Web3 CMO Stories

From Curiosity to Strategy: Zero-Knowledge in the Marketing World – with Brennen Schlueter | S4 E21

July 09, 2024 Joeri Billast & Brennen Schlueter Season 4
From Curiosity to Strategy: Zero-Knowledge in the Marketing World – with Brennen Schlueter | S4 E21
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Web3 CMO Stories
From Curiosity to Strategy: Zero-Knowledge in the Marketing World – with Brennen Schlueter | S4 E21
Jul 09, 2024 Season 4
Joeri Billast & Brennen Schlueter

Send us a Text Message.

Unlock the secrets of the transformative power of Web3 technologies as Brennen Schlueter, Chief Marketing Officer at Aleo Network Foundation, takes us on his incredible journey from traditional advertising to the cutting-edge world of blockchain.

With experience working with industry giants like Nike, Amazon, and Robinhood, Brennan reveals how his early fascination with digital trends and cryptocurrency advocacy led him to his pivotal role at Aleo. Discover his passion for integrating zero-knowledge technology into blockchain, making it accessible for developers, and learn all about Aleo's groundbreaking zPass product and their highly anticipated mainnet launch.

Explore the true potential of blockchain technology beyond just cryptocurrency trading as Brennen discusses its revolutionary applications in industries like logistics and finance. This episode also delves into the evolving landscape of brand building in a digital world, highlighting the integration of on-chain and off-chain data for more effective marketing.

Brennen's insights on creative marketing strategies and the importance of a strong, adaptable brand in a rapidly changing environment offer valuable lessons for marketers and tech enthusiasts alike. Don't miss this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the future of Web3 and the innovative efforts at Aleo Network Foundation.

This episode was recorded through a Podcastle call on June 4, 2024. Read the blog article and show notes here: https://webdrie.net/from-curiosity-to-strategy-zero-knowledge-in-the-marketing-world-with-brennen-schlueter/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Unlock the secrets of the transformative power of Web3 technologies as Brennen Schlueter, Chief Marketing Officer at Aleo Network Foundation, takes us on his incredible journey from traditional advertising to the cutting-edge world of blockchain.

With experience working with industry giants like Nike, Amazon, and Robinhood, Brennan reveals how his early fascination with digital trends and cryptocurrency advocacy led him to his pivotal role at Aleo. Discover his passion for integrating zero-knowledge technology into blockchain, making it accessible for developers, and learn all about Aleo's groundbreaking zPass product and their highly anticipated mainnet launch.

Explore the true potential of blockchain technology beyond just cryptocurrency trading as Brennen discusses its revolutionary applications in industries like logistics and finance. This episode also delves into the evolving landscape of brand building in a digital world, highlighting the integration of on-chain and off-chain data for more effective marketing.

Brennen's insights on creative marketing strategies and the importance of a strong, adaptable brand in a rapidly changing environment offer valuable lessons for marketers and tech enthusiasts alike. Don't miss this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the future of Web3 and the innovative efforts at Aleo Network Foundation.

This episode was recorded through a Podcastle call on June 4, 2024. Read the blog article and show notes here: https://webdrie.net/from-curiosity-to-strategy-zero-knowledge-in-the-marketing-world-with-brennen-schlueter/

Brennen:

You can imagine verifying your identity to log into a website without seeing a login page.

Joeri:

Hello everyone and welcome to the Web3 CMO Stories podcast. My name is Joeri Billast and I'm your podcast host, and today I'm excited to be joined by Brennen. Brennan, how are you? I'm doing great, great to be here. Happy to have you, Brennen. Guys, if you don't know, Brennen, Brennen is the Chief Marketing Officer at Aleo Network Foundation. Before joining Aleo, Brennen led marketing at the Web3 project and spent a decade developing brands at advertising agencies agencies. So, Brennen, to start with, can you share a bit about your journey from traditional advertising to embracing Web3 technologies and maybe what was a pivotal moment that led you to this shift?

