Web3 is a collective evolution in experiences between brands, artists, and audiences. Web3 is compelling enough to command attention but daunting enough to stall many efforts before they even start, especially for brands that are tasked with other strategies, executions, and KPIs. Those that leave little room for exploring a largely unproven capability with the potential to change the experience between brands and their audience.
Whether you are communicating with customers, partners, or your industry at large, storytelling is the primary link between a brand and its audience. Similar to the framework for Value Creation In the Metaverse, here is another rubric to help brands understand Web3 and create an informed position to develop and deliver tangible ideas with high impact in this exciting new space.
Early Web3 projects like Cryptopunks were experiments in digital ownership, and these early pioneers had an idea and wanted to test a concept. More recent projects like Star Atlas created a story, an engaging landing page with a roadmap, and focused on community building. While brands are testing the waters with small experiments, those with a thoughtful strategy, even if it changes over time, will be able to evaluate those experiments and evolve their strategy.
Looking back, we can find similar parallels with the introduction of social media. In 1997 when Six Degrees launched, or a few years later when Friendster went live, most brands didn’t think about a social media strategy. Some of the first entry points for brands were blogs, which drove a desire to build new connectivity between brand content and the target audience.
Search engine optimization became a focus for marketing teams, and in the early 2000s, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Myspace forced brands to start thinking about these as tools to connect with their audience. At this point, most marketing executives had or began to explore a social media strategy.
“While Web3 is quite different from social media, brand executives are at an equal inflection point. The most difficult part for brands is trying to take a stance on something that is being built in real-time by the entire community. Web3 will evolve as brands learn from early experiments, while creators and technologists figure out how to connect it all together,” said Jeremy Gilbertson, Metaverse Methodologist, consultant and strategist at InfiniteWorld.
A Web3 Manifesto is an evolving framework that defines a brand’s relationship with this new capability. It will:
- capture your audience’s familiarity and experience with the technology,
- inform how your current assets map to Web3,
- explore the future of connected experiences,
- develop a clear picture of success,
- evaluate building or buying instances in the Metaverse,
- and create a business-minded technological philosophy.
The results offer a forward-thinking ideation methodology rooted in divergent thinking and a decision matrix and prioritization process for executions. The Web3 Manifesto is a statement or intention of your participation in Web3, and it lives on a publicly accessible site to promote transparency, partnership, and community building.
Defining What The Metaverse Means For Your Brand
Building a nimble, interdisciplinary, internal Web3 team is the first step to exploring its potential. One requirement for membership is the ability to think beyond established constructs while tying it all back to the business. It’s easy to let the strategy or innovation team lead the effort, but marketing, product, and technology could also be valuable contributors. Gilbertson explained, “while there are many interpretations of the Metaverse, the most important definition is the one created by your team. Blanket definitions can serve as inspiration, but it’s not as simple as grabbing pieces of existing copy.”
Some companies start with their mission statements, which are the core of their brand’s ethos. A brand’s audience can also be important stakeholders in creating this definition since the success of any instance of the Metaverse the brand develops hinges on the likelihood of that audience engaging with it. The good news is that most highly-developed marketing departments have a great pulse on their audience, which can be leveraged for this research effort. This definition serves as the guiding principle for all Metaverse conversations. Second to defining the Metaverse, the team should explore which instances are the most compelling and aligned with their goals.
Build Or Buy
One of the canons of Web3 is the migration of ownership from the platform to the creator. Instead of populating platforms with your intellectual property, you now are the platform. You can control your instance of the Metaverse by building your own experiences or buying that ability from instances that already exist.
“A strategy that I’ve been advocating is a little of both. While creating your own instance, launch pop-up experiences in places like Decentraland or The Sandbox. Compelling experiences require a community of users interacting in interesting ways, and unless you have a deeply engaged community eagerly awaiting your next project, you should meet the users where they are,” said Gilbertson.
