose for themselves what they want to see and, as a result, businesses can build relationships with open, honest communication at the core.
Dencentralised platforms would be powered by networks, communities, and ultimately, people. It becomes a genuine conversation again rather than a strategic game.
The future of decentralisation
All this being said, we don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t really know what Web 3.0 will bring in the future or what marketing on these platforms will look like. Just like in the internet’s early days, people will shape the solutions given to them, potentially for use cases we never imagined.
Right now, building an audience and getting your marketing material out there isn’t necessarily difficult, but reaching and engaging the right audiences is difficult. Being rewarded for your activity is difficult. And this is because we’re playing by somebody else’s (ill-defined) rules.
What we hope decentralisation can mean is that businesses can clear a pathway to who they want to talk to, and consumers can always access the people they want to hear from. Hopefully this means we don’t have to fight one another for a share of the market, because targeting a niche is no longer complex. We can act sustainably, authentically, and un-intrusively, because there’s enough to go around.