Earlier this month, another brand jumped on the NFT bandwagon. This time, it’s skincare and beauty brand Clinique which launched its very first limited edition NFT drop entitled MetaOptimist, giving three lucky consumers the chance to own digital representations of its iconic products. If it sounds like every other foray a brand has made into NFTs as of late, think again.
We’ll unpack more about MetaOptimist further down, but the point is this: Fads will come and go, and brands aren’t wrong to capitalise on them. In fact, when done well, leveraging a trend — whether it’s sassy tweets on Twitter or viral TikTok videos — can go a long way in engaging new customer segments across different channels. The point is brands have to do it well, and when it comes to NFTs, here’s how.
Yes, NFTs are digital collectibles, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everything needs to be a digital collectible. Consider what makes sense for your customers and what they value most.
Going back to Clinique’s MetaOptimist, unlike other brands that have looked to NFTs as a cash grab, Clinique has leveraged the emerging digital asset in another way — as a form of community engagement, all while keeping to its brand promise. Its Smart Reward members were given the chance to receive the NFTs so long as they could share their personal stories that answered the question, "How do you bring hope and optimism to the people around you, and who brings a smile to your face?". Three lucky reward programme members would also get early access to a much-coveted, out-of-stock physical product and the opportunity to receive Clinique products once a year for the next decade.
If we look at MetaOptimist as a case study, it’s worth noting that the concept is, well, very much on-brand for a brand like Clinique that has long pioneered an approach to beauty that rests with authenticity rather than artifice. The point isn’t to get its customers to buy the NFT, but rather the chance to win it, all by engaging with the brand and the community that already exists around it in such a way that’s genuine and natural to them. Given skincare aficionados comprise the brand’s users, a running decade-long giveaway of products is also befitting to their priorities.
With its unique, community-based approach, Clinique has excelled in staying true to its values, enabling this consumer engagement and marketing initiative to excel and resonate.
Stand for something
Another great example of NFTs at their best can be found in newsgroup South China Morning Post’s ARTIFACTproject. ARTIFACT sees SCMP becoming the first Asian news organisation to pioneer a blockchain standard to chronicle historical and archival items on an immutable, distributed ledger. With Artifact, anyone can own and trade an NFT representing historical moments, captured across print and photography, by generations of journalists since 1903.
In a time where the provenance of news reporting and notions of ‘truth’ have been challenged, ARTIFACT is a meaningful example of how brands can leverage the NFT medium to make a statement and stand for something. SCMP has also partnered with The Sandbox, a blockchain-based game-making platform, to build educational video games that will allow players to interact with ARTIFACTs in its own virtual world — a metaverse, so to speak — to celebrate SCMP’s history of reporting but also the many cultural milestones it has chronicled to date. ARTIFACT is an incredibly relevant work that transcends the realm of marketing and brand engagement but cuts deeply into the role that news organisations play in chronicling history. For an industry that has gradually witnessed its demise with the rise of digital, ARTIFACT helps to celebrate the value of the past, by bringing it into the future.
Impart actual value
Though not a brand per se, the music industry is one such example where the benefits of NFTs are diverse and far-reaching. In a sector dominated by gatekeepers consisting of streaming platforms and record labels that continue to take a cut of a musician’s profits, NFTs have a boon in democratising the monetisation playing field. Simultaneously, they also provide a legitimate pathway to engaging fans in a novel way.
American rock band Kings of Leon, for one, was the very first band in the world to launch one of their albums as an NFT as part of a collection of three tokens, each with different perks for fans. From exclusive audiovisual art to a special album package, and even a lifetime guarantee of front-row seats — these “fan tokens” show how such assets can be customised to appeal to different tiers of fans, depending on their interest and devotion to a given band. Designed as a smart contract, the “golden ticket” tier which includes concert perks, also consists of a VIP experience for the holder, including a personal driver, the chance to spend time with the band before the show, exclusive lounge access, and merchandise.
Though an ‘extreme example’, Kings of Leon’s NFT collection goes to show the extent to which these assets are programmable and can be personalised, pointing to the possibility of an increasingly competitive landscape of fan and loyalty tokens that brands, musicians, and content creators across the board can capitalise on to better engage with their audiences.
A vibrant ecosystem
The NFT landscape is still very much in its infancy, and emerging developments are underway — whether in terms of enhancing the user experience roadblocks that continue to pervade the space or the concerns (rightfully) expressed around the sustainability of its use. With the metaverse sprawling to new heights, the virtual landscape will be more important than ever and brands can’t afford to miss out on the opportunity, so long as they manage to do it right.
Gowthaman Ragothaman is the chief executive officer at Aqilliz