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Digital Tacos, Sneakers, and Toilet Paper: How Brands are Using NFTs to Connect Online

In the days before mass media, companies marketed their products largely through billboards, pamphlets, and magazines. The landscape was changed with the invention of radio and television when voice and video became the mainstream. With the rise of the dot com boom in the early 21st century, digital marketing began taking the place of traditional marketing.

Companies have steadily increased budgets allocated to digital marketing over the past decade. More and more are leaning toward email, social media, search engine, mobile, display, and other digital platforms to excel their business. In fact, Forbes reports that digital ad spending will surpass that of traditional advertising this year, with $129.34 billion spent on digital and $109.48 billion spent on traditional advertising. With 54.2% of the total advertising spending allocated to digital, companies are looking to cut through the excessive amount of noise reaching consumers and looking for opportunities to get in front of their eyes.

One of the newest and most exciting ways companies are doing this is through the use of crypto artwork. Crypto artwork refers to digital artwork that can be authenticated and sold once it is turned into a non-fungible token. These non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are unique digital assets that are stored in a blockchain. While NFTs can be anything digital like drawings, music, in-game items, videos, and even real estate, most of the excitement around them centers in the art space.

Alright, let’s break that down a little

Since an NFT can only have one owner at a time and it’s completely unique, it is considered non-fungible.

Think of the digital asset as a trading card, if you were to have a one-of-a-kind baseball card and traded it, you would end up with a completely different card from a different player. The NFT is run in a blockchain-based digital file, which ensures that past ownership record and transaction data can’t be altered or replicated after the exchange takes place.

A blockchain is a shared ledger that businesses across the world use to facilitate the process of recording transactions. Every time a transaction occurs it is recorded in a “block” of data each time it switches hands. These blocks are connected one after the other and cannot be altered, preventing tampering and ensuring security.

NFTs began as a way for digital artists to monetize their work and connect with their supporters. The general public has started to become familiar with these new digital art pieces, but there is a growing community of insiders that is devoted to creating, buying, selling, and sharing in discords. NFTs are creating a culture in which creators are gaining more control over their projects and are able to reach consumers on a more direct level. Brands have started taking notice and are using NFTs to strengthen their image and connect with new customers in new ways than they have before.

Let’s Look at Some Everyday Brands Getting in on the NFT Mania

Taco Bell’s Transformative Taco:

Back in March the brand announced that it was going to serve up a new menu item, its Transformative Tacos. It Tweeted that it would be selling an edition of 25 taco-themed gifs and images on the NFT marketplace, Rarible.

Like many other high profile artists, the demand for these tokens was hot, and all 25 of them sold within 30 minutes.

Seeing that we don’t live in Zuckerberg’s metaverse just quite yet, Taco Bell combined some real world perks to their digital sale. Taco Bell gave the owner of the original Transformative Taco a $500 gift card to be used at any Taco Bell.

All proceeds from the sale of the NFTs were donated to Taco Bell’s Live Mas Scholarship, which is devoted to helping support young people in their education and career advancement.

This move represents one of the first combinations of physical perks with digital artwork. It emboldened Taco Bell’s stance in the community by pledging the proceeds to a worthy cause and raising funds in a creative, engaging way.

Coca-Cola: Friendship Day ‘Loot Box’:

To celebrate National Friendship Day, Coca-Cola teamed up with Tafi, a company that creates custom avatars and 3D branded content, to create their one-of-a-kind NFT. During the event participants bid on the brand’s ‘Friendship Box’, which was designed to look like their classic 1956 vending machines. The digital vending machine was designed like a video game ‘loot box’, which when opened gives the winner of the bid additional prizes. Inside the box was:

  • A ‘Coca-Cola Bubble Wearable Jacket’ that can be worn in the Decentraland metaverse, a virtual reality experience popular among the NFT community. In the platform, individuals are able to own plots of land that are sold as NFTs.

  • The Friendship Card, a digital rework of the brand’s trading card collection launched in the 1940s

  • And a ‘Coca-Cola Sound Visualizer' that included classic sounds associated with the brand - a bottle cap opening and the sound of Coke being poured over ice.

Coca-Cola noted that they have a long history of bringing people together through their brand, so they wanted to create an experience that would emulate that passion. All the proceeds from the bidding were given to Special Olympics International, which they have supported since its founding in 1968.

There was a surprise element to Coca-Cola’s release of their NFT, individuals bidding on the token didn’t know what was inside the loot box vending machine. This added a lot of excitement and anticipation to its release. That combined with its release falling on a special occasion like National Friendship Day, which had been celebrated by the brand for years, Coca-Cola was able to show off their values and commitment to community.

