Olive Garden Gets NFOG Delisted And Triggers Streisand Effect: Marketing and PR #Failby@giosanchez90
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1,360 reads

Olive Garden Gets NFOG Delisted And Triggers Streisand Effect: Marketing and PR #Fail

by Giovanni SanchezJanuary 7th, 2022
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The biggest takeaway is this: Invite and incentivize collaboration from your community in deciding what you become - think bottom-up, not top-down. In doing so, you create a group of superfans financially and intellectually invested in the propagation of your brand and product. If you give people ownership, they will run with your idea for you.

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Most projects in the world of crypto read like an instance of Prestige Worldwide taking themselves entirely too seriously. So, when a link to Non-Fungible Olive Gardens (NFOG) popped up in a local DAO’s Discord chat, the ridiculousness sold me immediately.

Everything about the now delisted project is on brand all the way down to the unlimited breadsticks and family-like atmosphere (wyhyf) of the appropriately in-character Discord chat.

Of course, I minted a breadstick NFT right away before the topic of Olive Garden proceeded to consume my mind space for far longer than I’m comfortable admitting.

Was I alone?

Since the project dropped on December 17, the NFOG collection has seen over 82 ETH total volume in sales across 880 unique location-based NFTs, over 1.4k breadsticks minted, and a community bootstrapped token ($bstick) up close to 200% in the first 24 hours post-airdrop with over $100k in TVL on Uniswap Polygon.

And if all of that means nothing to you, just know that pictures of Olive Garden restaurants sold as NFTs multiplied several times over in value along with a literally made-up token called Breadstick. Why do all of this? Well, the project has stated plans to “complete leveraged buyout of Darden Restaurants, Olive Garden’s parent company.”

As of this writing, Olive Garden has unsurprisingly issued a DMCA to NFOG. Unless the intention was to catapult NFOG into the collective crypto zeitgeist, I’m calling that a wrong move.

You don’t need to search hard to guess that the attention drawn by delisting will only amplify the Non-Fungible Olive Garden movement as the community moves the collection to decentralized exchanges. The crypto space exists precisely as a response to overreaches of centralized authority.

Forcing a crypto-delisting is like punting a wasps nest.

Now, what follows is not financial advice. I will, however, reflect on what this phenomenon can tell us about the increasing importance of community to brands, money as expression, and intellectual property (IP) in the decentralized and immutable world of Web 3.0.


I would be remiss if I didn’t at least provide a quick blurb on NFTs — please skip ahead if you’re familiar. Without overcomplicating it, if a widget is non-fungible, it means that it’s unique. So, in the case of the NFOG collection, each NFT can be distinguished from one another. If you own one, we can verify that you own it, and we know it’s authentic because we can see where it came from. We know those things for reasons we won’t get into here, but you can watch the video below, later if you’re interested in a simple visual explanation of NFTs.

What does it mean?

In a world where jpegs demand millions of dollars on the basis of insane future promises yet to be seen, Non-Fungible Olive Gardens stands out as one of the most sincere.

How, you ask, can an unofficial NFT project peddling pictures of Olive Garden — itself serving a diluted simulacrum of “authentic” Italian fare — be anything other than a scam?

Well, it’s a joke, and the fact that it’s been as wildly successful as it is makes it all the more hilarious. Regardless of your moral leanings on the topic of NFTs, you have to admit that the absurdity of NFOG’s premise, rise, and aims is at least worth a chuckle.

That’s an absurdity as Camus would put it — the futility of a search for meaning in a world devoid of it.

It’s maddening. But why, what’s the sticking factor?

Jokes are funny because they contain a kernel of truth. Wrapped in this dumb little collection is a reflection of the emptiness inherent to our constructs of money, intellectual property, ownership, and presumed rationality as the basis for the actions of our fellow humans.

When new technologies bring about new capabilities, old concepts are forced to be reconsidered and our relationships with them evolve. What does money mean when we can make and exchange our own?

How does one enforce ownership of intellectual property when the use of it can go unabated? Why in the world did they just spend $800 on a picture of an Olive Garden in Idaho? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I can put them out there to start a dialogue.

Future of NFOG & beyond 👀

There’s no doubt in my mind that NFOG is the start of a new genre of NFTs and memes more broadly. The recent delisting has inspired a brilliant new collection, Non-Fungible Takedowns, and may even catalyze a new decentralized NFT marketplace for that genre.

The organic nature from which NFOG community-driven initiatives have arisen introduces whole new dimensions to the experience and expression of memes, a dynamism that creates a sort of glue tying together those in on the joke. It’s a meme you can walk into and participate in.

