Web3: you either hate it or you love it. And the great arbiter of technology trends, Elon Musk, has decided it’s not so hot. The concept “seems more marketing buzzword than reality right now,” I tweeted back in December.
But the fact that it’s a marketing buzzword is the point. No one knows what the internet will look like in 10 years, but one thing is for sure. Web3 is going to bring a massive upgrade to the one area that’s been close to my heart for my professional career: marketing.
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few months, Web3 refers to new internet services that run on the blockchain and often promise users a cut of profits. Consumer brands — from Pringles to Burberry to Visa — are already jumping in via non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Consumer-facing companies are always ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new marketing channels, and it certainly gives me déjà vu about the channels I’ve seen come and go throughout the years. When I was doing an internship at Coca-Cola in 2008, MySpace was the hot channel, and we were even doing black and white phone campaigns. After that, at Spotify, I saw the rise of the social media department, and more recently, digital audio.
So many things have changed in the last decade. But one thing hasn’t: huge budgets are still being spent on marketing to push products to potential buyers on the same well-known platforms. Frequently marketing is the biggest expense on company P&Ls — including VC-backed ones.
Now there’s a new kid on the block: Web3. I’m celebrating because this is everything I wanted to do as a marketer!
Web3 is all about a shared ownership approach, making sure that people feel that they have skin in the game and have real stakes (tokens) in the projects they like (be it a DAO, an NFT project or a social club like FwB). It’s a chance for marketers to shift away from thinking about people as passive consumers and more like fans and participants.
That’s why crypto projects grow without traditional marketing spend. Plus, if a project goes well, there is the promise of a financial upside. That’s different from the status quo; Companies reward consumers for sharing highly personal content and information with… hyper-targeted ads. We already know that 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising. We can do better.
Instead of running expensive ads on Google, Facebook and the like, the marketers of tomorrow will start building a small community of the early, truly engaged fans. Community building becomes the new marketing that can help businesses grow organically.
“[Web3] is a chance for marketers to shift away from thinking about people as passive consumers and more like fans and participants”
Of course, community-oriented marketing is not something that is popping up with Web3 — it existed way before. Some products started with a community (like influencers building an audience and launching their own cosmetic or fashion brand later on), others have a community as a product (On Deck, peanutcohort-based learning platforms like Coleap) and others have a community built around their product like Peloton and Patagonia.
So far these communities have been fragmented across channels, rewards consisted of redeemable loyalty points and communication was rather one-sided (“one to many” messaging, not much interaction between the community members etc). Web3 will radically change these community marketing approaches by creating gated access with exclusive NFTs, sending airdrops to the most engaged contributors and ambassadors, and letting them participate in the governance and in the success of the business.
Companies should seriously think about introducing a head of Web3, at least temporarily within their marketing departments. The scope would not only be to drop an NFT, open a shop in the metaverse or offer crypto payment options, but to rethink and redesign the relationship to customers by putting communities at the core.
Web3 opens a whole new world of possibilities for marketers to create, grow and reward not consumers, but communities. I’m sure we’ll also be happy to see fewer one-sided ad campaigns too.
Katia Yakovleva is cofounder at Beyond.