Learn: How NFT Brands Can Cut Through The Noise

This article was originally published in Forbes, written by Will Fan.
NFT brands of every design and value proposition are popping up on a daily basis. Any new project that thinks they are more valuable due to the uniqueness of their pop art or potential roadmap is wrong.
The biggest mistake NFT projects make is launching into a market where they have no audience. The best way to cut through the noise is to design brand identities that appeal to a niche audience and build from the ground up. Early adopters can help with this process, but you have to connect with them early, build up the genesis community and expand from the brand you’ve created together. Knowing your genesis brand—who you are as a project—gives you a higher chance of survival.
Develop the materials, assets and comms that best represent your brand identity and community design aesthetic. Update your website and socials to best represent your brand, build trust in the community and showcase your NFTs in their best light. Then, once you have an understanding of who your holders are and how they contribute to the community, you can create marketing content. Too many founders skip this important step, thinking that post-launch, they can let the brand promote itself. But a project needs more than a polished, minted-out launch to build a long-lasting brand.

Derivatives And Duplicates

Sometimes, the second mouse gets the cheese. In the world of NFTs, derivative projects duplicate or even steal ideas from artists and well-established, independent brands, leveraging their design and community assets to launch more quickly into the market. With the ability to get a new style into the hands of holders in near real time, derivative projects are able to accelerate their content, style and community management toolkit to satisfy preference from smaller, more targetable segments of holders who weren’t able to invest in the original brand. They can also implement proven NFT traits, such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club laser eyes, and reduce the design cycle of rarity collections. As a unique brand becomes identified as a new trend, copy-cats roll out their ultra-fast fashion design and launch a competitor to market as fast as possible.
I believe “blue chip” projects such as Cool Cats, World of Women (full disclosure: I am an investor) and Doodles can learn from these faster-moving derivative projects. Increasingly, we are seeing these new brands deploy playbooks that are effectively engaging a new crowd of users entering the NFT ecosystem. With the significant downturn in Opensea (subscription required) and other marketplaces, it’s key for both emerging and established brands to attract the next generation of holders entering the world of NFTs.
In other words, brands need new ways to break through the noise in order to engage and retain audiences. Just because an early evangelical community was built does not mean that they will stay for the long haul. In the NFT world, a great deal hinges on “drops.” While Bored Ape Yacht Club is usually given the credit for creating the phenomenon of drop culture, fast-following projects like Goblintown have innovated by embedding a strong storyline in their Airdrop to immerse the audience in their world and keep them on their toes for future reveals. Some established projects, like Cyberkongz (full disclosure: I am a former investor), have used second- and third-generation drops to capture a wider audience, but for other exclusive brands, where values like culture and intimacy are intrinsic to their brand identity, creating new drops could potentially alienate the audience.

Community-Led Initiatives

The ecosystem is fractured, and a brand’s survival is often dependent on how well they navigate that complicated landscape. Project founders spending time interacting with the community can have a major impact. Building with a long-term strategy in mind makes sense, but this can also lead to holders feeling unheard. Projects that are community-driven, like Genuine Undead, can be aligned with holder incentives in everything from social media conversations moderating on Discord and collectively informing decisions on what to build next. By keeping ideation open-sourced and emphasizing an iterative process, projects have the ability to keep the community culture vibrant and highly engaged—both before and after a product or feature is shipped.
Despite bearish market conditions, loyal holders want projects that will show them affection: They want personalized interactions tailored to their tastes, habits and lifestyles. It is essential to coordinate with highly motivated community leaders and find ways to engage the rest of the holders as well. Projects looking to engage early evangelists, who’ve likely developed rising reputations, must interact with them in more ways.

Final Thoughts

Brand DNA is authenticity at its most powerful, and a smart project will seek out a brand DNA that helps inform all its decisions, from product development to hiring, partnerships and influencer management. NFT projects that focus on defining and explicitly communicating their unique points of differentiation, their DNA, are the ones that will stand out among the noise, creating loyalty and deep emotional connections with holders that can withstand evolving trends and macro downturns.