Charmin: Non-Fungible Toilet Paper

As we’ve learned this last year, when the going gets tough, the tough stock up on toilet paper. Proctor and Gamble’s Charmin brand jumped into the NFT arena with the auction of 3 digital artworks, they dubbed NFTPs, non-fungible toilet paper.

One NFT was released for each of their 3 designs which featured images of decorated rolls of toilet paper and a glitching gif with their tagline, “Enjoy the Go”. Additionally, physical displays were awarded to the original owner of the NFT to “display in their bathrooms alongside real rolls”.

Bids for the NFTs ranged from $500 to $2100 on Rarible. Like other brands selling these digital artworks, the proceeds of each sale were donated to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid nonprofit.

The company has dabbled in playing with technology to leverage their brand before, in 2020 at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) P&G playfully explored ideas to elevate your bathroom experience. The company showed off their RollBot, a robot that delivers toilet paper to you when in the most dire of situations, when the roll runs empty. They also showed off the V.I.Pee, a headset equipped porta-potty which allows you to never miss parts of a concert by watching it through an Oculus Rift while you take your bathroom break.

Charmin’s auction of digital artwork demonstrates their brand’s readiness to adopt technology and add humor to an otherwise boring, but necessary product.

Anheuser-Busch: Betting on the Digital Ponies

Interest in NFTs has spread a lot since the boom experienced last March with the sale of Beeple’s “Everydays - The First 5000 Days” NFT, which sold for $69 million. Anheuser-Busch InBev partnered with VaynerMedia, creating a campaign where they hope to market their brand through the use of metaverse horse racing.

The horses in these virtual spaces represent NFTs themselves, and owners are able to sell, race, and even breed the digital assets for a profit. The horses each contain unique characteristics like coat type that can be passed on when they have offspring.

Stella Artois began getting in on the action, selling NFTs before their parent company partnered with VaynerMedia. These digital jockeys will be able to compete in races and bid in auctions to win their own horse with a Stella Artois branded skin.

Anheuser-Busch hopes to pave new landscapes for the way in which they are able to market to their consumers. They say they want to follow where the individual is headed, and the idea of a metaverse is just that. Bridging the gap between reality and the digital world, the brand wants to create experiences that are different from what we do in everyday life.

Nike: CryptoKicks

Nike wants to create a new line of shoes attached with a digital asset supported by their own blockchain. They filed a patent with the US Patent Office and were approved in creating their own line of shoes dubbed CryptoKicks, each physical pair being sold with a digital asset unique to the owner.

When you buy a pair of CryptoKicks, the physical shoe, you will receive a digital asset attached to the shoe itself. Like all other NFTs the digital asset is completely unique, thus creating scarcity. The shoes themselves are also expected to be unique like the NFT, production of the digital asset is tied with the production of the physical shoe.

One really interesting aspect that the patent outlined was the ability to be able to “intermingle or breed the digital shoe with another digital shoe to create ‘shoe offspring’ and have those ‘offspring’ made as a new, tangible pair of shoes”.

While there hasn’t been mention of a launch yet, the product is an exciting look into how brands can use NFTs in the future. Offering a tangible product aligned with a digital asset is great to bring in people who may be aware of NFTs but not sure as to how they work. There is still scarcity which brings value to the digital asset, but the buyer is able to see a real life result of their purchase, which may bring more satisfaction to the individual and prompt interest from others.

Final Thoughts

It’s looking like NFTs are beyond the point of a passing fad. Adding NFTs to your marketing mix can create a win-win between brands and consumers if they’re taken seriously. Brands gain a lot of recognition for their assets if they’re creative in their rollout. Consumers are set to gain just as much in this market, they want rare and sought after tokens that they can show off. If done well, brands can offer some real world value, while in the digital realm.

Charmin, Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, AB, and Nike represent a growing number of industries that are interested in using this new digital space to market to consumers. NFTs have opened up a new playing field for brands to compete in.

Brands need to offer experiences to consumers that are different from what they see in the real world. With the selling of NFTs coming from independent artists not affiliated with any one brand, these companies have to be creative and offer value in order to get people to care, and want what they offer. NFTs have created a close knit community of online users that are extremely passionate about the concept. Many of the people buying in this market are millennials and gen-z, who are growing into a large and sought after purchasing segment. This avenue may be a perfect way to reach this tech-savvy consumer.

As marketing through digital media continues to increase yearly, NFTs are an exciting opportunity for brands to reach a new audience that they haven't seen before. Consider adding real life value to your release like charity donations or showing off what your company believes in order to lend a layer of trust and community building with the public. Getting in now while NFTs are relatively new can boost recognition for your brand in the tech center, and get them to spend more time watching what you do.

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