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How can brands use NFTs in marketing?

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How can brands use NFTs in marketing?

Brands can use NFTs to change its relationship with customers. Credit: 123RF

Editor’s note: Two years ago, the term “NFT” would have elicited a confused look from all but the most dedicated crypto or Web3 enthusiasts. Today, it is very much a part of the mainstream marketing lexicon, with everyone from Taco Bell to Tiffany jumping aboard the non-fungible token bandwagon. But in a world where The Wall Street Journal is declaring the “collapse” of the NFT market one moment and Eminem and Snoop Dogg are performing as Bored Ape characters the next, should brands be steering clear or investing in NFTs for the long-term?   In this article, I would like to discuss the new scenarios of combining NFTs with brands. There are two reasons that inspired me to write about this. Firstly, since last year, there have been multiple discussions about new scenarios regarding NFTs. Discussions were heated after the advent of the crypto assets bear market, which brought more expectations and reflections about what NFTs can be used for. Secondly, as a Web3 builder, I interact with various NFT projects and creators, and many brands have come to me for advice and solutions on NFT marketing. So I’d like to put my thoughts into one coherent article. In short, brands are aware of the possibilities of NFTs as a new marketing approach, but they lack the understanding and systematic thinking about how and why it can be done.

Over the past 10 years, the traditional marketing approach of building a strong brand to attract repeated purchases gradually stopped being universally applicable. Brands are losing their effectiveness as they are faced with a series of outstanding problems: the high cost of new acquisitions, low user retention and loyalty, low conversion rates, low activity, and low repurchase rates. These changes are largely due to the diversification of the market as consumers become smarter and more powerful in selecting brands.

The failure of old experiences has led brand owners to wonder: is it still useful to invest a lot of resources in building brand power? Along with the rise of skepticism, brands have evolved in terms of marketing approach. First, in the past, brand marketing was regarded as a separate business module, while today more emphasis is placed on the integration with the brand and the effectiveness of marketing. Second, having seen the potential of big data, more brands have become obsessed with precision marketing, emphasizing ROI. Third, whether it is livestreaming, ad placement, or other factors, consumers with more simple and direct benefit perceptions are focusing on the price instead of the brand. Fourth, as the traffic dividend disappears, brands are focusing on the continuous operation of stock customers rather than the acquisition of incremental customers.

All these new changes have left brand marketing practitioners feeling lost. The word I hear most in my conversations with marketers is “difficult”: budgets are being slashed, ROI for advertising/events is low, and bosses are more focused on actual output – all of which means internal resistance to their efforts.

Branding is still important, but it’s not as important as it used to be. As one marketer told me, “Brands need to find a new narrative to fall back on, not only to win the hearts and minds of consumers but also to win internal recognition.” It is against this backdrop that many brand practitioners are now looking to NFTs as a breakthrough in solving the brand narrative crisis.

NFTs: A combination of asset value and individual expression value

When we talk about NFTs, it’s important to find out what an NFT is. The dominant feature of NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens”, is that they are indivisible and unique, compared to other crypto assets. These days, one can use NFTs for art collections, game props, social identities, and stores of financial value.

Although many use cases consider NFTs assets, there is another advantage for NFTs from the creator economy – in the world of Web3, NFTs blow the trumpet of individual self-expression.



How do we understand this value? From Rare Pepes to Crypto Kitties, Crypto Punks to BAYC, Azuki, Doodles, Moonbirds, and MEME representatives such as mfer and Goblintown, the NFT projects using their own narratives to attract people who identify with them are creating a community to express their values, emotions, preferences, and positions to the outside world.

The world is becoming increasingly more divisive, with the regression of globalization, the rise of populism, the widened gap between the rich and the poor, the invasion of privacy brought about by the monopoly of internet giants, the intensification of regional conflicts and wars, the fierce rivalry between major powers, the impact of the pandemic, and many other factors that continue to threaten the stability of international order and the global system. In the midst of such turbulence, decentralization has become increasingly more acceptable. Individuals are more motivated to express themselves and build followings through their expressions.

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In addition, the rise of Gen Z has made self-expression even more important. Compared to their parents’ generation, young people are more independent and more willing to express their opinions and ideas. Today, on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, we see more and more young people expressing their personalities, ideas, and values through text, video, and music.