Brennen:

I went to school for advertising. It was something that I always wanted to do. Building brands was something that I recognized at an early age, combined a lot of my passions of creativity with commerce, and understanding how that was occurring was something that always driven me towards advertising and brand building and marketing in general. It was my way of staying creative, being involved in building a business, and it really was something that captured my attention for a long time. My career in advertising started at the start of the digital boon of brands entering the digital space and so, naturally, being somewhat native to that environment, I saw it as my opportunity into that industry was combining my passion and understanding for advertising and brand building which I went to school for, and focusing on the digital space, and because I focused on the digital space, I got to explore lots of different technologies. It was part of the job of being a good marketer is remaining curious, so trend observation is a big part of any strategist. When you intern agency, especially at an early stage of your career, your job is to present research and findings to help embolden more senior strategists and partners to develop insights that turn into large-scale campaigns and powerful brand work, so I was always very curious on technology. There's a core part of my internet experience was torrenting in the early 2000s. That's how I did most of my music discovery. In fact, I was one of the only people in Texas who was listening to obscure European techno because of my torrenting. And when I uncovered Bitcoin in 2010 through some redditing, I immediately saw the comparisons on how I was able to discover lots of elements of obscure techno music and other music through torrenting, and I thought about how powerful that would also be when you apply it to data security and the way the internet operates in general. When the internet becomes more decentralized, it could be a really powerful tool. And so my career in advertising.

Brennen:

I was a strategist for over a decade. I worked on lots of large scale brands like Nike, jordan, amazon, music, robinhood across multiple agencies, and I was always the crypto guy, at the same time partly pitching ideas on how could we integrate into this emerging technology, but partly just preaching the potential of what this technology could become and how important it would be. There was a lot of the clients that I worked on. Some of the work that we did was helping them evolve into the digital space, so helping them think about their rewards program, their incentive program apps, their website, their tech stack. All of those things became a part of what we did at the agencies that I worked at, because we understood them pretty well.

Brennen:

So I always talked about crypto as a potential solution to some of the things that we were discussing with these clients, but no one ever did it. We talked about the philosophy of it. They obviously didn't really believe in it as a technology at that point in time, which was probably right, and it also, at that time, wasn't right for me to be full-time in crypto. My skillset was better served with brands that needed to be differentiated in a large scale marketplace that had real users of the products that they were building, and so that moment didn't come until 2020, 2021, when I finally realized that there were applications emerging in the Ethereum ecosystem and some of the other chains that deserved some real marketing focus, and at that point in time, I just left advertising abruptly and went full-time into focusing on a Web3 career and building out my network, understanding how are these companies being built, how can I support them, how can I help them be more creative, how can I help them be more impactful in the way that they tell their story and that's become my entire career. Now is fully focused on web three, helping these emerging technologies and brands find their footing, because I believe in the technology, but I also see the power and creativity while these networks and ecosystems start to grow.

Brennen:

So now I'm the CMO of the Aleo Network Foundation and we're focused on bringing zero knowledge to the world by building a layer one blockchain that is zero knowledge by design. There's a lot of different projects that are integrating zero knowledge which is amazing. We love to see that this technology is taking off that are integrating zero knowledge, which is amazing. We love to see that this technology is taking off. But Alio is a vertically integrated developer environment to allow for developers to access the power of zero knowledge through a Rust-based DSL language called Leo. So we take away and abstract the complexities of zero knowledge that have existed for 40 plus years, and now, with the power of blockchain, we're able to decentralize the proving compute power required to actually bring this to the masses. And we're getting close to mainnet launch, which has been exciting to build up into. In my year and a half here, we've got a lot of exciting stuff coming up on the marketing side to help make that a success.

Joeri:

Wow, lots of amazing things happening and thanks for sharing your story. You're at the right place, CMO in Web3 and telling your story. By the way, I just came back from Consensus in Texas for networking. You mentioned Texas. I don't know if you are there. Yeah, oh, you are there too. Yeah, it's a small world. Of course there are a few. There are listeners to this podcast that are already in the Web3 space, but some of them are new and they are knowing about who are looking at Web3. Can you explain a bit what you mean by zero Zero knowledge?

Brennen:

Yeah, zero knowledge is a technology that's existed since the 80s.

