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NFTs, crypto, blockchain & the metaverse: what marketers need to know

Several people have asked about my involvement in crypto currencies and NFTs. Some have questioned my sanity, without saying it outright. Others are curious, but evidently mystified by the space. And some frankly don’t care. Their eyes glaze over, so I’ve quickly recognized the visual signs requiring a topic change.

The truth is, I’m involved because the only way to truly learn about something new is to play. There are marketing thought leaders who I respect, who have compelling well justified reasons why all this crypto and NFT stuff is very closely associated with marketing and what will become Web 3.0 – the next iteration of the internet. In fact, many of them have likened this time period we are in to what it was like in the mid 2000’s right before Wed 2.0 websites really took off, along with social media and later mobile apps. The big deal about blockchain as a technology is its decentralized nature, free of government or corporate business control. Likewise, NFTs allow ownership of unique digital assets like art and music, but really anything that could be coded digitally within a smart contract could be an NFT. Event tickets, fractional real estate ownership, the possibilities are endless. For the NFT creators though, the cool thing is the ability to generate income not only through initial sales, but subsequent sales as retained royalties set out in the smart contract, and of course the ability to nurture a community directly without the need for a middle man, such as an art gallery, a record label, or other traditional distributor. The creativity of the utility, or benefits, unlocked with the NFT ownership is also endless – conferences, back stage access, exclusive meet ups to name a few ideas. NFTs really put the power back in the hands of creators. And blockchain as a technology, makes it all possible without being hostage to centralized powers like current social media platforms on Web 2.0

It’s still early stages

The space is of course in the early stages. I suspect we’ll regard right now akin to dial up internet, when viewed in the rearview mirror of history, with the complex user experiences, inaccessible IT terms and language, and general challenges to understand and conceptualize. But that is also what makes it fascinating. And make no mistake, while it may be in the initial phase of development, things are moving extremely quickly!

I first immersed myself in the space in the fall of 2021 reading articles, blogs and hearing conversations about crypto creep into Clubhouse and a few podcasts. By November I had signed up for an online course with UC Berkley to learn about blockchain. I immediately realized I was in over my head with a bunch of IT guys and engineers geaking out in the class chat. It was hardly fluffy content, but once there I was determined to emerge with the badge, if for no other reason than to display on my LinkedIn profile, as a souvenir of survival tactics and academic grit. I plowed through the 6 weeks of content in 4 weeks with determination. While the course was way more detail about the blockchain history and mechanics than was needed, it did give me a solid understanding of how the space emerged, and how it functions today. From there, I continued to read, sign up and listen to podcasts, join Twitter Spaces live conversations, dapple in Discord, and in general strive for enough knowledge to ask further detailed questions.

Setting up a crypto account

By January I had invested at least 50hrs before jumping in to set up a Coinbase account, link it to my PayPal and bank account, and hook up a Coinbase hot wallet (some people use Metamask) on my mobile and linked back to the Coinbase account. I put some money into Bitcoin and Ethereum online currencies, and later figured out how to transfer funds to my hot wallet, from which purchases of NFT’s can be made. Meanwhile, I set up an OpenSea account, which is essentially a dashboard to buy/sell NFTs and display them along with your profile.

Buying my first NFT

From there I ventured into learning more about NFTs, various projects, what was listed and how to buy them. Along the way I demystified terms like minting, gas fees, ETH, WETH (wrapped ETH), alternative chains like Polygon, getting whitelisted for project launches, as well as a whole lot about possible scams and things to avoid. It’s still a daunting space, rife with language which at times feel foreign, and a bit of a bro-culture male dominated vibe. It’s also still a wild west, since anywhere where there’s money to be made and few real rules as of yet, is bound to attract some bad actors.

For those afraid for my sanity, or fearful of loss, I can assure you there has been no money put in which I wouldn’t be prepared to lose. I do however fear for some of the younger folks I’ve met in the space. While the potential for easy gains is real, in an assumed to be forever increasing value index, it is not a place to play with next month’s rent money.

What have I invested in, and why?

I’ve bought NFTs from with two main purposes: to invest in an artist, and to invest in a community behind a project. Ideally the NFT has both. When I felt strongly about a project or an artist, I’ve tried to buy at least two NFTs, so I have the potential to sell one at a profit, while maintaining the access to the community with the other, should the market drive the project up in value. Bored Apes and Vee Friends are a couple notable projects, having made headlines with values of some NFTs in the thousands and millions. I don’t own either of these, but I now know ordinary people who do. It was all about timing.

