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Jimmy Haight Marketing with Blockchain: What You Need to Know with Jimmy Haight
Blockcahin Agent

Blockchain may very well be the unsung hero of modern marketing, offering more advantages than you might realize. Beyond just securely storing, managing, and tracking intellectual property, blockchain can refine ad targeting, enhance ROI, and vastly improve loyalty and rewards programs, among other benefits. Jimmy Haight, blockchain expert from Chainlink Labs, shares his top strategies for integrating blockchain into your marketing efforts.

Marketing with Blockchain: What You Need to Know Summary

Key Takeaways

  • Blockchain is a distributed ledger that enables peer-to-peer transfer of assets and information. It brings new capabilities like instant settlement, fractional ownership, automation, and programmability.
  • Tokenizing assets on blockchain can incentivize customers in new ways through novel loyalty and rewards programs. It aligns incentives between business and customers.
  • Blockchain enables things like NFT-gated access to events/communities and secondary markets or digital/physical assets.
  • UX and account abstractions are currently barriers to mainstream blockchain adoption. This will improve over time.
  • In 5 years, blockchain will be integrated across marketing stacks. Blockchain-enabled loyalty programs will grow from fringe to 10-15% adoption.

Marketing with Blockchain: What You Need to Know Episode Transcript

Rich: My guest today is a marketing professional focused on the intersection of technology, society, and our future. He currently works at Chainlink Labs, trying to help tokenize and connect the world’s financial systems. Please welcome Jimmy Haight. Jimmy, welcome to the show.

Jimmy: Hey, how we doing?

Rich: I’m excited. I’m excited for this particular conversation. I have so many questions, but let’s start with the basics. How would you explain blockchain to a lay person like myself?

Jimmy: Yeah. I think you’re asking me, what do I have to do every Thanksgiving and Christmas? I think that’s the question you’re really asking.

Really, blockchains are just a special type of database. Rather than being in one location, the database is kept in a shared state across many different, called node operators, it can be across the world or whatever. What they’re really great at is they’re basically an asset ledger. So a shared distributed ledger of who owns what, that can update in real time across a decentralized bunch of node operators running the infrastructure.

Rich: So if I were trying to dumb that down even further for someone like myself. I mean, when you’re talking about a ledger, literally the old school ledgers where you would literally write down all the things that have happened. So you basically have a history of what’s going on, correct?

Jimmy: Yeah, and now I realize I didn’t do a great job of dumbing it down to the layperson. But here’s what I do. Think about one way to keep a ledger is say an old Excel spreadsheet, right? It’s on your computer, and then anytime you need to make a change, you can do it. But if you’ve ever worked in Google Sheets where anyone can make a change at any time, it’s a whole lot more efficient to be working in groups. And you can do this in a totally different manner. So it’s like going from Excel spreadsheets just on your computer, to a shared Google doc that anyone can edit.

Rich: In your bio you say that Chainlink Labs is trying to help tokenize and connect the world’s financial systems. What does that mean exactly, especially the word ‘tokenize’?

Jimmy: So when we say ‘tokenize’, what we mean is we’re representing an object on the blockchain in token form. The most famous token is probably Bitcoin or Ethereum or something like that, but really any asset can be tokenized. It’s just a digital representation of this thing on, we call it on chain.

Just as you can think about like records used to be digitized, right? They used to be kept on paper. And then all of a sudden we put them on computers and that’s digitization. So this is just another sort of evolution in their form. So going from digital or physical still to tokenize, which is just a special type of digital representation.

Rich: And what would you say the benefit of tokenizing this information is?

Jimmy: Yeah. So I like to call this like superpowers. What are the superpowers of a tokenized asset? And so I think it’s maybe most helpful if we provide a super tangible example.

Say we have a house. People can relate to houses. And so if you tokenize a house or a piece of real estate and you put it on blockchain, what can you do now that you couldn’t do before? What’s uniquely enabled by this technology? So there’s a few things, a few superpowers.

The ones that I like to call out are peer-to-peer transferability. So anyone can send to anyone else, which is really interesting, instant or near instant settlement. So when we transfer ownership, it settles on who the owner is very quickly. Other things are like fractional ownership, which is really cool. Or then there’s also a bunch of automation things that you can do.

And then another superpower I like to call is it becomes composable. This asset becomes programmable. If you have a tokenized asset, you can write code. That’s if this happens, then transfer this here.

