As terms like “NFTs” and “metaverse” grab more and more headlines, our clients are wondering what their marketing applications can be. Of course, we have a lot of detailed conversations about their specific situations – but the questions largely fall into the following four categories: what, so what, now what, and how.
Question 1: “What *are* NFTs, anyway?”
We’re educating clients on the basics.
An NFT is a non-fungible token. It’s a unique, irreplaceable digital asset that lives on the blockchain, which is a distributed ledger of transactions. NFTs do not have interchangeability (fungibility), which makes them different from blockchain cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, where coins are interchangeable. An NFT’s provenance is traceable, just like that of a work of art – but unlike a work of art, which might have one paper certificate of authenticity, an NFT’s proof is verified by many digital ledgers on the blockchain, since the information is distributed.
People attach meaning to things. A stranger might find a crayon-scribbled scrap of paper to be rubbish, but if it’s your child’s first drawing, to you it will be priceless. One work of art in a gallery might be valued at millions of dollars, while another might command a fraction of that price. Collectibles – Pokémon cards, Beanie Babies, Disney merch, movie memorabilia, stamps – can be sought after by some, and met with disinterest by others. Even a stock price, which might seem less arbitrary, can go up or down based on what people say or think or believe, not just on the actual performance of a company. Rarity, history, emotional connection, sense of belonging: all of these can affect the meaning – and, therefore, the value – that we attach to something.
NFTs are collectibles — things that have meaning for some — for the metaverse. (And if your next question is, “What’s the metaverse?” we’ve got you covered.) And to some this seems odd – can’t you just make a copy of the digital thing? – but again, remember the “non-fungible” part. If you like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” you can buy a poster of it, or even a canvas print – but that doesn’t make the original in the Metropolitan Museum of Art any less unique. If you collect antique clothing, it’s probably not because they’re more wearable than a modern outfit. Collectors pay for the uniqueness of an item, not always its utility.
As the metaverse continues to develop, NFTs can be tied to real-world objects and experiences. Some may start collecting NFTs by gaining one alongside a new pair of shoes that allows them to “wear” the same pair in games. Others may collect an NFT of a ticket from a concert or sporting event they’ve attended in the real or virtual worlds. But there are ways brands can get started with NFTs today.
There are ways that brands can get started with NFTs today.
Question 2: “What do we do with them?”
We’re educating clients on how brands can use NFTs appropriately.
While others are creating and profiting from selling NFTs, that doesn’t really make sense for pharma. The industry’s business model isn’t built for art or collectibles.
One possibility is as an interesting talking point — what about creating an NFT of intellectual property like a molecule, new medical device, or other revolutionary treatment technology?
Another option is as a giveaway. Pepsi has created a set of NFTs and is giving the public the opportunity to sign up to create (or “mint”) one at cost. In exchange for giving their audience the chance to collect one, the brand is collecting their data and information.
A third possibility is as a philanthropic opportunity. A brand could partner with a patient influencer or an artist to create a work of art, and then offer that to raise money for a relevant cause or research, involving the communities of people who care about the artist or the cause for a good purpose.
These options are not the only ways marketers can use NFTs. Since we’re still in the early stages of adoption, the industry is finding new uses for them every day.
Question 3: “So… now what?”
We’re educating clients on whether NFTs are right for them.
Creating an NFT is an attention-getting tactic, particularly when it comes from an unusual source. A pharma brand, rather than a tech brand, would definitely qualify as an unusual source. But while it’s a buzzy part of the zeitgeist right now, the answer’s not always “yes,” and it’s not always “right now.”
Questions that we discuss with our clients include: What would the purpose of doing this be? Who would our audiences be? What digital assets could we convert or create?
Strategy never takes a backseat to buzz.
Question 4: “But how?”
Finally, we’re educating clients on how to do it.
Even when everyone knows what it is, what it’s for, and why it makes sense to do now, we still have to talk through the practical details of how to stand it up. Most don’t yet have experience in how it’s done, or have the bandwidth to develop that knowledge.
It’s important to know how to mint them, where they will live, and to have a strategy to roll them out to the public.
And, of course, it’s going to keep changing. We are at the very early days of a technology and a paradigm that will undoubtedly evolve. Just like the Internet itself, just like social media, the metaverse and NFTs are definitely not – to reference Pokémon twice in one blog post! – in their “final form.” As developers build, there will be new use cases, new learnings, and new approaches. And we’ll continue working with our clients at every step along the evolution, keeping them up to date and giving them the insights and assistance to succeed.
Author information: Andrew Grojean is an associate director of innovation at Intouch Group.