“NFTs as Keys” and “Token-Gated Communities” — One Year later
This article is also available on mirror.xyz
It’s been almost one year since I wrote an article entitled “NFTs as Keys: Web3 Authentication in the Pseudonymous Economy”. A lot has happened since.
Listed below are a few reflections on the current state of the MarTech industry in relation to NFTs. I share some of my personal experiences with global brands and look at the evolution of the projects mentioned in last year’s article (more specifically at those that have actually adopted “NFTs as Keys”).
To read the original article again, here’s the link:
One year later
Platforms like Shopify now refer to the concept of “NFTs as Keys” as “Token-gated Communities” and claim that it will be the next big thing in e-commerce. I agree.
Looking back at the old article, it’s almost funny to me that I felt like writing about these “new possibilities” and uncharted territory back then…
In fact, for the past year, my life ended up being mostly a mix of:
1. building Web3 dapps
2. evaluating whether other people should build them as well
The answer or result to the above evaluation isn’t always: “Yes, let’s do an NFT project”, but still, in MarTech, it’s now very clear where things are going.
I’ve seen a lot of pitch decks & received inquiries from enough global brands to know that *almost everybody* is trying to come up with something Web3.
However today, many brands are still afraid about making the right moves. Many lack internal competencies and actual field experience among their human resources. The last year has brought us so many different projects and micro-social bubbles, that it can be very hard for people to differentiate between a good, sustainable project and a cash-grab. When it comes to NFTs or crypto-related projects in general, I see a lot of people getting lost in a mix of pride, ego, and a false sense of “community”.
People buy with emotions, and try to justify with logic. Especially with NFTs.
Due to this lack of knowledge and overly motivated egos, some brands are coming up with better strategies than others. Things can easily go wrong. Roadmaps might be rushed, the people responsible for marketing may be trapped in the Dunning-Kruger effect, or the CMO might cut the essential parts from the strategy. There have been plenty of bad examples of how not to launch an NFT project.
In our experience, brands typically ask the following questions:
- “Which people are we targeting? Web2 or Web3 people? We fear there aren’t enough people who understand Web3.”
- “Will users really need a wallet to sign up?”
- “Is this a business or a marketing case? Wait, do we actually sell the NFTs?!”
- “On which blockchain are we issuing the NFTs? I heard Bitcoin was bad for the environment and too expensive.”
- “Okay, but what’s this Metaverse?”
Being able to answer these questions correctly is a million-dollar opportunity.
In the world of marketing agencies, there is currently a conflict between Web2 and Web3 native agencies. Combining both worlds (Corporate and Anti-Corporate) has huge potential, but only very few people have an understanding of both worlds.
Additionally to the above, we have also seen that there is a lot of instinct and a lot of passion required to make a really good Web3/NFT project. The size or amount of followers of a brand does not define the objective success of a project. The people that run the project must be motivated to do the daily grind if they want the project to truly succeed in the long run. I tell them to think of it as launching a new start-up.
New marketing competencies and skills are required as well: Due to Discord, Twitter, and Telegram emerging as the leading communication channels in Web3, Community managers are more important than ever. Example: One year ago I was a member of around 10–15 Discord servers, today I am a member of over 100 (Don’t worry, I don’t follow all of them constantly…). Good projects that rely on traditional channels like Instagram are rare. Running ads is also bad practice. For great projects, most awareness is generated through memes and influencers.
Looking at concrete examples that have emerged over the past year, one can see a clear trend toward Game and Comic Looks/Universes. Brands need to embrace this trend. There is no place for real-life problems in the metaverse. People don’t want replicas of the real world, they want new experiences and great stories. That’s why the skill of storytelling is becoming more and more important as well.
Here are some examples of pioneering brands and projects that have excelled over the past year:
Positive brand examples
Positive crypto-native examples
These brands have understood how to leverage their image and their “true fans” to create new token-based experiences that actually resonate with people.
Finally here’s what all of this means for the Crypto Economy in general:
It’s not early anymore.
The brands are coming. Many are hiding under the trees.
“NFTs as keys” and “Token-gated Communities” are real.
Governments know this and are regulating fast.
Personally, my team and I have “positioned” by building frens.page, launching various own NFT projects, selling digital artifacts for global brands, writing Metaverse roadmaps for mega corps, consulting and lecturing on the topic, and also by many many internal feedbacks rounds on whether we should implement an NFT roadmap into our own products like for example Neontools.io…
We also keep investing in interesting NFT projects because you know… Even if their monetary value goes to 0, you’ll still end up with free clothes :) (NFA)
Now, without further ado, here is the promised update on last year’s early adopters of “NFTs as Keys” and the Pseudonymous Economy. TL;DR: All of them did great.
1. Yuga Labs & BAYC
Yuga Labs has absolutely smashed it with the Bored Ape Yacht Club. As one of the fastest-growing companies ever, they have kicked off a cultural revolution and turned into a global phenomenon.
When I wrote the article, all we knew about BAYC was that they built a web platform with a “members only” area: a secretive yacht club. Since then they have acted like Master Storytellers and Marketing pioneers. They’ve introduced the Serum and turned Apes into Mutants. Bored Apes went from 14ETH (time of writing) to >100ETH. Yuga bought LarvaLabs, the creators of CryptoPunks, they’ve released $APE coin and now they’re building their own game “Otherside”.
Oh, and Snoop Dogg and Eminem made a song featuring BAYCs. But that’s just one of the many cultural happenings around BAYC and CC0 licensing.
RTFKT (featured many times in the article) also had a very significant run. While they were mostly known as “AR Fashion Brand” when I wrote the article, they got bought up by NIKE when they launched their own Avatar project CLONEX.
With CLONEX they have also created the MNLTH project, they’ve released new digital sneakers and have recently released the 3D files for their CLONEX avatar for personal use.
Today, we use them as a case study in most of our pitch decks to explain the concepts of Web3 Scavenger Hunts, Treasure Hunts, or Quests.
See this video that we made for example:
The Metakey is a project I’ve used a lot throughout the past year to explain certain NFT-related concepts. They have also performed extraordinarily well.
After several cool collaborations and their own Avatar project Metakrew (which personally I found a bit cringe), they’re now building their own game called “New Ganymede”. Their dev log is great and the stuff they’re posting slightly gives me 2002-era “World of Warcraft” teaser vibes. But only slightly hehe.
Although I never got personally involved in Veefriends, I’m hearing some good stuff coming out of it. I feel like Gary Vee is really building a family-friendly and purpose-driven empire with this project.
Gary has really kept going throughout the entire year and tripled down on NFTs.
His concept of the “Flyfish Club” in NYC, the “World’s first NFT restaurant”, is a perfect example of “NFTs as Keys”. It’s a physical, token-gated community. Something I believe we’ll see way more often in the future.
5. SEEN Haus
I have only been involved with Seen.haus through projects in the 0xmons/sudoswap universe. In my opinion, the claim experience is still one of the best in class: Simple and easy for everyone who knows how to use a wallet and buy something on the internet.
However, I was sometimes disappointed by the actual quality of the physical items I received (Damaged caps, cards had scratches, etc.).
So I guess there is still some room for improvement and opportunity when it comes to bringing digital goods into the physical world. I saw similar complaints with other projects as well, where people were commenting on the poor quality of eg. hoodies or other types of merch.
Balaji Srinivasan, who was mentioned several times in the article and who keeps inspiring me a lot recently released his book “The Network State: How To Start a New Country”.
You can read it here for free.
There’s also a new Tim Ferris Podcast episode with him, that I can highly recommend. I love his definition of “nations” vs. “states”.
The podcast episode: