Molly Baker, CEO and Founder of Indie Advice†
It’s impossible to escape the growing buzz around NFTs, the metaverse and now Web3 these days. Over the past few months, we’ve received many inquiries from customers, friends and partners asking about our take on all of the above and, more importantly, what it means for digital marketing.
While it may be hard to imagine, it is 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, because from a marketing perspective there is no roadmap yet and probably won’t be for a while. However, we can predict the impact of NFTs, Web3 and the metaverse on digital marketing by understanding their basic functions and developing 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 ethereal blockchain, meaning they are a type of cryptocurrency. These tokens can store additional information and come to life as digital content in the form of drawings, music, videos and images. Canadian musician Grimes sold a 50 second NFT video for over $390,000, showing how digital content can be valued in the same way as fine art.
NFTs could change the game for digital content creators, who are currently undervalued in the digital ecosystem. This is due to content ownership and media buying practices that ultimately belong to the platforms, not the creators themselves. I believe NFTs will give creators a means to protect, own and monetize their digital content in ways that are impossible in the platform world today. Brands have already started making NFTsbut 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 elusive nature of future web developments, I found it encouraging to understand that the vision for Web3 is a positive, if not idealistic concept rooted in returning power to the people. Web3 is the third generation of the World Wide Web and is intended to be a digital space available to everyone, where people can communicate and create without restrictions, censorship or interference from large companies.
Web 1.0 was the “read-only” version of the web, with web page focused content and cookie-based user tracking. Web 2.0 was interactive and application-based, it relied on content targeting logged-in user IDs, and gave birth to social media and e-commerce. Web3 will be a more personalized experience, giving users real ownership of their data. It uses blockchain technology and its associated unique user identifiers so that internet users have control over what is shared, including where and why. Siri from Apple is an example of Web3 technology that we have had access to for years, especially in terms of using speech recognition software.
Right now, this doesn’t mean much for digital marketing. Until UX design catches up with back-end technology, Web 2.0 users won’t be moving anytime soon. Once the UX is in place with some of our most used apps and/or new applications yet to be adopted, we can expect changes in content creation, media buying, and online shopping/payments.
However, it’s worth considering what information will be available to us as marketers in the Web3 world as we move away from the cookie and rely more on our first-party known data. Will consumer controls on data eliminate sharing with marketers? As the digital world progresses, keeping one foot in traditional grassroots marketing (events, guerrilla marketing, etc.) as a safeguard may be worth it.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse, in simplest terms, is the future of digital interaction, merging the virtual and physical worlds. Many people, myself included, think of video games when they hear the word “metaverse.” However, the metaverse is already have an impact on sectors such as healthcare, providing virtual hands-on training opportunities for medical professionals. Ideally, the metaverse would be supported by Web3, but the metaverse as we know it today is owned by major platforms such as Meta, Google, and major gaming companies.
For digital marketers, this means 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 deliver that experience through the platforms you’re currently on. Virtual concerts, live sales events and virtual product try-ons are all ways to dip your toe into the virtual reality world and understand consumer response. Once you’ve returned to in-person events, consider ways to include even a simple virtual element, such as voting for a new product digitally.
While we’re not sure what the future holds, how exciting is it that we can participate in the next evolution of creativity, communication and technology? It’s okay to be a little skeptical, but let’s not forget that an open mind is the only way to let new things in.