Published on April 6, 2022, at 4:50 p.m.
by Schuyler Rosson.
Many of us are familiar with the term “NFT.” Perhaps we have even heard it defined as a “nonfungible token.” However, understanding the role NFTs play, not only in public relations but in countless consumer sectors, can be slightly more difficult to grasp.
NFTs refer to a unique set of code on the blockchain. In more simple terms, they are digital assets that certify ownership of art, fashion and other authenticated goods.
Unlike other crypto elements such as bitcoin, NFTs cannot be traded, exchanged or duplicated. According to a “Stuff You Should Know About IP” podcast, the main attractions of NFTs manifest themselves as bragging rights and collectability. The crypto element allows consumers to engage with a brand in a new digital sense by creating communities rooted in memorabilia.
Ketia Jeune, a public relations professional, described the rise of NFTs as part of the third wave of the internet. “NFT’s and the metaverse are part of the third iteration of the internet also known as Web 3.0 which reflects our physical world in a digital space, it’s an advanced form of web 1 (information on the internet) and web 2 (social media),”she explained.
Every industry operates in a digital realm. However, the decision for brands to go fully digital or fully in-person has now become outdated. Jeune noted that consumers should not have to sacrifice in-person interaction to engage digitally. It’s about finding the moments where consumers can do both.
NFTs establish an avenue to blend fashion, music, literature and art in the digital space, while still encouraging customers to engage with a brand physically. According to Jeune, “Stripping away any opportunity for collectables strips away an audience.” NFTs create a middle ground, an opportunity for duality that combines the benefits of owning something physically and digitally, she noted. NFTs increase the opportunity for engagement in aspirational consumers without sacrificing a brand’s existing audiences or physical presence.
Why should PR professionals be aware of this trend?
Successful PR professionals understand the importance of identifying the tools and trends that potentially could improve their business and their clients. Thibault Binier, business partnership manager at Bubblehouse, said NFTs create an avenue for brands to generate revenue. He also stated that NFTs increase return on investment while promoting community building.
NFTs create niche communities within a brand, establishing groups of consumers who share access to exclusive content. Aspirational customers, those who cannot afford to purchase a physical product, can now engage with the brand in a digital sense. Binier explained, “NFTs build on existing audiences, broadening the scope and virality of a brand without sacrificing exclusivity.”
What are best practices in PR strategy for NFTs?
Jeune emphasized, “Before you make an NFT, you need a community first. NFTs are popular right now because brands have an already established customer base that they are expanding. You need a consumer that wants your product.” To maintain an existing customer base while activating potential audiences, public relations professionals must feed their audience information that educates and excites.
Jeune recommends asking key questions when determining communication strategies for NFTs: How is the NFT “one of a kind”? How will this NFT award bragging rights and collectability? How does this NFT appeal to the psychographics/ demographics of your community? What will your community-member gain beyond bragging rights”?
As storytellers, PR professionals are responsible for sharing with audiences why they should care about a product. How is the product novel, newsworthy or revolutionary? PR professionals create a narrative that addresses the integrity of the product while deepening the relationship between the brand and its consumers. Understanding the distinct and impressive qualities of an NFT will not only generate interest but award bragging rights.
What are the best tactics to incorporate NFTs?
Public relations professionals can incorporate NFTs into many marketing and communications tactics, including gifting gestures and community building. According to Binier, they can be used to amplify events, preserving branded memorabilia that generate ongoing Metaverse engagement.
Historically, the fashion industry has been resistant to change. However, companies like Balenciaga, Nike and Louis Vuitton have incorporated NFTs into their marketplaces, placing fashion at the forefront of NFT trendsetting.
Nike awarded its customers a digital version of newly purchased sneakers so customers now can show off their new buys both in person and in the Metaverse. The product launch appeals to the qualities of duality, increasing product visibility.
Markarian gifted fashion week guests access to an exclusive NFT, thanking guests for their attendance by granting them ownership of a digital asset from the AW22 runway collection. Markarian’s AW22 guests are an already established group of VIP consumers. NFTs strengthen this community, uniting guests through shared access to an exclusive asset. Long after the show, guests have an authentic collector’s item and are part of a niche community that will be eternally linked through collected memorabilia.
Where to look for NFT trends
The launch of NFTs should be treated like any other product launch, creating an additional avenue for press/media coverage. Events, products and campaigns are highlighted for their use of NFTs. Publications like Vogue Business are quick to cover NFT trends, consistently searching for advances and distinct launches.
To identify early NFT trends, both Jenue and Binier confirm that many of the formative conversations begin on Twitter. As PR professionals, it is important to pinpoint who is trendsetting and where ideas are being created. Recognizing the editors that are actively covering NFT advances will effectively build media contact lists, making pitching more efficient and strategic.
NFTs are changing the landscape of digital interaction. The crypto-element creates invaluable opportunities to enhance in-person events, increase product visibility and strengthen communities. Like any digital advancement, brands must adapt to maintain long-term competitiveness. PR professionals can support their clients by being aware of third-wave trends and identifying opportunities to increase brands’ digital engagement.