If your business is rooted in owned experiences, it may make sense to build your own world as a first step. What does that mean though? It is a presence that extends your products and community into the digital realm. Let’s consider the Atlanta Braves’ first Web3 project. They built a virtual twin of Truist Park to power synchronous and asynchronous experiences between the physical world and their instance in the Metaverse. It opens the door to a gamified world where the fans can be the player, and it creates a virtual gathering place for anything related to the Atlanta Braves. It also gives the brand ownership of the asset.
Brands that are more product-driven may not elect to invest in building a virtual world. In those cases, brands could explore instances within existing worlds like Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Somnium Space. While many currently look more like Web2 spaces with virtual world capabilities, it provides access to a Web3 audience. In an effort to meet the Web3-savvy community where they are, Warner Music Group partnered with The Sandbox to build an instance on their platform. Gilbertson said, “I like a hybrid approach of creating pop-up installations in these worlds to experiment and build community before driving traffic to your own presence in the Metaverse.”
One of the main challenges facing adoption is onboarding new users. Even with the Coinbase NFT marketplace coming online, the majority of any non-Web3 native brand’s audience doesn’t have a wallet. “Is your audience Web3 savvy? Are they Web3 curious or are they Web3 averse?” Asked Gilbertson. “It could be a spectrum of all three. By understanding this, brands can create strategies that align with their audience’s fluency in Web3, and they can be an onboarding ramp authentically through their activations.”
Instead of approaching Web3 as a money grab or to combat an instance of FOMO, why not fold an educational lens to your projects? Think about how you can engage them through traditional channels as a bridge while teaching them about security and how to avoid phishing scams. “One of my favorite ideas is building incentives into your experiences to onboard your audience into Web3. Imagine starting with one NFT giveaway with evolving utility as the audience takes steps to become an active Web3 user. The first step in the journey could be to set up a wallet, and once completed, the brand unlocks gated experiences as a reward,” said Gilbertson.
Picture Your Success
What is the desired outcome of a presence in Web3? It takes quite a bit of thought to get it right. For some, it’s profit-driven. If so, is it an extension of an existing line of business or an entirely new product? Others see an opportunity to expand their audience, deepen the connection with their existing audience, or even a way to engage with a completely new audience. Either way, the brand should state the business goals of a presence in Web3.
SHoP Architects built an immersive architecture project called Habitats. While Habitats will have an NFT collection, SHoP Architects will use their digitally native experience to turn Habitats into a larger research and development project. SHoP Architects will let holders of Habitats NFTs join the team’s research efforts and access bespoke experiences like files for 3D printing. Habitats has a dedicated Web3 team and partnered with COBA Labs, a Web3 development team.
Gilbertson said, “with Web3 being built by everyone in real-time, it can be challenging to see where it’s heading. By being specific on this internal language, brands can be confident in allocating resources to such an emergent phenomenon.” By clearly defining the desired outcome in simple terms with quantifiable data, creative teams can be free to build ground-breaking experiences tied to that picture of success.
Brand Identity Evolution
In order to participate in Web3, you have to be in Web3. Brands are already managing a number of digital assets like logos, sonic identities, websites, 3D models of products, photographs, and video content. Additionally, they connect with their audience through retail experiences and events.
While interoperability is a long-term community goal, it will take some time, but the possibilities are incredible. “Imagine a digital warehouse where brand assets live as NFTs with certain ownership and permissions that can be called by various instances of the Metaverse. Taking it a step further, what if the assets themselves had an internal capability to reformat themselves based on the desired instance,” explained Gilbertson. Capturing the current asset catalog and mapping those assets to Web3 will reduce the complexities of Metaverse activations, while authentically extending brand presence into this new realm.
Questions for brands:
- How could these assets be restructured and applied to this new method of audience engagement?
- What is the ideal interaction between these assets and a brand’s audience?
- What is the best format to facilitate these interactions?
- How will licensing these assets come into play?
