Big numbers such as the $69 million that Beeple made at Christies, or the escalating prices fetched by the CryptoPunks project — at least one of which has now made its way into a museum — are making headlines. But artists and hobbyists aren't the only ones who stand to benefit from the NFT boom. NFTs are also poised to transform consumer relationships with brands.
NFTs represent a unique way for brands to broaden and interact with their communities. Traditionally, brands like Taco Bell and Charmin were limited in the ways they could meaningfully interact with their customers online. NFTs are giving brands new avenues to expand and reward their base beyond social media.
NFTs also tie into brands' values of exclusivity and scarcity. Since each NFT is guaranteed to be unique, each one carries a scarcity similar to a physical product.
And NFTs can provide opportunities for brands to collaborate with influencers and artists for promotional purposes. Grimes collaborated on an NFT that sold for $6 million, and Eli Manning has also released one.
However, today, brands who want to work with NFTs face an uphill battle.
Most NFT traffic goes through a handful of major marketplaces such as Rarible, Mintable, and OpenSea. This can make it hard for any individual brand or creator to stand out. On the front page of Rarible alone, Twitter-branded NFTs share space with nature photography (for example). This deluge of mixed content makes it hard for any one brand to stand out.
Additionally, distributing NFTs through these one-size-fits-all marketplaces requires redirecting any potential consumers to a third-party site, where the seller has little control over the consumer experience.
Some new online marketplaces have sprung up to cater to specific interests and types of NFTs. Sorare is a marketplace for soccer NFTs. Meanwhile, a wave of new fashion-focused marketplaces have opened.
Unfortunately, it's more difficult than it ought to be to set up a vertically focused or brand-specific marketplace.
The only alternative to selling through one of these existing platforms is to build your own marketplace. This, of course, can come with its own set of complications.
First you'll need to write a smart contract. In the case of Ethereum, that requires programmers familiar with the Solidity programming language. Once developed, the smart contract must then be rigorously tested and deployed on the blockchain.
Then you'll need to deploy a metadata endpoint for your tokens — this is the component that translates each token's identifier into a reference to the NFT asset itself.
Of course, that means you'll need somewhere on the public web to host your NFT assets.
And if you want to customize the way potential buyers can browse, shop, mint, sell, and view your NFTs, then you'll also need to build a dApp.
This entire process involves a fair amount of background knowledge, labor, and time, which might not be within the reach of every brand.
In response to these difficulties, a new wave of SaaS enterprises is emerging, giving brands their own spaces to control how their NFTs are displayed and purchased.
In the same way that Shopify gives businesses a platform to set up and customize their ecommerce presence, brands can use these new NFT-specific services to design and build unique, personalized NFT minting and shopping experiences — without the hassle of developing bespoke solutions.
Once these platforms hit primetime, we expect to see countless brand-owned NFT shops springing up, making NFT shopping as normal as buying clothes or appliances online. The first brands to do creative things in this space stand to benefit the most.
Though the general public only began to become aware of NFTs in 2017, NFTs have already generated huge opportunities for creators, and the boom doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. We expect to see that boom to hit consumer-brand relationships in a big way within the next 1-2 years.
It can be difficult to establish your own space in the NFT market, but services like Aesthetic are making it possible for any brand to do so. For those hoping to create fresh NFT offerings, or break into NFTs for the first time, Aesthetic can help.