If the Term “Blockchain” Makes Your Ears Bleed, You Are Not Alone

According to a new Forrester report, the word “blockchain” has become so closely associated with the hype and “Wild West connotations” of cryptocurrency that some companies are opting to not use the term anymore.

Search “blockchain” on Google and you’ll find around 215 million results. This overuse has prompted some companies to rebrand it as “distributed ledger technology,” or “DLT,” a term that hasn’t been business-buzzworded to the point that it makes your ears bleed. (Unlike “blockchain,” which has been known to cause permanent deafness once you’ve heard it more than two hundred million times.) Some of these companies, Forrester found, also misuse the word “blockchain” when describing applications that “lack key characteristics that many regard as essential components of a blockchain.”

Coincidentally, BREAKER spoke to ConsenSys chief marketing officer Amanda Gutterman yesterday during Brooklyn Tech Week about this very subject. Leading ConsenSys’s marketing efforts (or not quite leading, since there’s no hierarchy in the “mesh,” what ConsenSys calls its team) requires a lot of explaining the technicalities of blockchain—or so one would think. In a hotel room upstairs from Brooklyn Tech Week’s Williamsburg venue, overlooking the Manhattan skyline from across the East River, Gutterman compared blockchain to a city sewer system in a deft explanation of why the term doesn’t matter so much.

“I think most human beings are going to be interacting online with systems that are built on blockchain, but they’re not going to have to know how they work,” she said. “Just the same way that I can come to a new city, and I can use the bathroom without knowing how the sewer system works.”

So people don’t even need to hear the word “blockchain” in a company’s pitch or read it in their marketing deck to get interested?

“I’m a marketer,” said Gutterman. “So if it increases sales, then say it, by all means.” Though blockchain “glamorization” appeared to peak in 2017—“the Year of Our Lambo,” as Gutterman refers to it—the word maybe still increases sales.

“I think it still does,” she said, after a moment of reflection. “I think the word ‘blockchain’ is something people get excited about. And I think that’s a good thing. It’s been really good for the space.” Consumers, she admits, might care less about the blockchain buzzword than, say, investors who want to ride the wave of “the future.”

Ultimately, as the blockchain buzz dies down, Gutterman thinks the companies that have no business being in the space will leave. “The last couple of months have been amazing at winnowing away the people who aren’t serious, and really refocusing the energy of the people who are,” she said. “So if you’re uninterested in blockchain because it’s an overused buzzword now, great. Go enjoy the next thing for the next six months.”

Maybe that “next thing” will be DLT.