Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, have taken the internet by storm.
From generative art projects like Crypto Punks to digging up NFTs from 2017 like Ether Rocks and 1-of-1s like Beeple’s, "Everydays: the First 5000 Days," there is something for everyone in the wild world of NFTs.
While there is a lot to be said about crypto-native companies using NFTs as a growth marketing strategy or how to promote NFT projects, the goal of this article is to review how brands are integrating NFTs into their digital marketing strategy.
What is a Non-Fungible Token?
An NFT is a digital asset that is secured using blockchain technology to prove ownership. NFTs use a unique token that is different from cryptocurrency tokens.
Ethereum-based NFTs like Bored Ape Yacht Club use the ERC721 standard whereas Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies like ETH use an ERC20 standard.
NFTs can represent any kind of digital ownership. From visual art to memes, music, generative art, and event tickets, we've seen tons of innovation in NFTs this year
In 2021, the most common use case for NFTs is digital collectibles like Solana’s Degenerate Ape Academy or Ethereum's Pudgy Penguins.
How to Use NFTs for Digital Marketing
Since NFTs have risen in popularity, we’ve seen a massive influx of celebrities getting involved.
From Shark Tank’s serial Entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, to 7x Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady, 3x NBA Champion Steph Curry, and collector extraordinaire Gary Vaynerchuck have entered this emerging new world of digital asset ownership. Besides influencers and High Net Worth individuals, brands have also started getting into the action.
The way today’s brands are using NFTs for marketing purposes can be grouped into four specific categories which we will call the, “4 C’s of NFT Marketing”:
1. Brands that Collect NFTs Join Die-Hard Communities
To understand why simply collecting NFTs can be considered a marketing strategy, let’s think about it in terms of sports. Sports teams, whether physical or eSports, have thousands, if not millions of fans around the world.
These fans market for you in the clothes they wear, the skins they buy in-game, and will loyally defend you in conversation. Why?
Because buying into a community validates the opinion of millions of people, increasing the value of everyone’s investment and making them even more vocal about why their club or eSports team is the best.
Visa Buys Crypto Punk #7610 for $150,000
Similarly, in the NFT space, when Visa announced they purchased a Crypto Punk, one of the original NFTs in the entire industry, they not only validated Crypto Punk owner’s investments, but they aligned their brand’s values with the values of Crypto Punk owners; some of the most influential investors and leaders in the blockchain industry.
Over the last 60 years, Visa has built a collection of historic commerce artifacts - from early paper credit cards to the zip-zap machine. Today, as we enter a new era of NFT-commerce, Visa welcomes CryptoPunk #7610 to our collection. https://t.co/XoPFfwxUiu
Visa, a multi-national brand, is now an honorable member of a small group of Crypto Punk holders, and like sports teams, have engendered positive brand associations with highly influential people in the FinTech and payments sector.
This trend will only increase.
Arizona Ice Tea Apes Into Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC)
Arizona Ice Tea recently announced the purchase of a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT, joining another large market cap NFT project whose collection of 10,000 generative NFTs is worth over $1B.
BIG NEWS, ZONIE'S! AriZona APED into the @BoredApeYC - We're stoked to introduce our Bored Ape #NFT & have some huge things planned! Shout out to @BoredApeComic & check out https://t.co/dIYyQOZEWT Issue #1 for a huge surprise reveal. #NFTcommunity #BAYC #BoredApeYC #NFT pic.twitter.com/qs3CVNCGl3
If your marketing personas include investors, technologists on the bleeding edge of finance, musicians, artists, or anyone in high culture, consider aping into an NFT community that shares your brand’s values.
Of course, do your research.
While it may seem bizarre to pay over $100,000 for a JPEG, that NFT is your backstage pass into some of the most die-hard communities on the internet.
2. Brands that Create NFTs Validate New Creator Economies
If we consider collecting the most fundamental way to gain exposure to the NFT space, creating NFTs is the next level up.
Because opening a wallet, buying ETH, and purchasing an NFT on OpenSea is not very difficult.
If anything, the difficult part is justifying your investment to your CFO.
Coca Cola's Epic Loot Box Sells for 217 ETH
When brands like Coca-Cola plan, design, mint, and sell a loot box of 1-of-1 collectibles including a puffy jacket that can be worn inside Decentraland, they're not only validating NFTs, but they’re validating the entirely new virtual reality: the metaverse.
Introducing the first-ever Coca-Cola NFTs! To celebrate International Friendship Day, we'll be donating all proceeds to our longtime friend and partner @SpecialOlympics. Check them out on @opensea. #NFTCommunity #OpenSeaNFThttps://t.co/SIJ0HnNfdu pic.twitter.com/Rusj2UJuE6
From a marketing perspective, we started seeing companies wade into the virtual world with things like Wendy’s developing a new game mode called “Food Fight” inside of Fortnite.
