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Hundreds of businesses and corporations now recognize the lucrative potential of NFTs, and they’re taking brazen steps into the wilds of the metaverse with everything from digital showrooms and loot boxes to meta-vaults and fantastical narrative journeys.
While NFTs are traditionally understood as irreproducible digital files whose ownership can be verified and authenticated on the blockchain, the most forward-thinking brands are going far beyond rainbow-riding poptart cats.
They’re giving people a multi-faceted customer experience, a chance to participate in auctions, events and even digital odysseys that catapult CX into the metaverse and cleverly blur the line between curious spectator and actively-engaged consumer. For smaller brands, ambitious entrepreneurs and Web3 developers alike, these projects provide valuable roadmaps for how to enter a brave, bold and frequently brilliant new world.
Link flagship products to corresponding NFTs
Acura is bringing back the Integra. But to say the luxury Japanese automaker is reintroducing the iconic sporty coupe — originally phased out in 2001 — in style would be something of an understatement, or at least would miss out on much of the nuance of its hyper-digitized, Web3-savvy launch campaign. In early March of this year, Acura announced that the first 500 customers to reserve a 2023 Integra would be eligible for a “base NFT” that automatically upgrades when the physical car is delivered. Designed by the renowned 3D artist, Andreas Wannerstedt, the base NFT is a stunning image of a shimmering gold Integra parked on a platform in front of a rocky, otherworldly landscape that evokes sci-fi films like Dune, Blade Runner and, well, luxury car commercials.
In addition to the NFTs available to the first 500 customers who reserve an Integra, Acura also recently launched Acura of Decentraland, which it is dubbing the “first immersive auto showroom experience within the metaverse.” In Acura of Decentraland, browsers and potential customers can wander through a virtual showroom, peruse the carmaker’s new wearable collection — another collaboration with Wannerstedt — and engage in a host of other interactive features.
Acura is making a splashy gambit into NFTs and the metaverse they are so inextricably connected to, and other businesses and entrepreneurs can draw a lot from their example. Small and mid-size companies should start exploring potential avenues for tying their physical products to NFT counterparts in the way Acura connected the revival of its Integra to a corresponding digital asset.
Whether you’re a boutique apparel brand, a furniture manufacturer or a high-end skin care company, you stand to reap substantial benefits from introducing your own NFT collection to elevate, hype and spread awareness about your most popular products. Further, minting NFTs gives companies a chance to develop and articulate their brand vision in a more unfettered way than typical marketing techniques — and it will almost certainly make a statement about your bona fides as a highly contemporary brand at the vanguard of Web3.
Early adoption in Decentraland
On July 30, 2021, International Friendship Day, Coca-Cola auctioned off a loot box on the OpenSea marketplace. A treasure chest of virtual swag for the metaverse era, Coca-Cola’s loot box contained four individual NFTs, including a vintage cooler emblazoned with classic Coca-Cola iconography and a bright, cherry red bubble jacket that can be worn in Decentraland. Somewhat unbelievably, the NFT collection was sold to the highest bidder for over $575,000. The proceeds from the company’s successful foray into NFTs went to Special Olympics International.
While most companies won’t get anywhere near those kinds of figures for their own NFTs — whether the proceeds are going to a charitable cause or not — they can still appropriate Coca-Cola’s auction as a successful blueprint and execute similar entrées into Decentraland.
The metaverse platform has a monthly user base of around 300,000, and it’s in the kind of gestational stage that’s all but guaranteed to explode over the next 12 to 18 months. Businesses of all sizes and their executive leadership should recognize the immense potential that exists in becoming an early adopter and establishing oneself in Decentraland before the metaverses become overcrowded and saturated with competition. Whether through hosting an auction for limited-edition gear that can be shown off in Decentraland or opening up a digital storefront, expanding into the metaverse now is a powerful way to ensure maximum visibility in the burgeoning space in a year or two.
NFT drops as unparalleled customer experience
While Acura and Coca-Cola launched relatively straightforward debuts in the NFT and metaverse spaces, respectively, Italian fashion house Gucci is going for something more eclectic and audacious. “Vault,” Gucci’s “experimental concept space,” recently introduced a byzantine NFT project called 10KTF Gucci Grail, a collaboration with celebrated digital craftsman Wagmi-san that melds the fashion brand’s legendary style with popular NFT collections.
Gucci Grail is more than just the latest in a long line of NFT drops across the corporate landscape, though. It’s also being pitched as a metaverse story in which Creative Director Alessandro Michele travels to New Tokyo to meet Wagmi-san and subsequently kicks off an interdimensional collaboration that combines Gucci’s real-world lines with iconic NFT art.
For ambitious entrepreneurs and their fledgling companies, there’s a clear takeaway here: NFTs give businesses an extremely unique opportunity to tell their stories and construct intricately-conceived brand narratives in a way that pulls in customers and builds lasting engagement. It’s a novel opportunity to transform the marketing phase of the longstanding CX journey into something fresh and invigorating, with previously unfathomable imaginative depth.
As Gucci Grail demonstrates, the digital ephemera and infrastructure surrounding an NFT drop — the images, copy, web pages and so on — are a chance to take customers on a vibrant, enveloping ride that organically reveals everything valuable and inimitable about your company. And you don’t need to be a high-fashion label with global recognition to use an NFT collection as the raw material for a vivid arc: Every company possesses the intellectual faculties to tell a striking and distinctive story that leaves potential customers excited by a colorful, dynamic and expansive brand identity.