The artist

Collecting art appeals to a different, often more moneyed, often mature audience. Art NFTs are really no different than numbered prints, using old lithograph language, or single originals. But the cool thing with art NFTs is proof of ownership over time, the ability to reproduce for your own benefit as a hard copy if you choose, or to hold it in a digital space, accessible to look at and share with others at any time. The artist too benefits from royalties forever when an NFT art piece is re-sold in a secondary market. And the beautiful thing is that this happens directly between the artist creator and the buyer/investor, outside of traditional distribution businesses like galleries and auction houses, who traditionally take a huge cut.

One artist I invested in is Ulysses Gonzales, also known as Ugonzo. He’s a psychedelic artist from Portland, OR and the first artist to have NFTs featured on Crypto.com with the launch of 10K psycho kitties, making history when they sold out. But long before NFTs were a thing, Ugonzo was an artist. His story is compelling. He’s an immigrant, raised by a single Mom, who always encouraged his passion for art – initially copying famous paintings from Van Gogh and Dali, before taking it to the next level with his own unique style. He works in many different mediums – water color, cartoon ink, acrylic and oil. His work spans graphic and digital art, logos, posters and commercial art in addition to original canvas pieces. Watching him paint a large canvas in swaths and layers while revealing the story that will emerge from it, is mesmerizing. Along the way he’s caught the attention of people like Joe Rogan who owns his work, and whom he painted into a brick mural in Chicago wearing a space suit and being sucked up by aliens. That multi-story scaffolded project was applied with aerosol cans, graffiti style.  The guy is flat out cool. His art is crazy. And he loves his Mother. What more is there to say? Check him out on Instagram @ugonzo_art Check out his website HERE,  and be sure to watch the 10 minute YouTube video telling his story.

I bought a couple NFTs from Ugonzo’s Martian Cat series – #1, and #9888. I bought #1 since it is a one of a kind, the first issue of the series, is signed by the artist, and the cat is smoking ETH wearing a hat with “freak” on it. Call me crazy, but if you’re in, you’re all in with #1.  I bought #9888 just so I’d still have part of the series if I ever sold the first one. Not before I have it printed and signed again in person when visiting him at his studio in Portland though! I own a couple other Merry Bulls #98 and #127 simply because they were reasonable priced entry level NFTs, and they are an extension of Ugonzo’s crazy psycho style. What’s not to like about a cartoon bull vacuuming up coins and cash with his nose? If the whole NFT space crumbles, this symbol of the bull market value on a rage, will be all the comic relief I need to justify the purchase.

It also needs to be noted that Ugonzo actively nurtures and communicates with his community online, primarily through Twitter and Discord, but also Instagram. Not all artists make themselves accessible, nor want to. Many others don’t understand social media and online digital to build their brand and reach. Ugonzo is unique in that he is an artist first, but also a community builder that understands that he is building his brand as a business.

The community

The other NFT project I invested in was Fame Lady Squad. I hold Fame Lady #554. Unique in that she has one blue eye and one red, and she is early in the series of 8,888. Rare is where it is at with generative art projects, which is what Fame Lady Squad was. But it’s the story behind the project and the community that now exists around it that convinced me it was a good bet. Fame Lady Squad was originally launched in July 2021 as the first generative female avatar NFT project. On August 10th, amidst a historic community uprising after it was discovered that the those behind the “all female project” were actually Russian guys, the project was taken over by key community members and became one of the first (and maybe most infamous) community-run collectibles projects. The community now exists to provide opportunities and support to women of all backgrounds in the crypto/NFT space. They have a mission, and the NFTs are widely held, meaning there aren’t large batches owned by a single investor, another good sign, and they’ve increased successively in sale value over time.

While the story is compelling, it’s the community now united behind the goal of educating women in this space that really caught my eye. That was something which I had observed was missing terribly in the bro-culture blockchain universe, and it’s something I could get behind. The fact that the project had maintained its exclusivity and rising value based on only a limited edition of 8,888 NFTs being issued, was also compelling. The fact that 8888 represents symbols of infinity and power to women was also very appealing. The gals behind it, Ashley Smith @iamboredbecky and Danielle @NFTignition are a great mix of sales/business/publicity/social media savvy and IT/tech backgrounds respectively. They’re well-spoken and driven. Ashley is Canadian, Danielle American. And it doesn’t hurt that Ashley Smith had already established herself as a successful business woman in my hometown Vancouver. As a realtor, and President and Board Chair of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, she was the recipient of Business in Vancouver’s 40 Under 40 for entrepreneurship in 2020. Since buying my FLS NFT, I’ve joined Twitter Spaces live chats, learned a ton more about crypto with the community, and felt comfortable asking “dumb questions” which were embraced and answered with knowledge and a measure of business maturity I had yet to encounter in other communities. Of course the fact that I was likely the oldest person in the room, and one of the only people to not have changed my Twitter image to my FLS avatar was likely amusing. But it was understood when I explained that 95% of my other business connections on Twitter would be confused if I suddenly sported a characterized avatar. As projects go, this one has a solid community behind it, and a roadmap plan for success. They launched their podcast late last year, following a shared keynote at NFT.NYC a huge New York conference for the industry in the fall, and they’re just getting started in the creator space of NFTs and Web 3.0 My only regret in the future may well be that I currently only hold one FLS.

