Web3 x Major Brands: Tech or Culture?

Web3 x Major Brands: Tech or Culture?

Major brands are embedding themselves into the Web3 space before it has even reached full velocity. Keen to not miss the boat, these global conglomerates want a piece of the pie, and to be a key ingredient. For some, the base is firm, for others, the approach is crusty. Are major brands just filling the space to their own ends, or are they actually providing value to technological utility and communities?

Taking a step back, the flood of investment from major brands, the publicity it carries, and the creativity it permits are subjectively good things, but some will surely ask, as we are:

Are they here for the tech or the culture?

Who is here before the peak?

Adidas collaborated with Bored Ape Yacht Club, PUNKS comic, and gmoney to create some pretty impressive and lucrative NFT collections. Now they’re entering the metaverse to create innovative digital experiences in sport. They’re getting some buzz, but it is their main rivals, Nike, that are having the biggest brand traction in Web3. Nikeland, built inside Roblox, has received 20+ million visits, and their December 2021 NFT collection ‘Cryptokicks’, in collaboration with newly-acquired RTFKT, was met with wide appeal. The pairs are still selling for thousands of dollars on OpenSea.

Also leveraging Web3’s current position on the technology adoption curve are a number of other international brands, such as Lamborghini, Samsung, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, and more. However, all of these brands appear to raise a common point: they’re working on culture, but are they disrupting the tech. Not yet, at least.

Can Web3 ‘Bandwagoning’ Backfire?

Let’s look at Budweiser’s “Heritage Collection” campaign, which sold out all 1936 NFTs (1936 is the year they introduced canned beer) in less than an hour. On the surface, it looks great. One way to see it is that there is so much brand appeal with Budweiser (which paid $75k for beer.eth), that an entire collection can be swept up in minutes. The bad news comes later, when you discover that 20% were flipped (bought and sold quickly) and 75% of the collection ended up almost immediately listed for resale. But why? What was the disconnect?

If the objective was simply for people to see that Budweiser is engaging with cryptocurrency and NFTs, then it’s mission accomplished. If the objective was to create an NFT with some genuine utility to create community, brand loyalty, or tech awareness, then the flipping and resales would suggest it was a fail. If the collection price crashes, there are going to be a lot of investors annoyed with the brand. From Budweiser’s side of things, they consider it a success: “The launch of this NFT Collection is yet another example of our innovative and consumer-first approach to further strengthen our iconic brands.” Does Web3 see it the same way?

Doing things right in an emerging space

Like it or not, Nike is taking the lead in Web3. Their acquisition of RTFKT has been an enormous success and their Discord group boasts around a quarter of a million people, roughly the same size as Cryptopunks and BAYC combined. They’re leading the discussion, winning fans, and driving the tech and its utility as much as they’re using it as a cultural tool and profit generator. 

What sets Nike and Budweiser apart is that Nike’s involvement in cultural growth has been part of their core strategy for years. They’ve been trying to innovate and collaborate for a long time, evolving from being just a sports brand to a brand of empowerment and popular culture. Their move into NFTs and the metaverse almost seems like a natural one. They’ve looked at ‘Tech or Culture’ and said “Why not both? We’re perfectly positioned”. 

Budweiser bought a .eth domain and released a few NFT drops in such a way that it seems out of place for their strategy. They’ve focused on reducing their environmental impact and improving physical experiences, as well as sponsoring major events. It’s hard to see quite where they fit into the metaverse and Web3 discussion, but clearly, they’re keen to try.

Superbowl: America’s Cultural Main Event

In early 2022, NFTs took over the Superbowl. It was a landmark moment for digital art and creators worldwide - some recognition for the creator economy and the space it has been carving out. As the biggest cultural event of the year in the US, it was a shock for some to see Nouns NFTs in one commercial, before a Bored Ape cropped up briefly in another! Coinbase, FTX, and Crypto.com also paid millions for advertising seconds during the event. 

For the Superbowl brand, encouraging all of this Web3 advertising was part of a bigger strategy. Part of this strategy involved rewarding all attendees with an NFT of their ticket. Throughout the season, the NFL had been creating unique fan experiences by selling NFTs with this utility. 

NFL Senior Vice President Robert Gallo said: “Collecting ticket stubs has always been something our fans love to do, especially for the season’s biggest game, and offering customized Super Bowl NFTs allows us to enhance the gameday experience, while also enabling us to further evaluate the NFT space for future ticketing and event engagement opportunities,”. 

This, it would appear, is building on both the tech and the culture. We love to see it. 

Verdict: It doesn’t need to be one or the other

What Nike and Superbowl got right is that a venture into Web3 should address three things:

  1. Utility
  2. Community
  3. Storytelling

They achieved all three with their recent campaigns and have reaped financial and cultural rewards as a result. Budweiser, on the other hand, did some great storytelling through their heritage collections but failed to give back to their community or build any utility into the NFTs. Thus, they were dumped immediately and aside from some nice profits, there wasn’t much cultural gain to be had. 

Major brands who want to leverage the power of Web3 should consider the trifecta of utility, community, and storytelling before they launch any movement into the space, or they may end up with negative results. To be at the bleeding-edge of technology requires excellent strategy from start to finish. That’s the Zebu way.