Brennen:

It's a concept that uses computer programming to be able to prove that something is true without revealing the underlying data of what makes it true. And when you think about the way that the internet has been built, it's required you to share all of the information in order for it to be verified true by the person who's custodian it. Whether that's your name, your username, your password, your bank account information, all of these elements have been required to go through to the person that has to custody it in order for them to verify themselves that you are capable or verified to receive their personalized experience, whether that's a product, whether that's a website or a social media application. Zero knowledge changes the logic flow of the internet, where, if an application is built with zero knowledge enabled technology, like Alio, then you don't have to reveal all of those elements to be true in order to receive the same level of service. You can imagine verifying your identity to log into a website without seeing a login page, and that's happening a little bit on wallet-based logins in Web3 currently. However, web3 in its current form is fully public. So if you think about the use cases as crypto and Web3 scales into a more mature environment. Having a fully public wallet address doesn't make sense for how you want to operate your bank account or your social media direct messages or even gaming, and a big use case that's coming out of this is AI and being able to verify different training data or verify the model that you're using without revealing said training data or model information.

Brennen:

Zero Knowledge has been an expansion of encryption and really just a concept for a long time, and people have been thinking about different ways to develop it. But the Alio team some of the co-founders co-authored a paper when they were at UC Berkeley for their PhD, called Zexi, that outlined how you could scale zero knowledge encryption with blockchain technology, and that's where Alio was born, and it's been five years of development to be able to get us to this point. So what really excites me about this is and it's been five years of development to be able to get us to this point. So what really excites me about this is that it's a combination between fixing the problems that I've seen with the internet, both as a marketer and advertiser and just a user, and bringing in the value and potential of a decentralized network built on top of a blockchain infrastructure, and I guess that's a summary of Elio and Zero Knowledge.

Joeri:

Okay, thank you, but now at Aleo, you are implementing, obviously first advertising solutions using blockchain. Can you maybe walk us through an example, a basic example, from how this actually works?

Brennen:

Yeah, one thing that I'd love to clarify is that we're trying to move a bit away from the privacy, so maybe you could re-ask that question and privacy.

Joeri:

Say again so you would like? Would you like to ask me the question?

Brennen:

If we can speak a little bit more to how we're building secure infrastructure for applications to be built, and then I can also and potential use cases include advertising, and I can hit on that, yeah, yeah. Secure out different ways to secure audience data for personalized advertising targeting? A big problem that arose in the 2010, that kind of climaxed with the 2020 or the 2016 election, is how user data is used across different marketing platforms and advertising platforms and, as a participant in that network, there were certain moments in time when I could see much more user data than I was comfortable with. When I was presented with advertising products that knew too much about the people that we were advertising to. That made me uncomfortable and made me feel a little bit in. The fallout of Cambridge Analytica made me feel a little bit like icky about how we were using people's data in a lots of ways, that there are data and specifically personal tracking data vulnerabilities that allow for people to maliciously use that. So advertising is a part of the problem here that needs to find a solution.

Brennen:

There's a product called ZPass that's being developed on the Alio network. That is actually we built it internally that helps you to create these z-passes, which holds personal information, and allows you to verify them without showing any of that personal information, something that hasn't been done yet because we still haven't hit mainnet, so we're still in early development of a lot of the use cases. But something that I'm really excited about seeing is a decentralized ad network that utilizes the Z-Passes or other ways of gathering demographic information to still provide a personalized experience for audiences online. Ways that we can verify that someone watched a YouTube video or a social video and retargets them without ever seeing their user ID, without ever having to have to come across in custody credit card information. There's ways that we can bucket together those targeting segments and repackage them as zero knowledge proofs that really change the way that we protect people, while providing those personalized advertising experiences that we know are valuable, both from a brand and company or business perspective, but also for users.

Brennen:

Having more personalized content and experiences through the advertising has improved that experience. Even though, if overall, people are overwhelmed by advertising in general, we still know through plenty of research and data over the past 15 years that's preferred Instead of getting hit with random banner ads that we're hoping are hitting the right people. Being more specific on who we're targeting while protecting user data becomes a real big passion point for me. So if anybody out there is listening to your podcast and is curious on ad tech and has the capability of building those things, please hit me up. I would love to chat more about what it would take to build that, because I think it's direly needed and the technology does exist. On Aleo ah, absolutely.

