In this digital-first world, with Web3 around the corner, and the decentralisation of the internet, consumers are taking control of their environment more than ever – in their digital world and IRL (in real life).

They’re looking for standout experiences when they connect with a brand. But does that mean brands should put all their efforts and money into a digital strategy and leap into the Metaverse? Should they create expensive digital assets for consumers to show off, or is there another way to use NFTs within a brand? 

Let’s take a look at how direct-to-consumer brands are thriving; the evolution of packaging; and how brands can use digital assets to blur the lines between real life and the digital world. 

The Power of Direct to Consumer

We’ve already seen the power of owning your environment, with the rise of direct to consumer (DTC). When the middle-man was removed, DTC brands were in more control of their environment.  These brands found new digital approaches and explored new, exciting ways to engage. DTC brands that took control of their environment and evolved, thrived.  These brands understood that the old ways of thinking didn’t apply. They saw new methods to explore that would pay dividends down the line.

DTC Brands Move From Shelf To Screen

DTC brands thrive in retail too. Traditional retail centres around the packaging, with the brand identity and details shown on the pack.  But, when packs become part of a larger, digital world, they don’t need to do the whole job.  With exciting new touchpoints, off-pack comms, and branding doing lots of the heavy lifting, DTC brands realised there’s no need for shelf standout — but a huge need for screen standout. Brands now have a lot more licence to communicate creatively, in different ways and across mediums that feel fresh and authentic.

For example, experiential moments help brands to engage with their audience. This balance between digital and IRL is fascinating for consumers. Taking control of the environment, and having direct communication with their consumer tribe, means brands can make decisions faster based on community feedback, and repay them for the insights.  DTC brands have begun to understand that their consumers are their best brand ambassadors and create new ways for them to market the brand within their communities, living the brand at all touchpoints. This leads to better relationships, builds trust, and encourages conversation with the consumers. 

In fact, many DTC brands have learned that listening to the community and acting on it has been key and very influential to the growth of the businesses.

NFTs and connecting Real Life with Digital

Looking ahead a few years, NFTs, and Blockchain — the technology that underpins digital assets — could be the key digital touchpoint between brands and their consumers. It’s one that the brand itself controls. NFTs could chronicle a whole history of real-world purchase and consumption experiences. They can be infused into our digital lives in authentic and portable ways across communities.  This is creating exciting new possibilities for brands and their consumers. 

For example, NFTs could unlock access to participation in focus groups, or private events available only to token holders. This builds community and creates a culture of die-hard, cult-like fans. You can start to strengthen NFT connections with your products or services in small ways. You could, say, invert the idea of an NFT as a digital token of physical product ownership by giving away a physical product tied to a digital NFT collectible.

Just look at the Moga Festival for an example of how brands can use NFTs to connect with consumers and create exciting, immersive experiences.

Moga Festival 

Since its creation in Essaouira in 2016, MOGA festival has set up collaborative projects with electronic artists and traditional Moroccan musicians.  This collaboration was recorded live at the NFT conference in Lisbon, mastered overnight, and minted the following morning. All holders of the NFT received a video of the showcase. A few golden tickets hidden inside random NFTs included a full pass for both editions of MOGA 2022 Festivals in Caparica and Essaouira.  To link the real and digital worlds even more, some NFT holders were invited to a private Moroccan diner with members of the MOGA Tribe and the artists. Going from a live showcase experience directly into an NFT in the digital world is something that has never been done before.  The Metaverse Fashion Week is another example of how high-tier brands are embracing digital assets and using the virtual world to create new and unique experiences for consumers.

Metaverse Fashion Week

The inaugural Metaverse Fashion Week, hosted by the blockchain-based platform Decentraland, curated a compelling mix of fashion, art, brand activations, panel talks, music, and commerce that emphasised its staying power.  Over the course of the week, more than 60 brands presented 500 looks — some strictly for the metaverse — while others offered physical counterparts. Many high-tier brands have been embracing NFTs and crypto, utilising the virtual landscape to stay culturally relevant, curate experiences, and extend influence to reach a whole new digitally-savvy online audience.

Don’t Lose Sight of Reality 

Both buyers and brands should keep in mind that no matter how popular NFTs become, the laws of our physical world (like the global supply chain) will still remain. So if anyone asks you: ‘IRL or metaverse?’, remember that for brands, one shouldn’t exist without the other.  Over time, brands must figure out what works for them through trial and error, and observe what succeeds and fails for others.

Measuring success beyond sales

Your eventual audience is the entirety of your existing and future customers, not today’s crypto community. So don’t measure success by your NFT prices on OpenSea, or by likes on social media.  The brands that experience the most success with NFTs — and the least pushback — will be those that focus on using them to foster community, rather than creating expensive assets for people to show off. Orient your metrics towards those that better illuminate a future in which digital visibility anchors all real-world products and experiences while extending them into the digital world of your choosing. Every little piece of your company – your story and your brand that you share with the world –  is an opportunity to show up. 

It’s an opportunity to share who you are, clarify what makes you different, show that you care and connect your brand with the right, eager-to-pay people.

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