Hackernoon logoHow the NFT Breathes New Life Into Branded Content Marketing by@viceasytiger

How the NFT Breathes New Life Into Branded Content Marketing

NFT (non-fungible tokens) is a special type of cryptographic token that is a unique digital asset. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey put his 2006 tweet "just setting up my twttr" up for bid and sold it for as much as $2.9 million to CEO of Bridge Oracle. NFTs allow creators, be brands or artists to retain ownership of content without restricting their content. The rise in branded content marketing has re-kindled talks about developing a new media model to make it more content-centric.
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Vik Bogdanov Hacker Noon profile picture

@viceasytigerVik Bogdanov

Tech storyteller

Do you remember a Nyan Cat GIF that broke into the digital scene about a decade ago and took the Internet by storm? 

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Creator Christopher Torres has recently remastered his GIF, created its cryptographic version, and sold it for 300 ETH ($862,647 at the time of this writing) on the crypto auction site Foundation

Yes, you read it right – the GIF from the past that everyone seems to have forgotten was sold for nearly a million dollars.

It became possible thanks to NFT (non-fungible token) technology. Having surfaced in 2017, it has only started gaining traction this year after grabbing the attention of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. 

But first things first.

It all started in 2017 with CryptoPunks, a collection of 10,000 unique digital assets launched on Ethereum-based blockchain. In fact, this is a collection of 24x24, 8-bit-style pixel art images of misfits and eccentrics inspired by the London punk scene. 

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As of April 2021, the previous 12 months saw over 8,000 sales, with an average sales price of 15.45 ETH (an equivalent of $43,602 as of today) and the total value of all sales accounting for 127,360 ETH ($359,432,844.80).

Later that year, CryptoKitties, a virtual cat trading game, was launched based on NFT tech. It became the first project that made NFTs well-known among cryptocurrencies. 

On March 6, 2021, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted a link to Valuables, a blockchain platform for buying and selling tweets autographed by their original creators.

Dorsey put his March 21, 2006 tweet "just setting up my twttr" up for bid and sold it for as much as $2.9 million to Sina Estavi, CEO of Bridge Oracle.

It was the first time an entire brand indulged in NFTs.

What are NFTs, and how do they work?

A non-fungible token is a special type of cryptographic token that is a unique digital asset.

Based on blockchain, it works similarly to Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies), with network computers competing with each other to solve complex mathematical functions to encrypt a dataset and generate a private cryptographic key. The only difference is that, unlike other token types, NFTs are not interchangeable, i.e. non-fungible.

While Bitcoin tokens are like blockchain-verified dollar bills, NFTs are like blockchain-verified artworks.

Think of them this way: it doesn't matter what particular five-dollar bill you own since all five-dollar bills have the same value and are interchangeable. What matters is what piece of art belongs to you, since different artworks have different values, both in terms of money and artistic significance.

During the encryption process, each NFT is assigned a digital hash that distinguishes it from all other NFTs of its kind. They are like fingerprints: each one is unique in its way. Thus,

NFTs are like serial numbers that you can assign to your products to verify their authenticity.

Yet, there's no central authority issuing these serial numbers, nor is there a central bank issuing new Bitcoins. Most NFTs being in circulation these days are built on Ethereum. Each NFT is designed to represent a specific part of a digital asset and is verified by the blockchain network.

Each time you buy and sell NFTs, their unique identifier is encrypted in the token to indicate ownership. It is then encrypted and distributed throughout the network, which means that anyone with access to the network can see the owner's information but can't access the NFT without the cryptographic key that the owner has.

NFTs are often created as image files in various formats (jpeg, gif, etc.). However, they can also be attached to tweets, MP3s, or any other type of digital file. With the help of NFT, you can own and trade digital assets, which are widely distributed and are usually easy to copy in the first place.

For digital marketers, the rise of NFT opens up exciting new opportunities in digital media distribution and access control. 

How the NFT takes branded content distribution and monetization to the next level

Let's see how NFTs are changing the modern branded content marketing landscape.