Or maybe it’s really easy to have a hundred people own this asset, rather than just one person. These are all things that are 10 or a hundred X better than existing systems. So you can think about right now, if I wanted to transfer money from my bank account to your bank account. Or imagine if we were in different countries, there’s this thing, it’s called T plus two, which is how long it takes to change the ownership. And when I am sending you money, say my Venmo account or whatever, Venmo has abstracted this all away where you get credited, and I get debited. But on the backend, that money doesn’t actually move and change ownership for two days. So now we’re talking about if I can just send you this thing in a wallet, or I can just send you this thing from me to you, it takes five minutes. So we’re talking about something that’s multiple orders of magnitude better than existing systems.

So long way of saying, when you tokenize an asset, you can give it all these properties that it didn’t have before that are just way better. So if you think about when you digitize an asset, what could you do? What was way better about it than when this asset just existed on paper. It’s a similar stepwise improvement.

Rich: All right, so we’re giving it superpowers, as you say, and you might not tokenize your house. It’s not like it changed the house at all, but what it has done is it kind of changes the control of ownership and how easy it is to transfer it, as you said. And also, if we wanted to turn it into a timeshare, is that, just to extend this thing where suddenly four or 100 people owned it at different times, all of that would go into this digital ledger, which is blockchain. Am I getting close to that?

Jimmy: Yeah, I think that’s about right. And then another piece of the puzzle you could add onto it is you could take like a loan out against it as simple as clicking a few buttons, right? Think about the loan process that you have to go through for a house or residential property right now. You have to talk to a loan officer. There’s many days, there’s lots of paperwork, there’s lawyers, whatever. On chain world, if anyone’s not familiar, there’s protocols where you can just put up your asset, click a few buttons, and take a loan out against it. So you can do these things in a matter of minutes instead of days or weeks.

So yeah, basically all those things are possible when you put something on change. You’re not changing, you’re not literally turning the asset into a token, but you’re representing the ownership, and it can just transfer a lot easier.

Rich: All right. So now that we’ve wrapped our heads a little bit around what blockchain actually is. What are some ways in which we might leverage blockchain to market our own business or in the marketing of our business?

Jimmy: And so one of the superpowers when you have a token is it creates incentive alignment in a way that could never exist before. And so we previously talked about tokenizing houses or something like that. But I think if we take a step back and actually think about what we can do, you can create novel incentive alignment structures. I’m looking for the word here, like loyalty programs, reward programs. Things where you can distribute rewards to your customers or your wannabe customers a lot faster and more efficiently than you ever could before.

So I think it’d be worthwhile digging into some specific examples of how you might be able to do this. But as a marketing professional, it’s like the thing that you would use blockchain for is coming up with a creative way to use tokens to incentivize your customers in ways that you couldn’t before.

Rich: All right. So give us some real world examples of how some type of business might incentivize somebody and leverage blockchain at the same time.

Jimmy: Yeah. So I think the closest thing to consumers right now would be NFTs. And so NFTs are a token that stands for non-fungible token, but you can think of that as meaning there’s a one of one. There’s one representation of a token.

And so one of the things that got really popular is artists create collections of NFTs. And people use them as their profile pictures and that’s cool. And you can say, okay, there’s maybe not a ton of value. And just like having a Twitter profile picture that’s a monkey or a pudgy penguin. But what they ended up doing is if you own this thing, now you can get exclusive rights to this party we’re hosting on a yacht. And the only people who can get in are the ones who own this thing.

Or maybe we have this really exclusive online chat forum that you want to get into because all the cool kids are hanging out there and that sort of stuff. In order to get in there, the access is actually gated by ownership of this item. So now there’s this other element here of your customers, or want to be customers, can actually own this piece of property and you’re getting access to things that they want, or providing exclusive experiences based on ownership to this.

Rich: I know with NFTs, we’ve talked about NFTs a couple of times on this podcast before, that you can bake in something where every time somebody sells this NFT. So let’s say that you had a membership that you sold, like a marketing club. You sold memberships to it that maybe you sell for a hundred dollars. And then somebody could then turn around and sell that NFT to somebody else. They would give up access to your membership, but then the new person would have access to the membership.

But if I understand it correctly, the NFT could be set up so as the creator I would get 10%, as an example, every time that NFT was sold at whatever rate the person sold it for. Is that true?

Jimmy: Yeah. So this goes exactly back to that programmability piece that we added on. It’s like someone listening to this might say, okay I can do that just based on my existing membership program, right? Like I can just make an Excel spreadsheet of all the people in here, and I can invite those people to my yacht party, right?

And so it’s what is the NFT doing that’s different? And the thing is, when you have this digital ownership and you have this programmable thing, you can build all those programmable logic around it. So one of the things you can do is, now maybe this person can sell their NFT and we route royalties back to the trader. That’s pretty cool. Or maybe route it back to the business owner.

You can also do things like maybe you can rent it out for 30 days and then it’ll come back. Or maybe you make it so it can never be transferred. Or maybe you make it so if you transfer it, it’s never transferred, it actually loses 50% of its value. The original owner gets 90% off, but the second owner gets 50% off.

Basically, whatever you want to do, you can build that logic into it. So this is where it becomes better than just having your existing loyalty program.

Rich: So we just finished our first ever virtual summit. And one of the things we did is it was free to access, but then you could buy a VIP pass that would give you access to all 30 recordings on demand for a full year.

As an example, I could have sold those on chain as part of blockchain and said, “After you’ve watched the 30 videos, if you’ve gotten all the value you can get out of it, you can actually turn around and sell that to somebody else at whatever price the market will bear.” So that person might actually end up making money on the summit just by watching all the videos and then selling it for more. And I could have programmed it so that every time it gets sold, I get another commission on top of whatever I made the first time around.

Jimmy: Yeah, exactly. And what you just illuminated, it underscores this new incentive alignment. Because not only is your customer who’s selling this and got a bunch of value out of it going to profit off of that, and that’s pretty cool, guess who’s going to be a huge cheerleader and trying to push the success of your program? All the people who bought this. Anyone who bought it and wants a secondary market to send it to. They want a secondary market to sell into, so they want to build up how awesome you are and share that value and have other people believe in it as well. So it’s like this new level of your customers want you to succeed because they share in the success that is really hard to duplicate otherwise.

Rich: Yeah, that’s very interesting. Now, that’s obviously great for a virtual product. And I know we’ve touched on some physical products, but can you give us any examples of where, I’m trying to think of a business that wouldn’t even be thinking about blockchain, home repair or something like that. What are maybe some ways of tying it into a physical product that you’ve seen out there?

Jimmy: Yeah. Starbucks had a program. I think they actually shut it down recently, just because of the shifting tides of sentiment towards NFTs. But Gucci does another one as well.

Nike is really big in this space. So Nike’s a really interesting pioneer in this space. Especially around their sneakers. So they have a bunch of patterns around it. You can go read them and stuff, but basically you can buy like these NFTs, and owning the NFT gives you the right to get this sneaker, or to redeem it. So there’s an interesting play around that.

There’s a startup that I was talking to that does comic books, and they issue the right to own this comic book as an NFT. But it’s housed securely in a warehouse and stays in pristine condition. So if you ever want to sell it and transfer ownership and all that sort of stuff, you can do that digitally. And then whoever actually wants to redeem it can then cash it in. And then the important part is that after he gets quote burned, which is being basically destroyed. And so that way, the redemption mechanism destroys the NFT, and you get the physical item in return.

So there are a lot of interesting ways to tie it into physical goods. I think where you’ve seen the trend pick up the most is collectibles, high prestige goods. So things like I mentioned, Gucci, or collectible Nike sneakers, or comic books, or that sort of stuff where the most traction is right now.

Rich: And so let’s say that I wanted, getting back to the summit idea, let’s say that the next year for the summit I wanted to do this. What’s involved with me actually creating, whether it’s NFTs or blockchain, of creating that scenario where I would sell access with a VIP pass, it’s tied to blockchain, it allows somebody to sell the product as many times as need be. Down the line, I get 10% of each one, as an example. Do I turn to a company like Chainlink Labs? Is this something I can do myself? What are the actual mechanics of bringing this into reality?

Jimmy: Yeah. So it wouldn’t be something that like, that we do at Chainlink specifically. But what you can do is, there are platforms that allow you to mint. It’s called minting your own NFTs. And there’s platforms that allow you to build this programming logic into it.

So honestly, it would be just a quick Google search of those sorts of things like ‘’NFT minting platform. So when you mentioned the blockchain stuff, if you think about the tech stack, the blockchains would be analogous like a cloud provider. So say, AWS or Google cloud or whatever, or Microsoft Azure.

If I was launching, a startup today or something, I would never try and build my own cloud, right? I would just buy some space from AWS, and I would try and build my application on top of it and host it there. And that’s what you’d be doing here. So you would find a tool or a platform that lets you mint your own NFTs and build some logic into it, and then just choose whatever blockchain you want to deploy it on. And that would be totally abstracted away from you and from your users.

