14 March 2022
Should my brand embrace crypto?
In the marketing world, social media has reigned supreme. For the last ten years or so, it has dominated marketing conversations. At first, it was met with intense scepticism, but over time, the discourse shifted from “why is social media important for brands?” to “should we hire a full social media team?”
No one can dispute the fact that social media has transformed marketing, for better or for worse.
In 2022, social media is not only an important marketing tool – it drives culture. Things that happen on Twitter or TikTok don’t happen in a vacuum; they have real relevance for consumers.
Anyone who once doubted social media’s power certainly feels foolish today, but at the same time, no one could have predicted 10 years ago that the Royal Family would have an active Instagram account or fast-food franchise Wendy’s would set the standard for Twitter humour.
Still, as if we learned nothing from watching the cycle of doubt, eventual acceptance, and meteoric rise of social media play out in the brand world; we have seen the same thing happen again – and this time, crypto is the culprit.
Most conversations about crypto have revolved around how hard it is to use or how difficult it is to understand, so it’s not easy for everyone to see how crypto will ever become a day-to-day cultural phenomenon.
But staying stuck in fear or dismissal misses the point. We didn’t get from scepticism to total acceptance of social media overnight; nor was the path to social media’s dominance ever completely clear. The same logic applies to crypto.
What is crypto, and as a brand, why should I care?
Put simply, crypto, or web3 (the terms are often used interchangeably), is known – or at least is becoming known, very fast – as the ownership layer of the internet.
Platforms and apps built on web3 won’t be owned by a central gatekeeper, but rather by users, who will earn their ownership stake by helping to develop and maintain those services.
There are two main kinds of digital assets that power the web3 world – coins and NFTs. Owning them enables you to be part of communities or even access the metaverse.
Still, there’s no way around the fact that crypto is very difficult to use at this moment because it hasn’t yet been seamlessly adapted for consumers.
It’s truly in its infancy, and that’s actually good news. In fact, the uncertainty around crypto is what makes it such a golden opportunity for brands. It’s a wide-open space, and there are many ways to get involved.
The even better news is that you don’t have to totally understand how crypto works on a technological level to understand how it can be a useful tool for brands. Think of it this way: Most people don’t really understand how or why the internet works, we just use it; similarly, we will one day reach that point with crypto, we’re just not quite there yet.
The thing that makes crypto powerful in the cultural conversation is the way it enables communities to have agency. It empowers people to own the content they make on the internet – whether it be coded, written, or visual – and form communities around shared values. Community is the key piece here, and we’ll explore how brands have been able to leverage that to their advantage.
When is the right time for my brand to look at crypto, the metaverse, web3 and NFTs?
With the knowledge that the usability of crypto is still developing, and not easy to use, you’re probably thinking: Does my brand really need to enter the crypto space?
The answer is…it depends on what industry you are in, how much benefit your audience can get from you entering the space, and how bold, creative and opportunistic you want to be.
On a baseline level, it’s definitely important to have an understanding of what’s going on in the crypto world. FTX, Coinbase, and Crypto.com all ran ads at the American SuperBowl, so at a very minimum, crypto has already penetrated the advertising and marketing world to reach the mainstream.
There are many ways for brands to enter the space, including purchasing land in the metaverse (like Boldspace) or buying an ENS domain (a name ending in .eth, like Budweiser is beer.eth).
But the most impactful brand activations related to crypto and the metaverse have been the ones that choose to use crypto as a community-building tool that provides value to consumers.
If you understand one thing about crypto, let it be this: NFTs are not just photos or videos, they actually act as “access cards” to different communities in the crypto world and even in the metaverse.
2021 saw fashion brands dive in from Gucci, Burberry, Ted Baker, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Louis Vuitton to Nike, Adidas, Vans and H&M.
Music has taken off with virtual concerts pulling in thousands more viewers than would be possible in real life. You have probably heard of the Travis Scott and Ariana Grande concerts in Fortnight by now.
Snoop Dogg has taken it even further dropping NFTs after the SuperBowl, and building his own ‘Snoopverse’ in the Sandbox.
Sports (and particularly sports gaming) is another area where you can easily see transferable opportunities.
Nascar has taken the plunge (soon we will see live, super-targeted advertising booming within games); but the ‘layer of ownership’ we mentioned earlier, means beyond just gaming, the communities that are built and connected through sports and NFTs have a real place in the real world too.
Let’s look at how one iconic brand is helping onboard new consumers to the space in an accessible way.
NBA & NFTs
The Dallas Mavericks, one of the biggest franchises in NBA basketball entered the crypto space in a very consumer-conscious way. Their overall vision for their crypto project is to reward their most loyal fans.
For every Mavericks home game that fans attend, there’s a unique NFT accessible once the ticket is scanned into the arena. Fans can keep them forever as collectables, and even have the chance to win special rewards for collecting special groups of NFTs. The more you collect, the more special collectables and rewards you are able to access.
This is a very smart entry into crypto for a few reasons. First, it takes a familiar process (ticket scanning) and introduces a new one (NFTs). All the Mavericks are doing is integrating crypto into something fans already know and love – attending home games for their favourite team.
Second, the way they set up the NFT system creates scarcity. You can only access a home game NFT the day of the game – after the game, unclaimed NFTs are destroyed, or “burned.” The scan of the ticket to access the NFT can ONLY happen inside the stadium, which means you can’t just buy a ticket and not attend the game to receive a digital asset. This fosters a sense of community around regular attendees and also helps the club analyze behaviour of its target market.
Lastly, the Mavericks didn’t approach NFTs as a new revenue stream for the club – it’s all about the fans.
Key points and final thoughts
- If we learned anything from the rise of social media, it’s that the brands who approached this as a tool for brand-building rather than revenue in the early days will be the most successful. The same is true for crypto.
- The thing that makes crypto powerful in the cultural conversation is the way it enables communities to have agency, and that includes consumers.
- For a brand to be successful, it’s all about execution and staying true to the ethos of the space: community, transparency, and value for holders.
Lastly, if you’re considering entering the space as a brand, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- Consider your goals with a crypto project: Are they monetary? Related to cultural relevance/brand awareness? Do you want to provide value for existing customers, or onboard new customers?
- What resources are necessary to make your project a reality? Is this something your team can reasonably execute, or should you seek outside consultants to help?
- Get comfortable with making mistakes – they will happen!
Above all, it’s important to get comfortable with crypto now to be successful in the space later.
For more on crypto and consumer behaviour, check out this episode of Crypto Girls with Gaby Goldberg, “What will it take for crypto to go mainstream?”
And if you just want to talk it all through, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org