Some might say that self-expression doesn’t seem like a novelty, as it is already mainstream in the traditional creator economy. I agree with this statement; however, I think that NFTs will give people the desire and ability to express their rights more than in the past. The reason is that NFTs are an important part of Web3, and the values advocated in Web3 such as decentralization, de-trust, privacy protection, affirmation of rights, putting revenue back in the hands of creators, and respect for individual expression will all be reflected and recognized in NFTs. Whether you have an NFT avatar or create your own NFT (profile picture, music, video, etc.), you will realize that you have a unique identity – an expresser that can make your voice heard by the world and win your own users and fans.

This also convinced me of something else: just as today everyone is able to make TikTok videos and earn money that way, the threshold for NFT production and creation will be just as low, which means that everyone will have the opportunity to produce and create their own NFTs. In other words, in the future, one can be a consumer of NFTs, as well as a producer.

READ MORE: Web3 in China: Will it happen, and what form will it take?

The combination of NFTs and branding: brand as a service

After talking about the value of NFTs, it’s time to return to the central theme of this article: what are the new scenarios in which NFTs and brands can be combined? The relationship between brands and consumers is that of benefit exchange, with brands providing certain goods or services and consumers paying for what they enjoy. Once the transaction is concluded, the relationship is weakened, which is why every brand wants to strengthen its brand power to continuously maintain or enhance its relationship with consumers. But in the era of Web3, the emergence of NFTs has the potential to essentially change the relationship between brands and consumers, where the transaction is not the end of the relationship, but the beginning of it. In other words, this new approach is Brand as a Service.

How can this be done? Let me explain through a hypothetical case.

Problem to be solved: A fashion brand offers a series of 10,000 T-shirts priced at $80, and the customer gets an NFT after spending $80. How could this brand increase sales and enhance consumer loyalty through NFTs?



Possible approach:


Step 1: This brand should make its NFT a CC0 project, i.e. give up copyright and allow consumers to remix and recreate the NFT after purchasing the brand’s T-shirt. One small note: the CC0 statement only waives copyright, but no other rights are mentioned, such as trademark rights and patent rights.

Step 2: In addition to giving consumers the opportunity to create their own products, the brand could launch a community competition for recreations and let the community vote on them. For example, the top three winning designers could cooperate with the brand to sell NFTs and clothes, and the proceeds from the sales could be shared to an extent.

Step 3: Each consumer will interact with the brand and the brand can award additional NFTs with different levels of rarity according to different contribution levels (the weighting can be a certain amount of consumption + recreation activity + sales of recreation NFTs and clothes, etc.). The NFTs are programmable and the rarity will be enhanced with an increase in consumer contribution. The rarer the item, the more valuable it is to collect and distribute.

Having said that, for the above example to be realized, several prerequisites need to be in place:

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  1. An NFT creation tool with a low threshold that enables every consumer to recreate the NFT.
  2. A change in the brand’s perception: the brand needs to transition from the single interest relationship of the past to the Brand as a Service relationship.
  3. Web3 becoming more widespread among consumers.

Today, more and more brands are trying to use NFTs to connect with users. Examples include Starbucks’ upcoming coffee-themed user loyalty program, Coca-Cola’s Pride Collection NFT in collaboration with Rich Minsi, and Tiffany’s limited NFT “NFTiff”.

But in general, the combination of NFTs and brands at present is more of a marketing gimmick aimed at low-cost acquisitions and new membership, and is still essentially at the level of benefit exchange. I propose Brand as a Service in the hopes of exploring and redefining the relationship between brands and consumers via NFTs or Web3, i.e. consumers and brands are no longer corresponding subjects to each other – consumers can become designers for brands, and can also own their own sub-brands based on existing brands. Of course, this does not mean that every consumer will become a designer or own their own brand, just as we all have the ability to become an influencer, but not everyone would choose to be a TikTokker. Yet this is where Web3 is most meaningful, not only presenting the value of decentralization, de-trust, privacy protection, and empowerment but also making it more possible for the masses to have a voice and be creative (as evidenced by DAO), an opportunity that is more inclusive and open to all.

I have always believed that Web3 and Web2 cannot be two separate worlds and that Web3 should be rooted in real life and solve real-life problems. The new scenario of combining NFTs with the brand is an evolving topic and is a focus for me. I look forward to building a new way of marketing with more brand owners as Web3 gradually develops. 

Liam Wang is a Web3 builder, explorer, narrator, and independent investor with extensive experience in the Chinese capital market and the global markets. Reach out to him on Twitter @LiamWang88

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China says Biden comments likening leader Xi to a dictator ‘extremely absurd and irresponsible’

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China says Biden comments likening leader Xi to a dictator ‘extremely absurd and irresponsible’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s remarks calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “dictator” and China a country with “real economic difficulties” drew fast condemnation from China on Wednesday, cracking open a new rift just after the two countries agreed to tentative steps to stabilize the relationship.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning condemned Biden’s unusually pointed comments as “extremely absurd and irresponsible.”