Rich: I can also see some interesting things you could do with warranties. Where you sell a warranty that’s on the chain, and then you could determine if the person sells the car or the house or the boiler that’s under warranty, and how that ownership is transferred.  And does it come with 100% valuation? Do you lose some of the valuation, or whatever the case may be? Does it expire? So there are some interesting ways that you could tie it into real world products and services.

It sounds like that really any business, if they find the right platform or the right vendor to help them with it, could start to offer some of these services built into their products and offerings.

Jimmy: Yeah. A hundred percent. And to be totally fair, the average consumer is, we’re still in that very much early adopter phase. So the average consumer of a house boiler or whatever, probably isn’t on chain, right? Probably doesn’t have an on-chain address, and maybe you might not be super savvy. So these use cases are a hundred percent within the realm of possibility of what you could technically do.

But right now, the people who are willing to venture into this space tend to be super tech savvy, or the dollar amount of the ticket item is worth the extra hoop or the flow that they’re not typically used to.

But yeah, you mentioned it, this can be broadly applied to anything. I’m a firm believer. We’re talking about replatforming, like almost all of the world’s assets. Like this. Isn’t happening because it’s cool. It’s happening because it’s better, right? Like in the same way that everything got digitized because digital records are better than written records. This is going to happen, it’s inevitable. We’re just at such an early stage right now that the creatives and the early adopters and the collectibles are where the movement is happening.

Rich: And I remember, because I was around when the internet more or less started, I remember back in the early days of the internet where I was on a 28gig modem. Things were very slow. There wasn’t a whole lot on the Internet. Most of the stuff was on things like CompuServe or AOL. It wasn’t really easily accessible. It wasn’t easy to navigate the web to find those few resources. But over time, the tools became more consumer friendly, they became easier to create websites. It became easier to visit websites and navigate around.

So yes, we’re at the very beginning of what might happen, what might become. But at the same time, this is where we were 30 years ago with the web. And now we’re just here with this thing called blockchain.

Jimmy: Yeah, it’s such a great perspective. And the level of innovation and how fast things are getting better is truly mind blowing. Because literally, people from every part of the world are working on this and it’s just happening so fast and so rapidly. We’re going to get there soon. No doubt we’re going to get there. And it’s just really good to keep that perspective just because maybe something is not as simple as you want it to be today, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that for very long.

Rich: No, and there’s obviously first mover advantage for people who do want to do it. But at the same time, you have to recognize that you’ve got to have the audience who are also first movers, who are early adopters at this stage of the game for really you to see fruition of this.

And so I was curious about this. If somebody is listening and they’re wondering about the ROI for their business when it comes to blockchain, what do you tell them?

Jimmy: Yeah. Obviously, the answer is going to be, it depends on what you’re trying to do, and that sort of stuff. But for this audience being marketing professionals and trying to think about what they can implement today, that gives them an edge.

It’s can you build a loyalty program, or can you build a customer alignment mechanism that no one else has? And the answer is, probably yes. And so the question is, what is your ROI? It’s like, how much would it be worth to you if you had a rabid fan base of supporters who would go out of their way to promote you for no reason. They’re financially incentivized to be promoters for you.

Think of the companies that have done this amazingly. You have Apple and Tesla. People who own Tesla’s also own Tesla shares. And the first people who tell you they should go buy a Tesla are Tesla owners. And think about Apple’s rise to fame, and people who own expensive Apple products also are getting really rich off of Apple stock, right?

So if you can build some mechanism where your customers are sharing in the success of your programs, like if you think about your digital asset or digital assets, think of your digital summit if you can create a rabid fan base that is financially aligned to your success, that’s worth everything, right? It’s just really, the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can accomplish if you do it right.

Rich: So you touched on this before, because obviously end user adoption is an issue right now. What are some of the other barriers to blockchain adoption?

Jimmy: The user interface is very unfamiliar to folks at the moment. So right now the typical user interface in the crypto blockchain web3 world whatever you want to call it, is you have a wallet address, and you log into applications with your wallet. The web2 way of doing this is you log in with your email and your password. So there’s just a different form of interacting with these things.

And it’s going in the direction where the logins and the interactions are becoming more and more like the web to look and feels that we’re used to. But some people are really uncomfortable with this. They have to remember a 15-word seed phrasing to unlock their wallet, which is very intimidating.