Three reasons I’ve invested in NFTs

  1. To learn. The only way to truly learn is to play in the place and invest.
  2.  Invest in true artists to support their work, but also to hold for future value.
  3. To invest in an NFT project with a strong community, story and purpose that I respect and believe in. The net result of that being increased future value.

Creator coins & communities

There’s other cool stuff happening in the creator and crypto space too. I follow a couple marketing writers, Joe Pulizzi and Mark Schaefer who hold their own creator coin on Rally.io, a dashboard network to build communities through creator crypto currencies. They are both playing in the space, and I hold their coins (Tilt coin, and Rise coin) respectively, converting Rally coin shares each week, or being issued additional coin rewards for being loyal. In turn, these guys are using their coins as currency to access special features, products or events. And sometimes it’s just to nurture their community. For example, Mark Schaefer will be hosting a lunch at a small restaurant in San Diego during Social Media Marketing World this March, just for those who hold his Rise coin. I’ve been invited. It’s like an exclusive club.

I can guarantee you NOBODY knows for certain where all of this is headed. Crypto, blockchain and NFTs will no doubt play a role in the metaverse. But even that is still a space in the ether, so obtuse that most people directly connected to its development can’t yet clearly articulate exactly what it will look like. And that’s because it’s still being built. Frankly conceptualized. But those in early will stake a claim, learn by doing, and understand better than most how all the dots will eventually connect.

Exciting? You bet.

No I’m not crazy being involved in crypto, NFTs and blockchain. I’m just curious. That’s what marketers need to do to remain relevant and valuable in their niche.

Resources

These are a couple podcasts and episodes which I’d recommend if you’re curious to learn more.

Crypto Business, with Michael Stelzner from Social Media Marketing World This podcast is relatively new, so if you can listen to the first five episodes

  1. Why should businesses care about crypto?
  2. Is crypto the future of business?
  3. Why decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) matter
  4. Why NFTs for business: what you need to know
  5. Creating NFTs: how to get started

 

From the Blockchain, with Fame Lady Squad community leaders Ashley Smith and Danielle This podcast is also relatively new, and it’s worthy of your time to listen to the first several podcasts filmed live from NYC at the NFT conference, but I would recommend the following episodes in particular

  1. Cover the NFT basics with Ashley “Bored Becky” and Danielle “NFT Ignition”
  2. Security and fraud prevention 101
  3. Web 3.0 is the future of branding with Peg Samuel
  4. Real estate and NFTs with Phil Yarushi

 

NFT Now Podcast, with Mike and Alejandro These guys have been around for a while. Now 46 episodes deep, browse and pick by interest, but two episodes which will compliment and expand your learning based on the above, would be the following.

  1. Coinbase NFTs Product VP on taking NFTs mainstream
  2. Latasha on what it means to be a music artist in Web 3.0
  3. Top NFT collector Deeze on tactics to building blockchain wealth

 

Plus anything by Gary Vaynerchuck (Gary Vee). Scan social media, sign up for his newsletter, subscribe to his YouTube channel and podcast called The Gary Vee Audio Experience. He talks about a lot of different stuff related to entrepreneurship, life, purpose and all things digital. His language is gruff, and some may find him offensive. But he’s a straight shooter, and has an uncanny ability to read society and trends. Having followed him for a while, he has an impressive track record in this area to date. Gary is all over NFT’s right now. You’ll bump up against his thoughts about it pretty quickly once you follow him on a couple channels!

Mary Charleson

Comments

  1. Hi Mary

    I needed this! Straight forward explanation of such a complex subject. As an artist I find it confusing and compelling.
    I am sharing this with a lot of friends cause we all need your help!

    • Thanks Jane, much appreciated! Glad to hear you found the information valuable. For sure – share far and wide with your artist community : )

  2. Wow,Mary thank you for the research. As a laggard, I appreciate the information, much needed before I activate. You have inspired me to dive in and explore. Well researched, well written, and much appreciated

    • Thanks for the note Andrea. Glad you found the post inspiring and useful. It’s a crazy world out there in Web 3.0 land, and it can be a challenge to keep up. Just doing what I do to help clients and others out in navigating it all. All the best as you take the plunge!

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