Cadbury 5-star recently opened a bank named “NothingCoin bank” at Nariman point, Mumbai. Though, the bank, seems to be structurally akin to any other bank with facilities such as loan counter, ATM, and investment schemes, but is functionally very different. NothingCoin is a new form of digital currency, popularly known as cryptocurrency, which gets mined when one is not doing anything. All that needs to be done is just buy a Cadbury 5-star, scan the QR code printed on it and chill (do nothing). The inactivity leads to mining of more of this currency which can be traded at exclusive 5-star digital malls or can be exchanged for Jio-mart vouchers.
Now, this does not only resonate well with gen Z, the major cohort of Indian society, but also further solidifies the brand message, just do nothing. By challenging the social status quo of doing something to earn, the brand creates opportunity to increase the proximity with its core target group (CTG). The gargantuan pace of evolution of technology has unleashed myriad opportunities for businesses and brands to create intimate moments of truth for its customers and thereby, establish inextricable bond between the brand and its patrons.
Blockchain technology has created umpteen scopes for the brands to interact and engage with its customers. One such avenue is creation of digital assets and products through Non-Fungible Token or NFT, which fulfills the desire of possessing a unique asset. The gratification of owning such an asset is like having a limited-edition expensive product. The value of the asset is not the asset itself, but the proof of owning it. However, unlike fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, NFTs are single unique assets like specific songs, artwork, and in-game characters. They are valuable because they can’t be copied or replicated, that makes them an excellent tool for brands to use when creating their engaging content.
We wouldn’t be able to understand the future of the internet, as we head into the Web 3.0 era without understanding digital currencies and the means of value exchange. As Elizabeth Strickler from Georgia State University says in her TED talk: The three letters that are changing digital experiences now are N.F.T.
“For a generation which lives more in the virtual world than real, NFTs provide a way to establish an identity beyond a name and digital picture”, comments Praphul Chandra in his piece written for Economic Times Brand Equity.
Today’s non-fungible token ecosystem is wide, varied, and constantly growing. Dozens of companies find novel uses for NFTs such as domain names, virtual worlds, decentralized finance, art marketplaces, crypto art museums, and NFTs for physical collectibles (Cathy Hackl, Forbes, March 2021).
Nike was one of the pioneers in the NFT space that patented shoes called CryptoKicks last year. The users could design a unique pair of shoes that will be an NFT. Nike would then recreate these shoes in the real world. However, the designer of the shoes will always own the NFT he/she designed. The co-creation opportunity coupled with sole ownership of the design took the product experience to an altogether different level for the customer. Moreover, by investing in one such asset, the customer also turns into an investor, which naturally amplifies the engagement and loyalty by multifold.
Many experts opine that if last decade of brand engagement was ruled by social media, then the coming decade will witness the dominance of digital asset-based relevance and engagement. India has more than eleven million crypto investors, which is substantially more than the number of individuals trading in one of the Country’s largest investment platforms, Zerodha. Naturally, businesses and brands are expected to be present where their customers are, and it seems that they have understood it well. The creation of cryptocurrencies and NFTs are evidence of paradigm shift taking place in branding and customer engagement beyond social media. The ever-evolving technology ecosystem is inextricably glued to the customer-brand ecosystem and can no way function in isolation. In a population with burgeoning digital literacy and digital device penetration, Cryptos and NFTs are harbingers of plethora of engagement tools that businesses and brands are going to deploy in coming time.
Dr. Mrinmoy Bhattacharjee
Associate Professor of Marketing
Alliance School of Business