Joeri:

At the end of our show you I will ask you how people can contact you, and obviously there are also show notes where all your contact information will be there. But, of course, blockchain, as I said, more and more people start to know about blockchain, learn about, but I guess there are still misunderstandings in the market that you need to address. Can you talk a bit about that in?

Brennen:

the market that you need to address. Can you talk a bit about that? I think a lot of people misunderstand the underlying technology that's happening within blockchain. I think people see the trading aspect of crypto and just immediately equate that to the entirety of it. People see the money aspect of crypto and they see that as blockchain, and those things cannot be separated.

Brennen:

I think that's the big misconception that I like to point out and discuss with people is the technology that blockchain is.

Brennen:

It has much wider use cases than just trading and being a financial tool, and I think Alio is a great example of that, because we're using the decentralized proving network to be the backbone of how we bring this zero-knowledge technology to life.

Brennen:

Right and similar to the anecdote that I shared earlier about torrenting, where files are spread out between many parties, they're fragmented so that not one holds all of the information and therefore could be taken down accordingly, the same could be true with any level of information or compute power that you might need. So when people start to think more about blockchain as a solution, some of the people that are most excited about it are logistics companies being able to track different aspects of either their shipping or where their products might be, or even tools on a job site or the financial sector is very interested on this to be able to increase their speeds and also decrease their costs in general of operating with high transactions per second. So when you look at the chart and you're evaluating blockchain as a chart and a graph, there's a story there that's not being told around what this technology is enabling. That hasn't been possible until this point.

Joeri:

Yeah, you make me. Listening to you made me think about a lot of things. That's not a question that I sent to you, but what? What about these virtual worlds, these metaverses and ads in there? Is that also something that you have an opinion about or that you're watching with Aleo?

Brennen:

yeah, I think that we I'm close to having the belief that we're already in the metaverse. I feel like the metaverse itself is a combination of many different aspects of digital life. I think the nft component of digital collectibles have already shown us that there is value in the digital assets that we have that don't have to rely on this 3D fully immersive environment, and I think that the more digitized that our lives become, the more important these layers of trust of the people that we're engaging with, of the platforms that we're engaging with, become as well. When you think about the metaverse specifically, it's an overlay of all the same elements that we have currently. How do we connect with people? How do we share value? How do we trust others? How do we trust the rule set of the games and the platforms that we use?

Brennen:

So I think that my perspective of the metaverse is that it's something that we are already. My perspective of the metaverse is that it's something that we are already experiencing. It just much like an advertising and a marketing plan people always. How do I keep up with the latest channels? And I always think about channels last, and that's because it's more about the brand strategy that you build, the messaging that you need to develop and then how you distribute that or how you experience that message, is what becomes the important part, and I think that's the same thing that we can apply to the metaverse, and how we apply this technology to the different channels that we experience that in.

Joeri:

So, Brennen, you just talked about the metaverse in Web3, in the world today, everything is going really fast, but still I will try to ask you the question where do you see advertising Web3, specifically blockchain heading, in the next, let's say, five years? What are the biggest changes that you're seeing?

Brennen:

It's a good question. I get a lot of questions around how do I adjust my marketing plan for Web3? And I think it's similar to what I said on the previous question too, which is more channel specific in how I approach brand building and marketing, versus focusing a lot on the changing tactics that occur in either Web3 or otherwise. We're never going to be on top of everything that's happening and there's going to be plenty of cultural shifts that start to occur that change the channels or the way a message is delivered or the different interactions that we have, but the way that we build brands and the way that we engage with our audiences still remain the same. I think there'll be plenty of paid opportunities that come into view for distribution, lots of ways that start to integrate more on-chain data as a way to target people in interesting placements.

Brennen:

I think that that's probably the biggest change that we would start to see is the combination of on-chain data with more off-chain or demographic-based targeting in some way.

