It’s time to rethink the purpose of NFTs
Many brands treat NFTs simply as collectible products. But they can be so much more than that.
The popularity of NFTs skyrocketed in 2021. (Credit: Adobe Stock)
It’s been nearly a decade since the first-ever non-fungible token (NFT) was minted. But it wasn't until last year that NFTs became a mainstream, pop culture phenomenon. As often happens with emergent technologies, the wave of NFTs’ soaring popularity during the pandemic was felt across all industries, and fueled by the promise of virtually endless applications.
Today — after a number of scams, lawsuits, and controversies — it’s become clear that NFTs are not a silver bullet for brands looking to cash in on the Web3 space. Most issues associated with NFTs today boil down to one simple fact: one size does not fit all.
As we make our transition from Web2 to Web3, it’s imperative that we entirely rewrite the very rules for engaging with NFTs. We must reframe the entire definition of a NFT and shift from a collectability-based to a utility-based framework.
There are three main pillars upon which the future NFTs framework needs to rest so that they can evolve from simple digital commodity to meaningful tech application:
The production standards, intrinsic value, and overall approach to NFT art creation need to transition and evolve, moving away from a model generally associated with consumer goods and fast fashion, to one that’s entirely centered on exclusivity and premium craft. As an example, FC Barcelona recently unveiled its first NFT entitled "In a Way, Immortal", a 40-second film retelling Johan Cruyff’s legendary goal in poetic molten gold animation. The NFT is being auctioned at Sotheby's New York and hghi-end content was guaranteed by engaging a 40-strong team of some of Hollywood’s most talented visual effects artists, accompanied by an original score played by a 30-piece orchestra that incorporated real sounds from the Camp Nou stadium and FC Barcelona supporters. The production of Cruyff’s digital sculpture required more than a thousand hours and the overall production entailed a total of more than 10,000 production hours.
Beyond redefining the idea of scarcity and intellectual ownership, NFTs with a utility can also provide true agency to their users and a funnel into a functional and frictionless digital ecosystem. Technically, a non-fungible-token simply defines and assigns a specific use to a digital asset. But what can be done with the asset is entirely up to its creator and owner. Whether it’s a ticketing system granting access to an advance fan-screening with your favorite director, a decentralized voting system, or “phygital” (that is, a hybrid between virtual and phyisical) wearables, it’s clear that utility will play a major role in creating the connective tissue and blurring the line between our physical world and the evolving metaverse.
Moving forward, one of the main goals for brands should be to redefine NFTs by combining them with a premium, experiential layer. Future NFT owners should be able to enjoy unique VIP benefits and enjoy a number of ‘money can’t buy’ experiences. Brands and studios can incorporate smart contracts into NFTs which open the door to exclusive experiences. Such a strategy could redefine the fan experience and provide a huge boost to a brand’s reputation.
One of the most fascinating aspects of technology is that it tends to be iterative — it’s constantly being reinvented and improved. NFTs, which in many ways exist at the boundary between technological innovation and art, is no exception. If we stop treating NFTs like a cheap gimmick and instead focus on the practical utility and experiences they can deliver, we can inch a bit closer to unlocking their true potential.
Davide Bianca is the global executive creative director and a partner at BCN Visuals.
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