The Empire State of NFTs - Musings from NFT.NYC

July 28, 2022

The mainstreaming of NFTs appears to have reached a fever pitch if the sheer prevalence of them across the streets of Manhattan last month is any indicator.

From June 20 to 23, NFT.NYC descended on the city, and it’s fair to say that the event made an impact far beyond the walls of the various venues used to host keynotes and panel discussions.

This is an event that one NFT enthusiast previously told the New York Times was comparable to Woodstock, which should provide some insights into its perceived cultural importance in capturing public hearts and minds when it comes to NFT adoption.

NFTs Capture the Imagination in New York

This year, NFT advertisements dominated the billboards of Times Square, NFT “statues” were dotted around the city, and partygoers danced in the rain at a decentralized dance party and parade. From no-nonsense locals to wide-eyed tourists, for four days, NFT.NYC put NFTs front and centre in the city.

Celebrities were also out in force. Model and fashion influencer Natalie Lim Suarez was in attendance at one afterparty where Wu-Tang Clan and Nas were performing. Bored Ape devotees Eminem and Snoop Dogg also premiered a music video featuring their BAYC avatars at the members-only Apefest party.

One of the most significant events of the week was a private Web3 event held by Vogue Business which I popped along to. The most influential figure in Fashion, Anna Wintour, appeared during the cocktail hour with many suggesting that her presence was a subtle nod to the direction of travel for fashion into Web3. It has been fascinating to see how the luxury sector has embraced the potential of Web3. So far, outside digital art and gaming, high-end and luxury fashion is one of the sectors that’s truly embraced NFTs, and not in a hype-driven way.

Indeed, it’s true that many brands began their foray into NFTs around the same time that the 2021 craze was kicking off in earnest, including Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Diesel, to name a few. But even the recent market downturn hasn’t dampened enthusiasm among fashion execs, with Elle magazine recently reporting on how brands are continuing to harness the power of NFTs even amid a sell-off, thanks to their utility in building communities.

It’s hardly surprising that major news outlets like Vogue Business now feel compelled to cover the developments in the sector. Because, for all the chatter that NFTs represent a great opportunity for brands, many of them still seem to struggle to deliver really creative new ways to incorporate NFTs into their marketing and engagement strategies. Without this creativity and innovation, there’s a risk that customers become bored with copy-paste NFT collections that only differ by branding.

In such a scenario, even the most revered brands would struggle to stand out. Furthermore, if everyone is doing the same thing, the added value becomes seriously limited. Sure, hardcore loyal fans of a brand might be willing to buy the latest NFT drop simply for their collection, but if a brand is hoping to reach new, younger consumers, a formulaic approach could end up being more of a risk than trying something new and seemingly radical.

The Metaverse – A New Frontier of Creativity

Rather than simply considering NFTs for their current utility as art or loyalty tokens, the brands that will get the most out of NFTs will begin to consider their wider application in the metaverse and push the boundaries of creativity – whether that’s in games, e-commerce, or social platforms. Brands also need to consider how any initiative ties into its established business goals.

Some of the most successful initiatives to date have been partnerships or crossovers – for example, Balenciaga’s collection with Fortnite, appealing to a ready-made audience of young gamers who might never otherwise have come across the brand. Nike’s acquisition of virtual sneaker platform RTFKT similarly brings on board a ready-made stable of talent in a field that a brick-and-mortar business may otherwise struggle to grasp at speed.

The sheer exuberance and energy of NFT.NYC was an uplifting experience for those of us who’ve long advocated for adoption. However, as the digital metaverse begins to embed into mainstream consciousness, brands will find themselves with many more creative opportunities to stand out. The question is, which brands will be brave enough to become trailblazers?

By Seán Pattwell
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