Blockchain Brand Strategy NFTs

Web3 isn’t dead! Here are 3 brands building on the blockchain in 2023

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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

March 27, 2023 | 9 min read

Not so long ago, NFTs and crypto were on virtually every brand’s list of priorities. Today, however, web3 is much maligned across the marketing world. So, what went wrong? And what brands are rebuffing the broader backlash? We take a look as part of our Tech Takeover Deep Dive.

Nike .Swoosh

.Swoosh is a blockchain-based platform that gives fans the opportunity to participate in the Nike shoe design process / Nike

Web3 was absolutely popping in 2022, with what seemed like every brand – from fast food chains to luxury fashion designers – racing to capitalize on the emerging technology.

The market for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – virtual assets stored on a decentralized digital ledger called a blockchain – spiked dramatically in 2021 and the surge in interest inspired companies of nearly every stripe to develop their own NTF campaign or launch some kind of web3-oriented marketing effort (partnering with a blockchain-based gaming platform like Decentraland, for example). A virtual Gucci handbag – which doubled as a NFT – sold for more than its physical counterpart, while Miller Lite built a virtual bar, Google signed a deal with popular crypto-trading platform Coinbase, and on and on.

Then, suddenly, the music seemed to stop and over the past few months, most of the marketing world has been conspicuously silent about web3. The sudden vibe shift is undoubtedly due in part to the drama that began to engulf the crypto industry in mid-2022, culminating (but perhaps not concluding) with the calamitous collapse of FTX and the inglorious downfall of its founder and former chief executive officer, Sam Bankman-Fried.

Crypto, as such, suddenly became a pariah and, by extension, so did NFTs and – albeit to a lesser degree – the ‘metaverse.‘ Although the metaverse is not technically and integrally a blockchain-based technology, it has come to be viewed among most marketers as being part and parcel of the web3 ecosystem.

More recently, the rise of captivating artificial intelligence (AI) models such as OpenAI‘s ChatGPT – released in November 2022 – has given brands a shiny new object on which they can focus their attention and resources.

Today, web3 is like a social outcast, sitting alone with its lunch in the middle school cafeteria. Or is it?

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The continuing, behind-the-scenes growth of web3

Web3 may not be as sexy or as profitable as it was this time last year, but it’s by no means a lost cause. Not yet, at least.

While many brands have turned their backs on crypto, NFTs and the metaverse, others are continuing to invest in the blockchain – believing, apparently, that public perceptions of web3 will eventually turn in their favor once again.

In general, web3-focused campaigns today have a more sober, pragmatic and subdued flavor than those from early 2022. The flashy sensationalism of that era seems to have been replaced with cautious optimism.

But it’s still there, moving almost imperceptibly beneath the surface like tectonic plates, subtly shifting the topology of the technological landscape. This fact was evidenced by the considerable amount of buzz around web3 on display during the opening days of this year’s SXSW conference.

In order to gain a clearer understanding of the ongoing vitality of the web3 movement, let’s take a look at three big-name brands that are currently investing in blockchain-based efforts:

Mastercard

In January, Mastercard unveiled its Artist Accelerator program, which is designed to help up-and-coming musicians leverage blockchain-based technologies to advance their careers and connect more directly with their fans.

Developed in partnership with blockchain company Polygon Studios, the Mastercard Artist Accelerator program includes a NFT collection (the Mastercard Music Pass) that enables fans to unlock certain perks, including “exclusive web3 and music educational materials,” according to its website. Earlier this month, the brand announced the names of the first two (of an eventual total of five) musicians who have been selected to participate in the Mastercard Artist Accelerator program.

Nike

Nike has long been regarded as something of a trendsetter and that reputation has continued with the athletic apparel giant’s entrance into the web3 space.

Back in November 2021, the brand launched Nikeland, a branded environment set within the popular online gaming platform Roblox. Almost exactly a year later, Nike introduced .Swoosh, a blockchain-based platform that gives fans the opportunity to participate in the Nike shoe design process – and potentially earn royalties from their efforts.

Then, in late January of this year, the brand announced a contest within the .Swoosh platform dubbed #YourForce1, in which fans were challenged to compete for the chance “to collaborate directly with Nike designers” by posting “a visual moodboard” to Instagram.

Deloitte

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On February 28, consulting and accounting firm Deloitte unveiled a new platform designed to help clients create their own immersive, virtual experiences. The project was developed in partnership with Vatom, a company that aims to empower “anyone to create their own place in the metaverse,” according to its LinkedIn page. “What Salesforce is to the enterprise, we are to the metaverse,” it claims.

The new platform was built upon Deloitte’s Unlimited Reality practice, a suite of advisory services designed to help clients invest in emergent technologies.

Deloitte is also leveraging the project as an opportunity to flex its AI expertise: during a virtual event called Mirror World, which doubled as a demonstration of Deloitte’s new platform, the firm offered visitors information “about AI-meets-metaverse use cases,” such as the use of digital twins in manufacturing applications, according to a press release.

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Why are Deloitte and Vatom choosing to launch this platform in early 2023, at a time when so many other brands seem to be pulling back on the concept of the metaverse? “The mainstream really is missing the point that these immersive experiences are not meant to be better versions of Fortnite – they’re meant to be better versions of the web,” says Eric Pullier, Vatom’s founder and chief executive officer.

Like Pulier, Deloitte Consulting partner Frances Yu is optimistic about the future of web3. “The next generation of the web is really going to be a beautiful place,” she says.

For more on the latest happenings in AI, web3 and other cutting-edge technologies, check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive – AI to Web3: the Tech Takeover. And don’t forget to sign up for The Emerging Tech Briefing newsletter.

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