I’ve said, half-kidding, that the title of Chief Meme Officer and classes like Masterpieces of Western Memes will soon go from absurd to matters of course.

The ability to wield memetic powers is a skill that pays outsized dividends for those the memes serve. They can catalyze communities — they’re potent delivery mechanisms for rapid communication that spread virally.

But, like any form of communication, this skill does not come easily to many brands. Corporations rarely do humor well, often erring on the side of woefully out of an unwillingness to take risks.

So, at the point a “community of Olive Garden enthusiasts” have taken…let’s call it inspiration from your branding, monetized pictures of your storefronts in the form of NFTs, amassed a cult-like following of alt-brand ambassadors complete with their own bootstrapped cryptocurrency token ($bstick), deflected a delisting of the NFT in question, what is (fungible) Olive Garden to do?

Unsolicited advice to the big OG 🫒

Before we go further, let’s consider the fundamental options for a brand in this position, of which Olive Garden will be the first of many:

  • Ignore it exists
  • Shut it down
  • Embrace it


The first option is to simply ignore the “problem”. When haters rage against its existence, feign ignorance. When the troves of Olive Garden alt-universe fans tag the business incessantly on Twitter and flood DMs, leave them 'on read' and hope that they would tire themselves out.

However, this approach has two main weak points. First, it leaves a giant elephant in the room should the community reach critical mass. The second, though, is more important. That is, there is a ton of value to be had in at least acknowledging the movement, its enthusiasm, and creativity.

Whole marketing arms are paid good money to resonate with an audience, why in the world would an organization look the other way when that very audience is doing it better than them?

Shut it down

As I mentioned earlier, it looks like Darden is trying to shut things down. But let’s be real, the internet is tireless. Try to shut anything down, and you’re signing up for a game of whack-a-mole.

There have been numerous instances of attempted censorship that backfired. Headlines will write themselves, the value of the NFTs and $bstick surge, and the community continue to grow and evolve only to manifest more formidably. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.

Between mentioning the delisting above and this paragraph, the NFOG collection is already listed on a decentralized exchange called Zora as well as on Rarible

Regardless of what law states, a creation takes on a life of its own in the collective consciousness once it’s unleashed. To a sophomore in college, Coca-Cola may mean getting blasted off rum while to you it may mean refreshing picnics in the park.

These associations have their own emotional reverberations. Perhaps instead of trying to homogenize through control, brands are better served by learning to influence and let the best expressions arise on their own.

It’s in the interest of a brand to ride the waves of evolution, capitalizing on enthusiasm rather than trying to corporatize the brand’s form. Let it be. Let it mean different things to different people.

A brand can exist in parts and live on in subcultures far beyond what corporate suits can imagine. Rolling with these changes and embracing the emergent expression of the idea of the brand has the potential to increase the scope of its emotional impact.

Good luck trying to cut the head off of this hydra. That’s not a threat, it’s a fact of nature nowadays. Web 3.0 is not your daddy’s internet. Between smart contracts, decentralized storage (IPFS) and exchanges, and DAOs, we’ve been collectively ushered into a new way of getting things done together without the need for permission or the fear of censorship.

Who do you take down when there is no leader? Who do you talk to when the website isn’t centrally hosted and the exchange platform lacks control over listings?

Embrace it

Look, there is no playbook for this. So why not run with it and write it as you go? This is a fandom Tolkien would have dreamed of — a group of individuals who love Olive Garden, bonded by nostalgia and wholesomeness the restaurant represents, and create new forms of expression through memes, material goods, and tokens while having fun doing it. I mean, when was the last time you read something inspired by Olive Garden?

The biggest takeaway is this: Invite and incentivize collaboration from your community in deciding what you become — think bottom-up, not top-down. In doing so, you create a group of superfans financially and intellectually invested in the propagation of your brand and product. If you give people ownership, they will run with your idea for you. Here’s a thread echoing this sentiment.

No doubt it’s risky to embrace them. It’s like herding cats. But this is where things are headed. Plus, it’s way more fun doing things together.

When people are given the tools to communicate as a group, create a unit of value, exchange that value, then incentivized to perform work for the sake of moving the group toward some goal, the sovereignty they reclaim is unassailable.

It doesn’t matter whether people are initiated through absurd memes or reading the whitepaper of an obscure cryptocurrency; whether the intention is to buy Olive Garden, Blockbuster, a golf club, or the Constitution. Once the power of decentralized, permissionless, censorship-resistant collaboration is experienced, there is no going back. Might as well join the party. wyhyf.

Thanks for reading some of my words to kick off your new year.

Let’s connect on Twitter, or wherever you are online.

Also published here.