These pioneering brands realized that multiplayer online games, AR, and VR were hotspots of young consumers that fit their ideal customer profiles.
The metaverse is another such virtual environment where young, technology-forward consumers are spending their time.
Because the metaverse offers users the ability to generate real incomes through buying and selling virtual real estate in Decentraland or collecting and selling Axies on second-hand marketplaces, we’re noticing a huge move away from “pay-to-play” games to a “play-to-earn” model that supports gamers and the content creators who make these virtual environments an entertaining place to spend time.
If your audience includes gamers, content creators, and creatives, creating branded NFTs to be used inside the metaverse is a fun way to place your products in virtual storefronts and the hands of players' avatars.
3. Brands that Collaborate on NFTs Validate New Content Types
Marketers tend to think about content as videos, images, blogs, PDFs, podcasts, and infographics.
The list typically ends there without many unique content formats for brands to employ.
With the proliferation of NFTs, brands gain access to a brand new content type to deliver their message and connect with their consumers. So much of digital marketing content is transitory:
Video content gets forgotten immediately
Social posts become irrelevant after 24 hours
Podcasts depreciate in days
Blogs become outdated in weeks
PDFs go to download folders to die
NFTs are permanent and scarce.
When deployed correctly, brands that leverage their name to collaborate with other brands and artists to launch NFTs open up the possibility to not only build rapport with young consumers but can create something unique in the process.
As with many endeavors in life, it’s in the center of the Venn diagram where value accrues and targeted campaigns succeed.
Amex partners with SZA for Amex UNSTAGED
For example, when Amex partnered with SZA to create unique NFT rewards for their users, they’re aligning themselves with millions of monthly listeners of SZA’s music, and incentivize new cardholders to open accounts for a chance to own a digital asset they will keep forever.
This isn’t a simple, “Sign up for a rebate,” or “See how much you can save” marketing campaign.
Consumers are smart and they’re tired of those strategies.
Give them something they can’t get anywhere else, something truly unique, and they may ape into opening a credit card for the chance to own a piece of their favorite musician.
Shopify Announces NFT Support with Chicago Bulls Partnership
Like owning a piece of musician, Shopify’s partnership with the Chicago bulls allowed fans to own a piece of history.
To announce the launch of their new feature to sell NFTs directly through Shopify, Shopify auctioned off limited edition NFTs of the Chicago Bull’s championship rings.
While not a real ring, to sports fans, owning 1 of a limited edition NFT from the official team is a sports collectible many superfans would love to have in their collection.
4. Brands that Reward Donors with NFTs Put Money to Good Use
Besides the technology, one of the toughest things to understand about the NFT hysteria is how people can spend 100s of 1000s of dollars on JPEGs.
Fortunately, with all of this crypto flying around, it's good to see some of it going to charitable causes.
Similar to Coca-Cola's loot box to support the Special Olympics, Fast Food Punks created Crypto Punk-style NFTs of popular Crypto Twitter personalities like billionaire wunderkind Sam Bankman-Fried, and crypto podcast personality Crypto Cobain to raise over $500,000 for the Ronald McDonald Foundation.
HUGE thank you to everyone that supported our Honorary Fast Food Punks Auction for charity! 🙏 WE WERE ABLE TO RAISE $576,704.32 🙌 100% of the proceeds are going to the Ronald McDonald Foundation ♥️ Check out the collection here: https://t.co/vqHEcyOH0A pic.twitter.com/YBGzxr6GXE
In a world that is moving increasingly online, where profile pictures are worth millions of dollars, creating 1-of-1 NFTs to reward donors for their contributions not only gives the buyer an expensive profile pic, but it sends a message to everyone else on Twitter that this NFT went to charity.
If you are a non-profit organization, or your for-profit company has a charitable component, creating NFTs for your next fundraising campaign could be worth it.
What brands are using NFTs?
In 2021, a lot of major brands started using NFTs to complement their marketing strategy. Here is a list that was recently compiled from Blockworks in January of 2022 plus a few additional brands that we identified through further research:
With the novel innovations in the NFT space, expect more brands to integrate NFTs into their digital marketing strategies in 2022 and beyond.
The Future of NFT Marketing
Whether you buy into the “right-click, save as” meme and consider NFTs a joke, or you see the value of digital ownership and mechanisms for artists to earn royalties on digital art, NFTs as a social innovation are here to stay, and brands should start considering NFTs a content marketing channel like social media and YouTube.
As a growth marketing agency for blockchain companies we are excited to see large organizations validate NFTs and help push this new paradigm of blockchain technology and digital assets into the mainstream.
While most pundits would agree we will see corporations adding digital assets like USDC and Bitcoin to their balance sheets, we anticipate many more brands will announce adding NFTs to their vault.