Marketing in the new digital frontier: Experts weigh in on all things Web 3.0

Marketing in the new digital frontier: Experts weigh in on all things Web 3.0
By Fred Faulkner, Katie Berndt, Mike Sund, GL Hendricks, and Kelly Brentzel
Strategy Director, Loyalty and CRM
Vice President and Partner, Customer Strategy
Apr 27, 2022
7 MIN. READ
Navigating the new complex landscape of NFTs and cryptocurrency is key for brands looking to expand in the new digital frontier.
The idea of Web 3.0 brings an influx of innovation in a decentralized, permissionless landscape driven by culture. When looking around today, it seems like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the latest crypto coin dominate the conversation—but in such a landscape, where does your brand come into play?

Navigating these new, complex waters can be difficult. Our experts weigh in with insightful perspectives to guide brands through their Web 3.0 journey.

”Unlocking engagement through ownership with NFTs"

Fred Faulkner, Partner, Strategic Growth

Like many industries, the web has gone through its own evolution. Looking at each phase, Web 1.0 was “write,” meaning we began with a platform to publish on static pages. Web 2.0 introduced “read/write,” bringing in the element of interactive, connected webpages—social media being a perfect example. And now Web 3.0 introduces a new level to the equation: “ownership,” bringing new technologies like the blockchain into the mix and introducing a whole new level of identity, IP management, and transaction history never seen before.

The easiest example of this is NFTs—where you can see the creator, owner, subsequent owners, and every transaction in-between through the blockchain, acting as a public record. While the blockchain identifies the ownership, it is the smart contract capabilities that unlock the true potential and possibilities for engagement. Think of accessing concert tickets via NFTs instead of QR codes (which could be shared, screenshotted, etc.). What if you went to five concerts in a year of your favorite artist, and by attending them you received a special gift at each show by owning the NFT ticket? After a set number, you might gain access to an exclusive gift like a live recording or personalized video message from that artist. With smart contracts and blockchain, you can actually track that scenario instantaneously so it can’t be faked or manipulated.

The possibilities are endless. What if you bought an NFT for your favorite author, and that money helped fund their next book?  In essence, you become part “owner” of the book. That author could choose to share proceeds with the “owners” as a reward—creating a community around their work. Artists, brands, and individual creators can now unlock a whole new level of engagement with the combination of the blockchain, smart contracts, and the technology powering Web 3.0. Now that’s exciting.

”Loyalty will have more room to grow as Gen Z and Web 3.0 mature"

Katie Berndt, Senior Strategy Director

The future of the internet and loyalty program design belongs to Generation Z, and they are highly social, educated digital natives who recognize the power of technology and trust the digital world more than ever after experiencing the impacts of the pandemic during their formative years.

Case in point: My 12-year-old son wants to earn and display his status through NFTs—most importantly, those of Roblox and Fortnite. He is part of the vast gamer community and whether it’s by phone, tablet, laptop or gaming system, the loyalty he feels toward these brands (and the other brands they partner with) continues to grow as he outfits his avatar or collects NFTs to define how he wants to represent himself in the metaverse.

In addition to the lower-hanging fruit that is the gamer audience, there are a number of organizations devoted to getting girls and young women more engaged in the metaverse, including World of Women (WoW) whose vision is to “build an inclusive web3 through its collection and community.” There’s a shared-values, emotional-loyalty driver at the heart of this community as female artists account for just 5% of all NFT art sales. WoW aims to change that so “anyone around the world can be owners, creators, and contributors to this new era.

These communities represent different tastes in what they are looking to sell and own regarding digital art and NFT commerce. Where we go from here will be heavily influenced by Gen Z, as the metaverse feels completely natural to those immersed in the digital world from the start.

