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#2 - NFTs and Brand Storytelling Opportunities

April 13, 2022
diagram showing when company = product, branding opportunities are limited to packaging, social, and perhaps the company website. Instead when brand = art, the possibilities are endless, involving values, culture, attitude, mission/vision, color scheme, feeling, social feed, product design, and even packaging design.

It should come as no surprise that the next evolution of consumer brands will gradually detach their brand identity from individual products, and instead associate their name closely with an attitude, aesthetic, feeling, moral value, or other more abstract identifiers. We've seen some of the most successful Web2 brands achieve this already (Red Bull, Glossier, Supreme, to name a few), although their success seems to be a transcendence of the consumer category, rather than an inevitable final destination.

Fashion and streetwear are arguably great examples of this phenomenon - as you think about recent streetwear trends, probably a collection of products come to mind, which you would situate in a broader socio-cultural landscape rather than a product catalog. There probably isn't one product that comes to mind, more so perhaps a vague sense of a zeitgeist of the time period in which these trends are shaped. More specifically, for example, Supreme can release a brick and a strong case can be made for the fact that the move is "on-brand" for the company. What does that even mean here?

The key paradigm shift behind the rise of brands like Supreme is perhaps a product-saturated consumerist society in which luxury or power is defined by excess. For the average consumer, consumption is no longer about fulfilling the utility of a product, rather achieving identity alignment. In a market with an excess of choice, what you consume is always intentional and a proxy for who you are (whether you like it or not). And so, it's natural that while function is a decision-making factor for any consumer, younger consumers like GenZ and Gen Alpha might just be willing take a loss on features, convenience, and price to align with the right brands.

If you're sold on this vision, I'd argue that art is a great place to look. And surprise, NFTs are probably worth your attention. While not necessarily an inherent function of the technology, it does level the playing field for all players if used correctly. This is because:  

  1. Your core brand identity is art rather than product, which is far more abstract and versatile, and opens up a universe of possibilities with branding.
  2. The GTM for an NFT project typically involves rallying a community of like-minded believers before there even is a product (think crowdfunding, but on steroids).
  3. You frontload any brand risk into a (relatively) low-cost NFT launch to validate the desirability of the brand platform that you're building before investing heavily.

Example: Creature World x Advisry (NFT/Web3 Project ➝  Web2 Product)

a grid of 8 creature NFTs showcasing the art style.

One word to describe Danny Cole's Creature collection is undoubtedly "camp." Just by its art style, the dorky, cartoonish creatures are already aligned with a different attitude from the ultra-rich and potentially financially irresponsible "Ape Culture" especially prominent in the crypto trading space. But digging deeper into the Creature collection, you'd realize that the contract is designed to disrupt the established notion of "rarity" in NFT art by giving users permission to modify certain traits.

While this feature ideologically positions Creature (and creature holders) as the antithesis of the money-obsessed aspect of crypto, it has real impacts on community curation, as the varying rarity of its NFTs means it's especially difficult for traders to flip "undervalued" NFTs for a quick profit when the rarity is constantly in flux. Those who remain are likely people who truly believe in Cole's artistic vision or love the values that the Creature collection champions.

After their successful primary sales, Creature partnered with Sacramento-based Advisry to release a unique collection of Creature-inspired fashion products (which I see as more than just regular brand swag). While I personally believe the collaboration is "on-brand," I can see an equally "on-brand" TV show, video game, even a theme park or co-working space that embodies their brand of being camp, wholesome, post-modern, and approachable.

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