Brennen:

But again, all of those things are results or tactics that we use for a good strategy, a good brand strategy that outlines who we are as a brand, why we exist, where we fit into people's lives and making sure that we're iterating on the messages that help tell that story the best way possible. I can't sit here and say that I don't know exactly what it looks like. Space moves so quickly, the culture moves so quickly, but staying curious is important to doing that, and staying steadfast in the principles of what it takes to build a good brand and not trying to just follow the playbook that everyone else follows just because it exists. I think there's plenty of brands and brand stories from the past hundred years who have tried to do the same thing, that have seen mixed success in competing and positioning themselves as the leader in a space when they are purely trying to follow the trends Instead of trying to set a new course and build it on way in a creative way.

Joeri:

Yeah, there is a quote that I like and I'm doing it myself is don't follow the path, but make your own path and leave a trace, something like that. That's sometimes it's harder, but it's way more fulfilling. And, as you say you, if you want to be ahead of everyone else, that's what, what you need to do. But I always ask, is? You mentioned the word excited already a few times. So I really feel your passion for what you're doing, but what are you now the most excited about? For things that are now happening or maybe in the near future, for Aleo?

Brennen:

I think I'm most excited about seeing this technology actually go into the world in a truly permissionless way. The team has worked extremely hard and it's a very challenging technical product that they're building at Alio and it's been amazing to be a part of that team. That's what's made it. An incredible journey is seeing them go through that, thinking about how we can help tell that story and support that story. When it's very complex and typically to have these conversations you've needed a PhD in zero knowledge to be able to track along with it, and I think we've been shifting that perception of how approachable the technology is.

Brennen:

Because of that, I think in the next few months we have a lot of really exciting campaigns coming up from the marketing side that support this monumental achievement of being able to release this permissionless network and also the applications that are starting to be built on top of the Alio technology is something that we haven't seen before with this level of security by integrating zero knowledge.

Brennen:

So being able to see people exploring the technology, seeing them be able to comprehend what we're doing because of some of the marketing and efforts that we've put in as a team, that's what's gotten me really excited. But to realize the full vision of what zero knowledge can do and hopefully Alio's role in that is going to take years. It's going to be a long tail exploration and focus by integrating with lots of really great partners and some really amazing applications that pave the way and kick the door down for more secure applications, because it's a topic that people kind of avoid in the name of convenience. I don't really want to change how I use this app because it's just so simple and easy, but there will be a time when this becomes really important to the way that we live online and I'm excited to start to see that come to life.

Joeri:

Brennen, I was excited to have you on the show. Like we mentioned, probably, people now they want to learn more. They want to learn more what Aleo is doing, what you are doing, what's coming up next, so where would you like to send them?

Brennen:

Our website, which we redesigned last year, and our whole marketing team and entire foundation is very excited about aleo. org, would be a great starting point. There's lots of different ways to explore what we're doing, how we're differentiated in the projects that are being built on top of Aleo are all on that website. I'm always down to have a conversation about Aleo and marketing in general. You can find me on Twitter, but you can also find me on Warpcast and the Farcaster Network as well, and LinkedIn. I'm happy to have more conversations about it.

Joeri:

Amazing. As I mentioned, we will put all your links in the show notes. My listeners know that there is a blog article there in show notes Always. So, brennan, thanks, it was really fun and really interesting to learn from you on the show. Thanks for having me. Guys, if you learned as much as I did and you think this is really useful for other people around you, be sure to share the episode with them. If you're not yet following the show, this is a really good moment to do this. This is a really good moment to do this. Of course, I would also offer you to give me a five-star rating, because if you do that, I will even reach more people and, of course, I would like to see you back next time. Take care.

Can you share your journey from traditional advertising to Web3, and what pivotal moment led to this shift?
Can you explain what you mean by zero knowledge?
At Aleo, you're implementing blockchain advertising solutions. Can you give a basic example of how this works?
How are you building these secure applications? Tell us more.
Blockchain is becoming more known, but misunderstandings persist. Can you talk about these?
What about virtual worlds and metaverse ads? Is that something you're involved with at Aleo?
Where do you see advertising in Web3, specifically blockchain, heading in the next five years? What are the biggest changes you anticipate?
What are you most excited about right now or in the near future for Aleo?