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New content ownership models

The rise in NFTs has rekindled talks about developing a new media ownership model to make it more creator-centric. NFTs allow creators, be these brands or individual artists, to retain ownership of their content without restricting its distribution over the Internet. 

As a result, NFTs can change the media ownership model by offering creators, their audiences, and blockchain developers a viable alternative to monetization.

In February 2021, Lindsay "Lightning" Lohan, the "Mean Girls" star, launched NFT on Rarible, a digital asset marketplace. The token represents a badge attached to her image with an earring featuring the inscription "LIGHTNING" in the shape of a lightning bolt. Once it was put up on sale, it was bought almost immediately for 10 ETH ($34,800) and re-sold an hour later for 33 ETH ($114,842).

And due to the way Rarible manages its marketplace, with each transaction, a portion of the resale value will be returned to the actress, who said she would donate it to charity.

Exploring this new distributed digital media ownership and monetization suggests an interesting direction for the future of content marketing. Now the value of any digital asset can be measured by the number of copies sold AND the number of memes created.

For instance,

the value of any video on TikTok is measured by the number of views it has gained and the number of copycat versions it creates. 

As people put their own unique spins into it, each copy is slightly different from the original. The more memes pop up from the original video, the more popular and valuable it becomes.

Boosting user-generated content (UGC)

Such co-creation empowers UGC for any brand. While many brands are still apprehensive about the NFT potential as they prefer to keep their distributed branded assets unchanged, they've yet to benefit largely from the NFT ability to make branded content remixable and non-fungible. Brands can use NFTs to verify themselves as the legitimate owners of their digital assets and disprove other copies of those assets as UGC.

This allows brands to maintain complete control over their digital assets without restricting their distribution or fearing that a maliciously modified version (e.g., created using counterfeit technology) will be misattributed to brands.

Crypto-storytelling

NFT is the foundation for blockchain-based (aka crypto) storytelling which provides a marketplace for anyone to list their digital asset and sell it using cryptocurrency. 

Let's say you want to buy a unique, one-of-a-kind video whose authenticity is proven by a digital certificate. You plan to sell it further to generate revenue on the value difference. Thanks to NFT, the video creator or the original seller will earn a percentage cut from all future transactions. 

Like any eCommerce marketplace, NFT provides content creators with a strong supporting community and helps them expand their reach to potential buyers.

What's interesting about NFTs is that they aren't limited to digital artworks only. They're already used extensively in the gaming space where fashion retailers sell their virtual apparel to dress up gamer avatars.

Combating deepfakes and protecting branded content from adverse manipulations

As online content authenticity gradually becomes the norm, NFT's ability to prove ownership comes to play a crucial role.

That's exactly the moment for NFT to shine.

Certifying an NFT video or audio is much more powerful than simply protecting your digital content from theft or copying. NFT provides worldwide public authenticity and encrypted security. 

For instance, any brand could encrypt each of its public media interventions by claiming that all of the official brand videos are only available via publicly accessible NFT. 

Let's imagine that someone has compromised your brand video and turned it into a deepfake. The brand could avoid any legal dispute by demonstrating NFT encrypted videos and asserting that if the video isn't present in NFTs, it's fake.

As such, NFT can be a great solution for any brand to minimize and avoid reputational damage due to deepfake video distribution and information manipulation.

What brands need to create NFT branded content

In fact, it only takes two things to start developing NFTs for brand awareness and evolution and content ownership protection.

- NFT minting platform

Minting is the process of creating NFT on a blockchain. 

Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain are two popular blockchains that various NFT minting platforms are built on. 

In the process of creating an NFT, the select platform will ask you to choose JPG, PNG, MP3, or MP4 formats.

Different NFT minting platforms support different file types and sizes.

After minting NFT, no changes can be made to it.

If something goes wrong, the creator must burn the NFT and then create a new NFT.

NFT minting isn’t for free, so be careful when investing in it.

