We live in a time when cars are driving themselves, drones are dusting crops and food is being printed. Yup, the future has arrived and it is an shaking the ground below the feet of many leaders in “experienced” industries. We are modernizing everything and it isn’t an aesthetic thing, it is a real change to how brands interact with people in space and time.
The marketing, brand and design communities are equally susceptible to the shakedown. Let’s look at a recent invention (1980s) in marketing: frequent flier programs. Invented by American Airlines through the creation of a new currency, points. We, as passengers, earned them for our loyalty as they became a macro indicator of loyalty that showed up as a liability on the balance sheet of many brands. Marketers and loyalty agencies reinvented this idea to focus more on smushy, hard to understand “rewards” and less on a currency. The results allowed marketers to be more micro and measurable but perhaps less effective on a macro scale. But, at least fewer brand managers faced the CFO’s angry face when a massive liability showed up on the books.
The current state of loyalty programs is facing the soul rattling impact of blockchain. This backbone behind our new currency bitcoin and many other currencies is articulated here in an HBR article by Dan, Jessica and Alex. They are all practitioners in the field of engagement, loyalty and programs designed to quantify loyalty.
So, as a nod to our book, The Physics of Brand, let’s run this through a thought experiment. What if all loyalty currencies were on a centralized exchange where people could buy points with cash or exchange loyalty points like we do traditional currencies?
Here’s the potential quake if an open marketplace develops with the security of a blockchain backbone. In today’s market, brand owners set the value of their points (currency) and like China, they’re sometimes inflated or deflated depending on the state of the loyalty program, brand position or other market dynamics. An open market would be less susceptible to manipulation but more open to large shifts in point value.
Now, we the people, in a blockchain system would get a lot more power to set the value through market supply and demand. Theoretically, someone could find enough airline points cheap enough to undercut the prices in certain markets. Theoretically, someone who changes jobs gets off the road may cash in on a freighter load of points. Theoretically, a brand owner could see a massive use of points and a rebalancing of this liability on their financials. Whatever the case, rebalancing of a dysfunctional marketplace (loyalty programs manipulated by brand owners) would certainly have an impact.
You might say this is a macro measurement of emotional engagement in an open market system. The brands with high emotional engagement will win and those who have tried to buy fake engagement will likely lose.
Let’s get that party started.
Now, let’s talk about the micro version, or the measurement of human emotional engagement in each individual. Your body is communicating how you feel by outputting heat, heart beats and electrical energy. You’d be highly aware of this fact if you’ve experienced the “liar” side of a lie detector test. Now here’s some interesting news: your iWatch is collecting some of that data today. Yes, your watch is getting to know you emotionally, perhaps better than your new lover. Though to be honest, Apple doesn’t seem to know what to do with your data yet. Your lover hopefully knows what to do with your data.
The horizon is short and even the brains at Capsule and Cupitor are developing a research methodology to better understand human emotion and correlate its contribution to brand value. So, someday soon Apple will know you better than the “love of your life” and while it may scare you, it may also make you a better person. It might tell you to work out more. It might tell you to eat better. It may also tell you the “love of your life” doesn’t really mean that much to you and you should wake up and reach out to the person you keep stalking on Facebook. Just kidding.
The wave of human advancement is starting to crest and what you perceive to be a darkened sky is actually a wave of knowledge shadowing your eyes. Once we’re surfing this wave, it will be an amazing adventure. We look forward to some amazing conversations at FEI as the innovation, research and design communities can either resist the wave or surf it to a better place.
Founder, Capsule Design
Author, The Physics of Brand