Why NFTs should be seen as world-building opportunities for brands
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Brands looking to sell NFTs in 2022 face stiff competition and rising expectations from holders. Some successful NFT projects such as World of Women offer utility-focused NFTs to holders of real value. Some team up with motion designers, musicians or 3D artists to stand out. Others write stories where NFTs are characters and a community votes on their “travels.” A select few create cartoons to keep keepers engaged. Companies and groups have already moved beyond traditional financial incentives to attract Web3 developers in today’s tight job market. All those NFT projects share one thing: none are tied to a legacy brand or recognized IP.
The “why” is obvious to crypto art enthusiasts, Discord community leads, brand strategists and storytellers – brands don’t create a presence. This key element for creating stickiness has been ignored as major consumer brands, dragged by their PR teams, sprint towards the expectation of NFT windfalls. But they forget to bring the Web3 picks and shovels.
Do the required NFT homework
Tactful marketers look beyond the hype surrounding NFTs and know that there are more uses for the technology than art and collectibles. Savvy marketers plan NFT debut by studying how current projects thrive, market, promote themselves and grow organically without logos or sponsorship money. These strategy-oriented marketers see Discord servers as classrooms to absorb how token holders and non-holders interact to help each other. They are also looking for creative and behavioral trends that are causing certain NFT projects to take off.
Another condition is to consider which blockchain community suits your project. This is done by joining Telegram groups associated with these disparate groups. For example, Ethereum is often used by artists for one-of-one drops or small collections, while scalable offerings like Polygon and Solana are the most adopted by gaming communities.
A critical consideration is the environmental impact of adopting a blockchain that uses proof-of-work or proof-of-stake consensus. Blockchains like Solana or the side chain Polygon offer more environmentally friendly transactions thanks to the technology behind their systems – proof-of-history and proof-of-stake, respectively.
The next “NFT Super Mario flag” for marketers is determining what their target audience knows about NFTs. Customer interviews via forms and live Q&As work well here. This step is necessary before mapping out the likely short- and long-term outcomes of brands’ use of NFTs in their 2022 marketing strategies.
Doing things that used to work don’t work
I’ve had phone conversations with reporters asking brands what utility or quantifiable value their NFTs assign. PR teams can no longer sprinkle NFT pixie dust on announcements to make companies or organizations look like first movers. Just a few months ago, press releases were enough to get media attention. But not anymore. NFT holders and the media have raised their standards, forcing marketers to ramp up their offerings.
While crypto exchange Coinbase has more than . has 56 million active user accounts, we are still in the innovator phase of the five-stage technology adoption lifecycle created by Everett Rogers. Global media, art magazines, trade publications and analyst firms are rushing to hire new sources to cover Web3 as they see things like generative NFT artwork as more than a fad. They recognize that NFTs have created a dot on the art history timeline. On the other hand, brands have usually seen batches of generative art as just a new digital revenue stream or novelty, not new channels to tell their bigger story.
The saying “marketers ruin everything” is there for a reason. When something is cool, it doesn’t take long for marketers to show up and siphon dollars from it. Most of the brand NFT collections have brought us to this uncool-Uncle-does-TikTok-dance-videos moment. The interesting projects are outliers, such as the adventure-based Louis Vuitton game where 30 NFTs designed by artist Beeple can be found.
NFTs = another form of world building
At its core, an NFT is a ticket or passport to a show or world. NFTs are unique digital or virtual assets that can take any use applied to them. To me, everyone who sells an NFT creates a world, whether they know it or not. Whether they intended to or not.
What brands should learn from thriving NFT communities is that NFTs are Web3 access keys to new worlds. In these worlds, brands add a new layer to customer relationships. When marketers understand that NFTs are passports, their a-ha moment comes. This understanding unlocks the limitless possibilities they can offer their brand culture and customers.
These NFT-led worlds must be treated — and created — with the same care and attention to detail as brick-and-mortar stores, websites, concerts, theme parks, and movies. Just like the Apple Store immerses us in an environment, NFTs make it possible to establish a new layer of connection between a seller and buyer.
The best fictional worlds – Marvel, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars – are fueled by stories, shared values and fandom. Brands have forgotten to tell strategic stories in their rushed NFT releases. How can this be when storytelling has always been the starting point for worlds of artists, brands and franchises such as Guillermo del Toro, Jay-Z, Barbie, The Beatles, Spongebob Squarepants, James Bond and LEGO?
Portal to success
How brands approach the promotion, launch and sale of NFTs will determine whether they are worth anything. The evergreen worlds their NFTs have access to will be the key to earning community trust, ultimately leading to sustainable success.
Benjamin Jackendoff (aka B. Earl) is a Marvel writer and partner at Skyview Way Studios
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