You hear the stories about someone who maybe locked their wallet and lost it in a landfill. And it’s got $50 billion of Bitcoin in it. And they’re using a metal detector at a landfill now. Which is a true story, by the way. So that’s a little intimidating to people. And so this concept of account abstraction is happening. People are working on it. It’ll get to a really user friendly place soon, but I would say that’s the big barrier right now where only the bravest are willing to venture there.

Rich: Now, if somebody is intrigued by what you’ve shared with us today, how might they get started with blockchain?

Jimmy: There’s a lot of great resources out there. I always point people to the A16z Crypto Cannon. So just type in ‘A16z Crypto Cannon’, it’s one of the first things that pops up. It’s organized in a really amazing way from the fundamentals of the underlying infrastructure to a whole bunch of subsections on applications and things that might be super relevant to this audience.

So it’s a bunch of links. You can think of it as almost as the front door or the front page of your blockchain learning. So I always tell people to go to that go there and it lets you go at your own pace, and you can just dive into whatever concepts are the most interesting to you. And it links out to all the best resources on the internet.

Rich: Now Jimmy, as we’re recording this it’s a day before we’re about to announce tickets for the 10th Annual Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference, right here in Portland, Maine, where you and I both reside. Putting on your creative thinking cap, what are some – it’s probably too late for this year – but what are some ways that you could see somebody like me leveraging blockchain to create a more valuable or engaging live, in-person event experience?

Jimmy: I think the idea you laid out at the beginning of having this sort of NFT-gated access that you could resell, I think that’s a really interesting one. I think there are all sorts of opportunities to capture the… there’s a concept in the crypto space, which is a very event organized or event driven space where they’re called ‘PO apps’, like proof of attendance protocol. So people who show up in person can have this NFT that verifies that they showed up. Sort of like a collectible, or you can think about people who collect postcards of places they’ve gone. But you can only get one of you showed up in person.

And so that’s a really interesting thing, and the only people who can ever have one showed up in person are And so it can create this sort of, well one, it can be a great memory for folks, but also can create this this ingroup of people who were there at the first one or the second one, or who have the most.

And so you can think about maybe three years down the line, if you have three of these NFTs showing that you’ve showed up in person three years in a row, there’s an exclusive event for you, right? Maybe that’s a really interesting, gated experience they can buy. And hey, if you don’t want to restrict it from people transferring it, maybe there’s a secondary market of people trying to scoop up a third one or buy that exclusive first 2024 issued NFT so they can get into your exclusive party.

So there’s, I think, a lot of interesting dynamics that you could do there.

Rich: Very cool. Maybe for 2025. All right. So I want you to take off your thinking cap and maybe put on your Swarma hat and predict the future here. Where do you see the role of blockchain and marketing in the next five years?

Jimmy: Yeah. So I have this thing where in five years, it’s going to be just as silly to call a company a blockchain company as it is to call a company like an internet company. Like it’s just going to be part of your stack. And so it just depends on how much you want to leverage it or where in the stack it is.

But I think blockchain enabled loyalty programs are going to go from the fringe to maybe a very interesting minority in the next five years. Maybe there’s some sort of critical mass of 10 to 15 percent of consumer facing companies are using some sort of blockchain enabled loyalty program.

Rich: Very interesting. And of course I said swarma hat, which is really just shaved beef. I don’t know what I was thinking when I said that. I think I was thinking Swami hat, something like Johnny Carson in the old days, when he would lift an envelope to his head and predict what was inside.

Anyway, this has been really eye-opening, Jimmy, and I really appreciate you coming by. If people want to learn more about you more about what you’re doing in blockchain, or more about Chainlink Labs, where can we send them online?

Jimmy: Yeah if you want to check out Chainlink go to chainlinklabs.com. If you want to connect with me, I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s actually @james_haight. And then my LinkedIn is just @JamesHaight. And you can find me there, send me a message, I’m happy to connect. If you’re ever in Portland or in Maine in general, we do run a Blockchain Maine group, find us there, too. We do quarterly meetups, which would be super fun to have anyone there who’s interested as well.

Rich: Awesome. Jimmy, thank you so much for your time today.

Jimmy: Wonderful. Happy to be here. Thank you.


Show Notes:

Jimmy Haight is a marketing professional with a keen eye on the evolving landscape of technology, society, and future trends. Jimmy’s expertise and forward-thinking insights make him a respected voice in the tech community. Check out how his team at Chainlink Labs is using blockchain to transform the global economy. And be sure to follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.