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How to Market an NFT

Brands will have to navigate how to reach a new kind of audience in order to make their digital assets stand out.
A recent release with NFT marketplace Bitski and streetwear brand Pleasures. Courtesy.
A recent release with NFT marketplace Bitski and streetwear brand Pleasures. (Bitski)

Christine Su, co-founder and chief executive of communications and strategy firm the Lede Company, has handled marketing and communications for brands like Altuzzara and Stadium Goods. But when Su received a request from NFT marketplace Bitski to assist with the rollout of a collaboration with Adidas, it was “an education.”

Su recommended team members read articles and listen to Clubhouse conversations about NFTs and other digital assets, as the company adapted their processes for creating media assets, pitches and brand positioning for the virtual world.

“It’s very different from putting on a fashion show and … doing a seating chart,” she said.

More of Su’s clients have followed suit, and it’s expected even more will join the market next year.

On the whole, however, the intersection between fashion and the larger crypto world is still in its infancy, with traditional fashion companies and organisations just starting to experiment with NFTs. Certain brands, such as Dolce & Gabbana and The Hundreds, have seen their digital assets sell out, and JW Anderson recently saw an NFT replica of a patchwork cardigan worn by Harry Styles sell for four times the price as the actual garment.

But the main benefit of most efforts within the space has been press attention rather than taking a meaningful step to building a substantial digital asset operation, in part because marketing digital assets is a different challenge that requires speaking to a wider audience and using new systems.

“It’s just gonna be a lot of growing pains and missteps along the way,” said Chris Cantino, a partner at Color Capital, a venture capital fund focused on web3 and consumer goods, of brands releasing NFTs.

Brands will need to find a balance in converting traditional consumers to their digital-only offerings with reaching new consumers in the crypto community. Below, BoF outlines what brands looking to find their audience in the sector should consider in marketing digital products.

Getting Fashion Consumers

Like any other product release, brands debuting NFTs need to consider the target audience and expectations of the launch. So far many NFT releases, including ones from Dolce & Gabbana and Rebecca Minkoff, have largely been bought by crypto-native audiences.

Still, there’s room to grow: Fifty percent of US consumers are interested in purchasing some kind of digital asset in the next 12 months, according to The Opportunity in Digital Fashion and Avatars, a BoF Insights report.

With that, brands should aim for consistency in their marketing of both digital and physical products. A sustainable cashmere brand, for instance, may not want to enter the market with an NFT sneaker, despite their current popularity.

“You need to be authentic to the brand and authentic [to the] crypto community,” said Magdalena Kala, an angel investor for web3 ventures.

Brands can use data from their physical products to inform the creation of digital ones, selecting those that resonate with whatever demographic they hope to reach with a release. (It’s also wise to emphasise creating products for younger consumers, as they’re more open to virtual clothing.) Testing with small releases also gives brands the opportunity to experiment with formats.

“That gives them [the] confidence to understand who their target audience is a bit more and then evolve,” said Christina Chu, head of marketing at NFT marketplace Bitski.

Ahead of a launch, it’s also important to create content across social media channels that teaches hopeful buyers how to create accounts, log on to platforms and fill out payment methods. Brands should educate customer service and social media employees ahead of drops to ensure they’re able to answer questions and concerns regarding a release.

This also includes teasing the project before it launches across channels to drum up excitement, making consumers know where and when to buy it. Brands should also be wary of phishing and scammers prior to the launch, checking Discord, Twitter and other channels to make sure accounts attempting to market themselves as the official page are taken down or marked as false to consumers.

For brands hoping to expand audiences and connect further with consumers, benefits like loyalty programmes or added rewards will help convert current customers. Nearly 40 percent of US consumers indicated that pairing digital assets with some sort of physical object would make them more likely to purchase, according to BoF’s insights report.

Kala pointed to streetwear brand The Hundreds’ NFT release called “Adam Bomb Squad,” which showcased the brand’s bomb icon throughout the years. Each NFT also functioned as a social token, giving purchasers a series of perks that ranged from faster checkouts at warehouse sales to free merchandise. The brand also plans for buyers to earn royalties from future sales of The Hundreds merchandise that features the specific bomb they own.

“They actually got people to buy NFTs for the very first time because ... they reached their customer with the product that was authentic to them,” said Kala. " I’m surprised more brands haven’t gone that way.”

Reaching New Audiences

Platforms such as Dematerialised and Bitski can offer everything from digital creation contacts to marketing and strategy planning for brands entering the space, giving important data on what’s worked well for previous drops from other brands and what its individual consumer base is looking for. They also have strong channels to reach crypto-native consumers. Rebecca Minkoff’s NFT release on marketplace Dematerialised sold out in nine minutes just from the NFT site’s email list.

“All they did was send out an email to their core audience. And then it was gone,” said Minkoff. “Everything we were aiming to do message-wise in email, Instagram and social was just cancelled.”

Brands hoping to reach crypto-native audiences should create Twitter, Discord and Telegram channels prior to a release, allowing them to connect with users more directly and give them the ability to offer feedback on drops.

Discord and Twitter are “extremely important” to the crypto audience, said Chu. “Especially because it’s such a nascent industry, people have questions.”

A client of marketplace Dematerialised that released an NFT this year, for instance, didn’t have a Twitter account before launching its NFT. “They’ve moved into that channel because they want to have a long-term relationship-building experience with those crypto native consumers,” said co-founder Karinna Nobbs.

As for securing press coverage around NFT releases, Lede’s Su recommends keeping materials short and to the point. Pitches to crypto-focused news outlets should have a strong purpose that stands out from the deluge of drops. Enlisting influencers within the crypto space, which now ranges from athletes to gamers, can also help add legitimacy to a brand’s rollout.

“The reality is it’s gonna be a little bit more challenging to get the bigger placements that normally may be a little bit easier,” said Su. “It’s just becoming a more chaotic space and we just have to measure expectations appropriately.”

Brands also need to be creative with assets and imagery — high-resolution videos and 3D renderings must demonstrate the strength of the product’s design in order to appeal to consumers.

Beyond initial NFT releases, brands should think long-term about a multi-step strategy to have in place when it comes to rolling out digital assets. The market is still nascent, and it’s important to be willing to experiment and test out new strategies with each release.

“You’re going to need more than just a JPEG image,” added Su. “You have to stand out.”

Digital Fashion & Avatars Decoded

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