Molly Baker, CEO & Founder of Indie Consulting.
It’s impossible today to escape the growing buzz around NFTs, the metaverse and now Web3. Over the past few months, we’ve received many questions from clients, friends and partners asking for our take on all of the above and, more importantly, what it means for digital marketing.
Although it may be hard to picture, it’s natural that the internet will have to evolve beyond the platform-based ecosystem that exists today as we encounter new technology, consumer privacy standards and immersive content experiences. Many things are still unclear, as there is no road map yet from a marketing perspective and probably won’t be for a while. However, we can predict the impacts of NFTs, Web3 and the metaverse on digital marketing by understanding their basic functions and how to develop them further.
What are NFTs?
A non-fungible token (NFT) is a digital token that is completely unique and cannot be replaced. NFTs are part of the ethereum blockchain, meaning they are a type of cryptocurrency. These tokens can store extra information and come to life as digital content in the form of drawings, music, videos and graphics. The Canadian musician Grimes sold a 50-second NFT video for over $390,000, showcasing how digital content can be valued in a similar manner to fine art.
NFTs could change the game for digital content creators, who are currently being undervalued in the digital ecosystem. This is due to content ownership and media-buying practices ultimately belonging to the platforms, not the creators themselves. I believe that NFTs will give creators a means to protect, own and monetize their digital content in ways that are impossible today in the platform world. Brands have already begun creating NFTs, but it remains to be seen whether branded content is truly valuable enough to be affordable and scalable in an NFT format.
What is Web3?
Once I was able to overcome my initial resistance to the intangible nature of future web developments, I found it encouraging to understand the vision for Web3 to be a positive—if not idealistic—concept that is rooted in bringing the power back to the people. Web3 is the third generation of the World Wide Web and is intended to be a digital space available to all, where people can communicate and create without limitations, censorship or big corporation interference.
Web 1.0 was the “read-only” version of the web, featuring webpage-focused content and cookie-based user tracking. Web 2.0 was interactive and application-based, relying on content focused on logged-in user IDs and giving us the birth of social media and e-commerce. Web3 will be a more personalized experience, giving users true ownership over their data. It uses blockchain technology and the associated unique user identifiers so that internet users will be able to have control over what is shared, including where and why. Apple’s Siri is an example of Web3 technology that we’ve had access to for years, especially regarding its use of voice-recognition software.
Right now, this doesn’t mean much for digital marketing. Until UX design catches up with the back-end technology, Web 2.0 users are not going to be quick to adopt. Once the UX is in place with some of our most-used apps and/or new applications that have yet to be adopted, we should expect to see changes in content creation, media buying and online shopping/payments.
However, it is worth considering what information will be available to us as marketers in the world of Web3 as we depart from the cookie and begin to rely more on our first-party known data. Will consumer controls on data eliminate sharing back with marketers? As the digital world advances, there may be merit in keeping one foot in traditional grassroots marketing (events, guerilla marketing, etc.) as a safeguard.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse, most simply put, is the future of digital interaction, merging the virtual and physical world. Many people, myself included, think of video games when they hear the word “metaverse.” However, the metaverse is already impacting industries such as healthcare, providing virtual hands-on training opportunities for medical professionals. Ideally, the metaverse will be supported by Web3, but the metaverse as we know it today is owned by big platforms such as Meta, Google and large gaming companies.
What this means for digital marketers is that it’s time to take experiential marketing to the next level. As consumers continue to adopt a world of virtual and physical experiences, consider testing small ways to provide that experience through the platforms you are currently present on. Virtual concerts, live selling events and virtual product try-ons are all ways to dip your toe into the virtual reality world and understand consumer reaction. If you have begun doing in-person events again, consider ways to include even just a simple virtual component, like voting for a new product digitally.
While we do not know for sure what the future holds, how exciting is it that we are able to participate in the next evolution of creativity, communication and technology? It’s good to be a bit skeptical, but let’s not forget that an open mind is the only way for new things to get in.