The clash of words comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded a visit to Beijing on Monday that sought to break the ice in a relationship that has hit a historical low. While both sides saw those talks as productive, they did not result in any significant breakthroughs beyond an agreement to return to a broad agenda for cooperation and competition.

China’s quick response to Biden, a president known for seemingly off-script remarks that venture beyond his administration’s policies, raises questions whether his remarks would undo the limited progress that had been made in Blinken’s carefully engineered trip or whether the two sides would move on.

Biden’s characterization of China comes as the campaign for next year’s presidential election is already taking off, with Republicans accusing him of being weak on China.

Biden also was preparing to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington on Wednesday evening for a lavish state visit where a central theme will be a shared wariness of China.

Biden, at a fundraiser in California on Tuesday night, referred back to January and February’s two-week overflight of what the U.S. says was a Chinese spy balloon. The balloon’s surprise appearance over U.S. skies roiled relations and transfixed the American public.

Speaking to wealthy donors at the event for his 2024 reelection campaign, Biden depicted Xi as out-of-touch and embarrassed by the incident, which ended with the Air Force shooting down the balloon just off the East Coast.

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“The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment is he didn’t know it was there,” Biden told the crowd.

“No, I’m serious,” he added. “That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened.“

Biden also played down trade competition from China, which is the world’s second-biggest economy after the United States but struggling to emerge from COVID-era financial troubles.

“By the way, I promise you, don’t worry about China. Worry about China but don’t worry about China,” Biden said. “I really mean it. China has real economic difficulties.”

Biden’s remarks came hours after his secretary of state, in an interview with MSNBC, had called for the two countries to put the balloon incident behind them, saying it was a chapter that “should be closed.”

In Beijing on Wednesday, Mao told reporters that Biden’s remarks “go totally against facts and seriously violate diplomatic protocol, and severely infringe on China’s political dignity.”

“It is a blatant political provocation,” Mao said.

Mao also reiterated China’s version of the balloon episode, saying the balloon was for meteorological research and had been accidentally blown off course.

Administration officials signaled Wednesday that Biden had no intention of walking back his comments.

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Biden and Blinken have made clear “we will continue to responsibly manage this relationship, maintain open lines of communication with the PRC,” Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, told reporters, using an abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China.

“But that, of course, does not mean we will not be blunt and forthright about our differences,” including differences on the global competition between democracies and autocracies, Patel said.

U.S.-China tensions have mounted for years as rivalry builds over trade and global influence. Repeated flare-ups have helped escalate the tensions, including over the balloon, U.S. tariffs, sanctions on China, and self-ruled Taiwan.

The U.S. is pressing China to embrace direct communications between Biden, Xi and other senior U.S. and Chinese military and civilian leaders, as a channel to defuse tensions and keep incidents from escalating into open hostilities.

Despite the administration’s diplomatic efforts to soothe relations, analysts point to the Republican political pressure, and note Biden regularly seems to go off-script to criticize Xi.

Bonnie Glaser, Asia director of the George Marshall Fund of the United States, pointed Wednesday to Biden’s state of the union address in February, soon after the balloon flight, as Republican lawmakers in the audience heckled him over China and other issues. Waving a finger in the air, Biden cried out, “Name me a world leader who’d change places with Xi Jinping! Name me one! Name me one!”

For Biden, “he’s under a lot of criticism from the right. He doesn’t want to be seen as soft on China. He views Xi Jinping as a dictator,” Glaser said.

“And he’s not very good … at differentiating what should be said in public and what should be said in private,” Glaser said. “And the relationship pays a price for it. There’s no doubt about it.”

Xi was likely upset by the claim that he hadn’t been fully informed about the balloon incident, said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the London University School of Oriental and African Studies and a longtime observer of Chinese politics.

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“My sense is that Xi may not want to overreact and put the relationship back on ice again,” Tsang said in an email.

The initial Republican response to Biden’s remarks was approving. “It’s an appropriate description of their system of government,” Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said.

While Xi heads a country formally named the People’s Republic of China, he faces no limits on his terms as head of state, commander of the military and leader of the ruling Communist Party, which brooks no challenges to its authority.

In California, Biden had told donors that Xi “wants to have a relationship again.”