Today, there’s a wealth of NFT development companies that any brand can team up with to develop and monetize an NFT content item properly. Since these service providers have deep domain knowledge and many best practices, piggybacking on their expertise and experience can be more cost-effective than developing NFTs in-house.

NFT supporting Digital Wallets

Before brands can mint NFT, they need to connect a digital wallet to the NFT minting platform.

Today, the top 5 digital wallets for NFTs are Enjin, Metamask, Math Wallet, Trust Wallet, and Alpha Wallet.

The digital wallet will store the funds used to pay the minted fee and will hold your branded NFT.

As soon as the file is uploaded to the minting platform, the creator's wallet will ask you to sign the transaction.

This signature connects the minted NFT to the unique address of the digital wallet.

This helps collectors identify that NFT was actually created by a particular brand.

Many minting platforms also allow creators to earn loyalty for every sale of their NFT item.

How companies use NFTs to create brand buzz on mainstream and social media

Taco Bell has been supporting causes they believe in openly and genuinely for many years through their Foundation.

However, in order to support the Live Más Scholarship, they took it to a whole new level by selling taco-themed NFT GIFs on Rarible.

What they did was putting 25 NFTs up for sale, each GIF starting at a bidding price of just $1. All the GIFs were gone within 30 minutes, according to Yahoo.

As the NFT bidding continued, Taco Bell managed to sell them for thousands of dollars each, with one going as much as $3,646.

Creating and selling branded NFTs was a smart move on Taco Bell’s part. It helped generate a lot of buzz on mainstream and social media, which resulted in increased engagement and improved user loyalty, especially among the millennials.

An American brand of toilet paper manufactured by Procter&Gamble, Charmin is now selling non-fungible toilet paper (NFTP), i.e., toilet paper-themed NFTs. For those who would like to "hang their NFTP in their bathroom alongside their IRL rolls" NFTP will come with a physical display.

Charmin's NFTP has generated extensive, heated discussions across the brand's social media platforms – some followers liked it, others hated it, but no one was left indifferent. 

This PR stunt did increase Charmin's user engagement and showed how brands could use the concept of NFT creatively to take their promotion strategy to the next level.

For more practical use cases of how brands harness the power of NFT for branded content marketing, check out this post by Neil Patel.

NFT can be extremely powerful for small business and startup marketing. It offers small and emerging brands an excellent opportunity to spread their message among target audiences, generate added value and stand out in a crowded environment without substantial investments in content and social media marketing.

NFT data aggregation

Existing NFT platforms such as OpenSea, Portion, Foundation, Rarible and others evolve and become more sophisticated each quarter of the year. 

As new NFT platforms pop up offering innovative features and money-making opportunities for brands, I recommend you keep tabs on them using NFT data aggregators like TheForce.Trade.

It brings all NFT-related data into one centralized platform, providing real-time information on NFTs and yield farming while also helping mitigate any potential risk. 

As of today, TheForce.Trade supports Binance Smart Chain, HECO, and Ethereum. All three blockchains are vital for the NFT economy.

Final Thoughts

While we have laws to prove and protect the ownership of valuable assets in the real world, we now have NFT to do the same in the virtual world.

With NFT, brands can no longer worry about losing their content ownership due to user-made alterations, deepfakes, etc.

NFTs continue to garner mainstream attention, so we expect to see more brands jump on the bandwagon. They'll be experimenting with new revenue generation models and user loyalty by releasing digital collectibles, creating exclusive experiences with tokenized content, and boosting their digital marketing and media relation KPIs.

In addition, NFT allows branded content creators to test new business models and monetize directly from their audiences while bypassing intermediary platforms.

That being said, NFTs are fantastic in creating memorable experiences for your customers. As a brand, you should consider integrating NFT marketing into your branded content strategy and find your own way of benefitting from it.

Best of luck!

If you have a cool tech story that you believe is worth sharing with the rest of the world – feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and I'll be happy to cover it on Hacker Noon.

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