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NFTs: Digital Tokens With Real-Life Impact for Brands

August 3, 2022by Hiebing

“Just setting up my twttr” were the 140 characters that brought the world into a new era in 2006. It’s only fitting for this historic tweet to come full circle and create a buzz about an emerging internet craze: NFTs. Also known as non-fungible tokens, NFTs are digital assets that represent ownership of a variety of unique content – e.g., art, music and collectibles. Ownership of these assets is recorded on a blockchain, which is a digital ledger like the networks that are the bedrock for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – making the authenticity and ownership of the art unquestionable. Although NFTs share cloud space with traditional cryptocurrency, they are unlike anything else that exists in the blockchain domain. Each NFT is one of a kind and acts as a digital collector’s item that can’t be replicated. Hence, non-fungible – like a painting by Picasso or Monet.  

Even though the first NFT sold was minted in 2014, this novel tech didn’t break into the mainstream until 2021. That’s when the sale of that first-ever tweet by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold for $2.9 million. Marketers have taken notice and begun to explore how to leverage these unique tokens to better engage their audiences.

How Brands Can Use NFTs in Marketing Strategy

While the benefits of brands investing in NFTs are still being mapped out, some brands have capitalized on the opportunity to add these tokens into their media mix. NFTs have quickly become a way for brands to source and partner with fully autonomous creators to make content for audiences in the digital realm. Whether a brand is looking to create a noteworthy event, expand audience reach or support a cause, NFTs are enhancing marketing tactics across the board. Here’s how this works.

Expand Target Audience

Limited-Edition Digital Artwork for Brand Superfans 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is hardly in need of introduction. But the huge Spider-Man sequel “No Way Home” was facing a pandemic-era issue: getting people to come back to the theaters. With this bump in the road, AMC Entertainment sought to connect with MCU loyalists by offering a limited 86,000 movie-themed tokens, partnering with creators to produce 100 unique designs. Cinephiles who both pre-ordered and attended the premiere were eligible to receive this collector’s art of everyone’s favorite neighborhood hero. MCU executives used social listening to tap into fans of the MCU and crypto together, resulting in the second biggest one-day ticket sales in AMC Entertainment’s history. This novel and bold collaboration expanded AMC’s reach into new audiences who might be on the hunt for the next big NFT promotion.

Bicycle, a brand of playing cards that dates back to 1885, was also seeking to pursue sales among a new audience, particularly a younger one. Strategists at Bicycle analyzed the buzz surrounding NFTs among the millennial and Gen Z cohorts, and the data led to a launch of an entire collection. The “Genesis Collection” features Bicycle’s most iconic playing cards, but 1,000 years into the future. Akin to the tangible special edition decks some older generations collected, ownership of these limited-edition NFTs mattered to Bicycle fans as they began their digital collection journey. Public interest and sales increased throughout this campaign – and led to audience acclaim that stretched beyond their previous customer base. With such success in bridging the gap between tradition and innovation through the Genesis Collection, Bicycle is raising the level of exclusivity for their fan base by launching additional NFT sets. The “Main Collection” is their next NFT endeavor, which will be released by suit, dropping cards from 10 to Jokers incrementally, so enthusiasts can bid on their favorites and add the rare set to their collection.

 

Drive Brand Awareness

Prevent Copycats by Including NFTs With a Real-Life Product Launch

While many might not think of wineries as being on the cusp of innovation, the current chief winemaker for Robert Mondavi Winery is convinced that Mondavi himself would approve of the brand’s foray into elite digital spaces. This elegant winery in the heart of the Napa Valley found itself combating a challenge plaguing premier wine companies across the board: counterfeit wines claiming to be in the same category without adhering to industry standards. To protect their world-renowned accreditation, the winery launched The MCMLXVI Collection, featuring three French-made porcelain bottles sold exclusively through NFTs. The inherent unique ownership that NFTs provide validates the authenticity – when purchased on the blockchain, there is no question that one is buying from Robert Mondavi Winery.


NFTs can serve as the perfect promotion tool, as was the case with Marriott’s Bonvoy travel program. When tasked with raising awareness around the new rewards program, Marriott’s team wanted to defy conventional hospitality marketing tactics and celebrate the impact travel has on the human spirit, both IRL and in the virtual world. This led to the creation of three NFTs based upon the perspective of travel experiences of artist partners through the Bonvoy travel program. Each token was revealed at an eccentric art fair hosted by the hotel chain, which spotlighted the artists and marked the milestone of being one of the first hospitality brands to dive into the metaverse and drive awareness in new spaces. Three lucky attendees were chosen at random and received one of the unique NFTs plus 200,000 Bonvoy reward points to power their next adventure.

Align Brand Values

Fundraising Through NFT Art Auction
In addition to enhancing a regular marketing campaign, NFTs can serve an altruistic purpose by incentivizing support for a charitable cause. Companies can leverage the popularity of these digital tokens to raise funds and donate to a cause that aligns with their core values. The national chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of America wanted to inspire and grow their arts and creative experiences program across their portfolio, so they enlisted the help of the brand Kinetic Sand. Kinetic Sand, together with artist Dan Lam, created an NFT inspired by their art installation Please Do Touch the Art, which encouraged guests to touch the art and let their creativity flow. Partnering with a group that promotes imagination and freedom to create was essential for BGCA to reach their goals and led to an auction of the NFTs, which raised thousands of dollars for BGCA’s art programs nationwide.

COOL. TLDR. 
So here is what we learned about the possibilities NFTs can unlock.

  1. Brands are no longer restricted to offering physical products or services but can now offer a virtual stake that coincides with the products from the brands they love.
  2. Unquestionable proof of ownership of a rare item, especially a digital one, can be compelling for loyal fans and newcomers to interact with your brand in a unique way.
  3. NFTs can lead to a deeper connection to your brand’s fanbase, as well as cast a wider net to reach new audiences in both real and digital spaces.


Curious about how to infuse data and new technologies like NFTs into your next marketing campaign? Email Dana Arnold at darnold@hiebing.com to set up a call.

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