Using NFTs to build a brand's community

Using NFTs to build a brand's community.

We are sure you’ve heard of NFTs, most people have. We are also certain you have a decent grasp on what they are - a non-fungible token, a unique piece of code that lives on a blockchain. Currently, most NFTs are artworks from digital artists, but innovators are just beginning to see the possible use for these tokens.

The RTFKT collaboration, the Nike CryptoKicks, are selling for tens of thousands of dollars and it’s an NFT, a digital shoe that their avatar wears in the metaverse.

Read Less
Read More

“Art is becoming increasingly more popular in the NFT industry,” explains Julia Mattos, Design Lead and NFT creator/collector, “but we are beginning to see examples of other things that could be explored in the real world as well. Such as tickets to an event.

“If someone has a physical ticket, it could be replicated. If it's an NFT, there's no way anyone could fake that ticket,” says Julia. “If we think a little bit forward in time, they could even be used for home ownership. We have paper deeds, but imagine if the deed was an NFT.”

But how can brands begin to use NFTs now? We asked some of Ascendum’s NFT-enthusiasts to expand on this idea.

Gary Howe, Ascendum VP of Design:

“From a brand perspective, you can look at what their brand goals are, right? So obviously they want to make money and engage with more of their audience. When I was talking to Julia yesterday about this, she made a good point about a cultural shift in how brands engage. They're not just a consumer or customer, they're actually a community. We have to look at how brands could engage with their community.”

Julia Mattos, Ascendum Design Lead:

“We’ve talked about Gary Vaynerchuk and the Vee Friends, and this is a great example of how NFTs could be related to brands and retailers. If you owned an NFT from a brand, you could have access to perks that go beyond the physical item. Maybe it's access to events, or maybe it is drops of other NFTs. Maybe this could be an exclusive digital discord session - there are many opportunities. I've seen a lot of NFT collections having a treasury, which is a percentage that they put aside to give back to the community. I think brands and retailers need to nurture this mindset of treating their customers as part of this big thing, and not just as an exchange.”

Stephen Trott, Designer:

“It’s almost a risk for brands. What Julia said about the community aspect made me think about the anti-establishment element to NFTs. They are really a reaction, or they are being used as a reaction, so I think it's a path that's got to be tread quite carefully. Sometimes brands aren't welcome in those spaces, or they've got to be really tactful in the way that they engage. I think that in regard to brands in the NFT community space, sometimes you shouldn't jump into these things headfirst. There could be a chance that it backfires.”

Robbie Sykes, Senior Director of Product Management:

“You're totally right. But I think this is an opportunity for brands to try something new. It's an opportunity for them to wade into something where they can try and change the perception of their brand. But when you try to have that conversation with a customer or a fan base, it can go bad just as quickly as it can go well. So how do you engage in an honest conversation with your customers about how we can handle this, and how can we improve this?”

Julia Mattos:

“I definitely think that it’s really hard to avoid that kind of thing. But brands should be getting into the space. I definitely think that it is going to be really important in the future. But how can they avoid a bad reaction? I think one way would be to focus on the people that are currently into NFTs more than on their current customer base. When Adidas got involved in NFTs, they focused on the Bored Apes community which is a massive NFT collection. And by doing that they are already pulling people from the Bored Ape Yacht Club into their NFTs, and these people are known for investing in NFT collections. So that was a great start to their NFT collection. If you only launch to your current customer base, you don't know if they're into NFTs, you don't know if they reject NFT use, or if they’d have a bad reaction.”

Gary Howe:

“When brands start circling around because they want to keep up with the buzz, the technology of the moment, it’s important for us, with our platform, to make sure there is that benefit to our customers and not just that they want in because it’s the newest buzzword. I think that's where it's quite interesting for us to figure out how they get in and why they should get in. What is the meaningful benefit of having brands in this space? I think it will be interesting when NFT isn’t just a buzzword anymore and it becomes part of this daily routine. When it's just a natural solution.

Julia mentioned Adidas, sneakers, and Nike and that sort of thing seems to be a natural fit to get into authentication and how that can play out with NFTs. I know there are some blockchain companies that do verifications. These kinds of solutions, like chips that you put into the actual sneakers, have an associated NFT. You don't treat that as a piece of art, you treat that as a tool for you to authenticate your product.”

Jon Plumb, Brand Director:

“Yeah, I think that the sneaker example is an interesting one because Nike, for example, have their sneakers app and they've got a huge following and collector base there. You know, the ‘sneakerheads’, the people that resell. And for a long time, Nike was against reselling. All of a sudden, this market appears where the whole premise of it is to just keep reselling.

So, it’s about the assets, right? The crossover’s going to be hard for them because they’ve always been about protecting their market from resellers. It's going to be a strange transition for quite a lot of brands who have taken that sort of approach. But in terms of the importing of NFTs, perhaps I don't think it will be much different from what happens in real life when they release a sneaker, there's a limited edition only if you can get it within 10 minutes.

All they’ve got to do now is create an NFT marketplace and they create their own sort of online version of what they're doing in reality.

Sneakers are already being changed to NFTs. And obviously, following on from that you get a crossover to reality. And what will that look like? Do you get a pair of sneakers when you get an NFT? Is that part of it? And the NFT becomes like the authenticity side of things, right? If you don't have that with the shoes, they're not authentic. And that's what collectors like. So, I think that is the next direction.

I know Nike has been buying up NFT things. They recently acquired RTFKT, which has been doing some really cool collaborations with digital artists.

The RTFKT collaboration, the Nike CryptoKicks, are selling for tens of thousands of dollars and it’s an NFT, a digital shoe that their avatar wears in the metaverse. But where the community really comes in is that the RTFKT fan base, especially the ones who bought their Clone NFTs, gets free NFTs for them to use in the metaverse, it helps advertise but it also helps the fanbase feel like they are valued. When it comes to the CryptoKicks, you can get skins to customize your shoes, catering to that desire for individuality and self-expression. It just all adds to this feeling that you’re a part of something bigger than just a brand.”

Gary Howe

“Bots are kind of taking over right now. Grabbing the limited editions early. It's very hard to fight against the bots. How will that translate into NFTs? It may be a lot harder for them to actually cheat the system of these NFT releases. That's pretty interesting for the brands. That would be a benefit apart from just getting involved because it’s new technology. To reduce bots. I think that that could be that be pretty, pretty powerful.”

Robbie Sykes

“Speaking of the bot problem, It was one thing to say, we have 100 units of something, and we have a million people who want it so not everyone is going to get it. It's another thing entirely for everyone to have a really poor experience trying to find out if they're going to be able to buy it or not. And that's the bigger problem, right? This isn't something where we can solve this scarcity issue, but we're talking about how we can vastly improve the customer experience and the retailer's experience when trying to acquire these products.”

Gary Howe

“I think that's what’s very interesting. Understanding the unique selling point that the brand, the company, has and what value offering they can give and its not just an NFT for the sake of an NFT, right? I think that the big takeaway is actually really understanding the business needs and the experience needs and NFTs are just a piece of technology in order to enhance that. I think that's where NFTs can be powerful.”

Credits: Prime Ape Planet | OpenSea