“Accelerating the need for smarter content"

GL Hendricks, Senior Partner, Integrated Communications

Web 3.0 is evolving marketing and sales activities for all companies—B2B, B2C, or B2B2C—at a pace faster than most are ready for. Brands big and small alike are dipping their toes into the metaverse, developing NFTs, learning crypto, and exploring the use of AI to elevate the user experience for their customers and employees. What might be getting lost in this sea of change is how brands are thinking about and using content more effectively to drive discovery through search and deepen their customers’ and prospects’ journey.

Content is no longer just king; content is currency in Web 3.0. And companies and brands must advance their approach and strategy to developing, distributing, and deploying content to ensure and strengthen participation from consumers. Content should be driving a brand’s presence in the new metaverse with consistent and concise messages. It should also address how consumer’s search behavior has shifted due to the emerging and changing channels they are using to engage with brands.

Creating and deploying content that returns smarter results in search is critical to success in this new frontier. Semantic search in particular is a seismic shift in content development for brands—this extension to traditional search is used to understand why a consumer, prospect, or employee is searching specific words, phrases, or questions. More importantly, it reveals how the searcher intends to use the information presented in search.

To break through the noise and differentiate themselves from competitors, brands should look to reimagine their content strategy and creative with a focus on intended usage and outcomes—determining what keywords are used consistently throughout their content, what type of content is being created, and how an omnichannel distribution approach can drive smarter and deeper action from consumers across the board.

"Web 3.0 brings innovation and direct connections, but slow adoption and barriers pose risks"

Kelly Brentzel, Senior Director, Media

Web 3.0 brings innovations in decentralized data and interactive experiences using artificial intelligence to remove real-world boundaries that exist between core users and the brands vying to reach them. Information gathered and content generated in virtual spaces (such as the metaverse) creates direct connections among individuals that remove third parties and introduce a new eCommerce platform where NFTs are business investments and cryptocurrency is king.

But widespread adoption is slow, and there are barriers and pressures associated with managing your own digital footprint and entering the crypto exchange, like knowing the difference between legitimate companies and fraudsters in the space. Until Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) are accessible to everybody and consistently understood, Web 3.0 could be a fad, a way to build clout; and the price you pay for something may be worth something to you but nothing to someone else.

It’s more important to consider the Internet of Things (IoT) across all connected technologies, as the IoT already exists, is widely used, and is a multi-trillion-dollar entity where human-centric and highly personalized interactions are currently taking place.

“Understanding your place in the NFT landscape"

Mike Sund, Partner, Customer Strategy & Loyalty

If you Google “NFTs in loyalty marketing,” you’ll find dozens of top results claiming NFTs will be “essential” or “re-energize” loyalty programs. However, discerning potential from realized results is important. It’s important to watch how NFTs evolve, but for most brands being a first mover is likely a mistake.

Understanding where your customer is and where they’re likely to go next is essential. If your target segment is younger and tech savvy, then a nod to NFTs in your marketing efforts may be worth testing. Or, if your brand has a close proximity to art, entertainment, or sports—exploring NFT options may be more worthwhile.

Additionally, NFTs are programmable and can serve multiple purposes over time as their use changes and adapts. For example, an NFT could initially be sold or awarded to serve as a loyalty program card that could then unlock different benefits triggered by the members’ behaviors. Even more, the NFT could be used in different digital environments, opening the door for customers to access benefits via your partnerships or new digital worlds that are tied to their relationship with your brand.

Having an overall understanding of where your business is and how your target audience is likely to interact with these new concepts is critical and should be the core consideration before investing in these emerging technologies.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the authors
  1. Fred Faulkner, Partner, Strategic Alliances and Analyst Relations

    Fred is an expert in strategic alliances and analyst relations with more than 15 years of experience. View bio

  2. Katie Berndt, Strategy Director, Loyalty and CRM

    Katie is an expert in improving end-to-end customer journeys with more than 15 years of experience. View bio

  3. Mike Sund, Vice President and Partner, Customer Strategy

    Michael is an expert in interactive and digital marketing with more than 15 years of experience.  View bio

  4. GL Hendricks, Senior Partner, Integrated Communications
  5. Kelly Brentzel, Director, Media

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