A brand’s technology philosophy will establish the means of connectivity to the technical infrastructure of Web3. “Even if brands don’t want to get too far into the weeds, a high-level analysis for types of blockchains, levels of interoperability and decentralization, user security, and environmental impact is a great place to start,” said Gilbertson. For example, if one group in the organization creates an idea that serves the goals of their department but requires a technology that is difficult to integrate into the company’s overall technology stack, it may never come to life.
While some ideas will be compelling enough to dedicate resources to alleviate these complexities, other nascent ideas will be discarded before they become compelling because they are not aligned with the company’s current technical capabilities.
Moving From Ideas To Execution
Balancing constraints between creativity and strategy alignment is a critical step to authentic meaningful Web3 experiences. Once the ideas are captured, a productive approach is to transition from divergent thinking to convergent thinking to determine which ideas best serve the strategy objectively.
A product manager should identify and elevate the best functionality to exceed the expectations of your audience. Brenden Coleman, Head of Product & Senior Strategy Director for the Premier Lacrosse League, is a leader for brands exploring Web3. Coleman explains, “Web3 brings an exponential amount of new use cases, and in turn, exponential paths to take. It’s essential to fully understand the brand’s desired outcomes. These act as the brand’s north star and allow you to insert checkpoints to confirm you are headed in the right direction.”
Like any new technology, not all applications unlock hidden value or solve a problem. It’s easy to get pulled into the frenzy when other brands are making moves. Coleman continues, “Simply put, if the solution only adds incremental value or introduces more friction, it is unlikely to be adopted.”
When evaluating new product ideas, Coleman leans on established frameworks, especially those around impact and effort. According to Coleman, the increase of value or benefit to the end-user or business is the impact and effort includes what it takes to build, market, and monetize that capability. “Due to the changed ownership dynamic, Web3 disrupts that equilibrium to shift the prioritization pendulum heavily towards customer value,” Coleman said. “The success of the business is now more closely aligned with the magnitude of impact created for the end-user. Web3 solutions come with an implied level of effort due to the friction it takes to onboard a new user. The best-case scenario for a brand would be if the end-user doesn’t even realize they are interacting with Web3.”
Many brands will find success working with vendors that specialize in what they need to implement and execute as not all teams have the technical capabulities to take a strategy from ideation all the way to implementation and iteration. Make sure your brand works with a trusted partner.
Why Advisory Guilds Matter
The Web3 community’s core tenets are open collaboration and building for the collective benefit. Find your community of trusted experts, but be prepared to contribute your expertise to balance the value equation. “While leading the technology program for Georgia Tech’s Center for High Performance Computing and Simulation, I knew we needed a collection of unique perspectives to help our team bring the vision of the project to life,” said Gilbertson. “I created a Think Tank of interdisciplinary experts from all facets of the data center space to help us push the boundaries of our individual experiences and shape the vision of the desired end result”.
An external advisory guild provides valuable perspectives to help brands navigate the possibilities of Web3. The advisory guild is an extension of the core Web3 team to share ideas, test concepts, and think beyond the confines of today’s constructs.
An Evolving Strategy for an Emergent Phenomenon
The Web3 Manifesto will put brands in a position to freely ideate with partners guided by the solid framework that connects projects to the goals of the business. Similar to a traditional real estate model, brands will need to evaluate ownership in or access to these instances of the Metaverse. By truly understanding audience fluency in Web3, brands can build strategies that appeal to individuals in every phase of adoption.
Have the technology discussions and map brand assets to Web3 early to help brands execute on business-aligned ideas quickly. Gilbertson explained, “The Metaverse is an emergent phenomenon supported in many ways by Web3 technology being built by the collective community in real-time. The Manifesto is a tool that will drive meaningful and authentic activations and be shaped by experiments and evolve through shared learnings.”
A brand’s strategy will evolve and adapt as each organization charts its path toward the future state of the internet. It’s time to create holistic strategies, clear pilots, and also be ready for the new challenges and opportunities that will come in the years ahead.
This article was written in collaboration and with insight from Jeremy Gilbertson, Metaverse Methodologist at Infiniteworld.