Blinken “went over there … did a good job, and it’s going to take time,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

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Macron appeals to China’s Xi to ‘bring Russia to its senses’

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Macron appeals to China’s Xi to ‘bring Russia to its senses’

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping called Thursday for peace talks over Ukraine after French President Emmanuel Macron appealed to him to “bring Russia to its senses,” but Xi gave no indication Beijing would use its leverage as Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic partner to press for a settlement.

Xi gave no sign China, which declared it had a “no limits friendship” with Moscow before last year’s invasion, had changed its stance since calling for peace talks in February.

“Peace talks should resume as soon as possible,” Xi said. He called on other governments to avoid doing anything that might “make the crisis deteriorate or even get out of control.”

Beijing, which sees Moscow as a partner in opposing U.S. domination of global affairs, has tried to appear neutral in the conflict but has given Putin diplomatic support and repeated Russian justifications for the February 2022 attack. Xi received an effusive welcome from Putin when he visited Moscow last month, giving the isolated Russian president a political boost.

The Chinese leader said “legitimate security concerns of all parties” should be considered, a reference to Moscow’s argument that it attacked Ukraine because of the eastward expansion of NATO, the U.S.-European military alliance.

During talks earlier, Macron appealed to Xi to “bring Russia to its senses and bring everyone back to the negotiating table.”

Macron pointed to Chinese support for the United Nations Charter, which calls for respect of a country’s territorial integrity. He said Putin’s announcement of plans to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus violated international agreements and commitments to Xi’s government.

“We need to find a lasting peace,” the French president said. “I believe that this is also an important issue for China.”

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Macron was accompanied to Beijing by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a show of European unity.

Von der Leyen said she encouraged Xi to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the Chinese leader “reiterated his willingness to speak when conditions and time are right.”

“I think this is a positive element,” von der Leyen said.

Von der Leyen warned China against sending military equipment to Russia, echoing a warning Wednesday by NATO’s 31 member governments of “severe consequences” for shipments of weapons or ammunition.

“Arming the aggressor is a clear violation of international law,” von der Leyen said. “This would indeed significantly harm the relationship between the European Union and China.”

China is the biggest buyer of Russian oil and gas, which helps prop up the Kremlin’s revenue in the face of Western sanctions. That increases Chinese influence, but Xi appears reluctant to jeopardize that partnership by pressuring Putin.

“China has always adhered to an objective and fair position on the issue of the Ukraine crisis,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning. “We have been an advocate of a political solution to the crisis and a promoter of peace talks.”

Also Wednesday, the French and Chinese governments announced agreements including the purchase of 160 Airbus aircraft by a Chinese leasing company and for their companies to collaborate on nuclear, solar, wind power and biofuel development.

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ITF resumes tennis in China with no word on Peng Shuai

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ITF resumes tennis in China with no word on Peng Shuai

TOKYO (AP) — The International Tennis Federation will play tournaments this year in China with no word of a resolution to the case of Chinese doubles player Peng Shuai.

Peng disappeared from public view shortly after accusing a former high-ranking Communist Party official — in a web posting in November of 2021 — of sexual assault.

The ITF, which conducts tournaments below the elite level in its World Tennis Tour, lists its first tournament in China on June 5-11 at Luzhou. The ITF’s last full season in China was 2019, prior to COVID-19.

“The ITF anticipates a resumption of tournament activity within China for each of the ITF Tours later this year,” the ITF said in a statement.

The WTA, which runs the sport’s top-tier women’s events, hasn’t announced if it will resume staging tournaments in China.

In late 2021, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon announced that the WTA would be suspending all of its tournaments — including the season-ending WTA Finals — that were held in China because of concerns over Peng, costing the tour millions.

The men’s ATP has scheduled several event for later this year in China. It canceled 2022 events because of COVID-19 restrictions in China.

Peng gave a controlled interview a year ago during the Winter Olympics in Beijing and had dinner at the event with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. She left many questions unanswered and has largely been out of public view since then.

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Simon has repeatedly called for a “formal investigation” into the allegations made by Peng, and has asked to meet privately with Peng. It’s not clear those conditions have been met.

In a statement announcing the ITF men’s and women’s tournaments returning to China, ITF President David Haggerty said the sport’s world governing body had to invest in the professional events that worked as “the main artery for the top level of the game.”

“As the global guardians of the game, we are passionate about providing a pathway for up and coming talent in all countries, and providing more opportunities for players to play closer to home,” Haggerty said, adding that the ITF was pleased to be returning to countries such as China, Burundi, Cyprus, Trinidad & Tobago and Taiwan.

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AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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