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As one of a few brands to buck a downturn in the markets for nonfungible tokens (NFTs) late last year, Reddit has proven it can sell its collectible avatars to a consumer base—despite them growing somewhat disenchanted with digital tokens overall.
Speaking at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in New York this week, Reddit head of global client solutions Neal Hubman discussed how the forum site was able to make the Collectible Avatars project a success by making sure that cryptocurrency jargon took a backseat to the actual utility of the collectibles.
Reddit users have minted more than 5 million of its unique collectible avatars to date in partnership with the Polygon blockchain.
While many of the initial wave of NFT projects in 2021 used buzzword-heavy marketing to play up connections to what was then a hot new trend—the cryprocurrency-adjacent technologies of Web3—brands have sought more accessible language as that terminology has come to be associated with debacles like FTX’s collapse in the minds of consumers.
Hubman said Reddit deliberately tried to keep most of the potentially alienating in-group language behind the scenes and instead billed the tokens simply as “online collectibles.”
“The consumer doesn’t care about [jargon],” Hubman said. “The industry will continue to evolve and make it easier to onboard to Web3 whether they know it or not. I’d just like to encourage everyone to remove the jargon and speak like a normal human or brand, and you’ll be a lot more accessible and approachable.”
One of the biggest challenges in creating NFTs or other Web3-related projects is doing so in a way that fits naturally into an existing community of users and fans, according to Hubman. Reddit had an advantage in having already spent a good amount of time assessing the preferences and sensibilities of the millions of users who make up the site’s communities.
“Brands who engage in those communities need to ask how they are going to add value. It’s not a one-way message,” Hubman said. “So we do really think about that approachability in order to be accepted in the community, and you can build trust once you’re accepted. That’s just the lens we’ve looked at for a long time with Reddit.”
R/GA global chief creative officer Tiffany Rolfe, who also spoke on the panel, said the recent troubles facing crypto markets have prompted the agency’s clients to take a step back and think more about long-term strategy rather than rushing novelty projects out of the gate.
“Last year, there was a lot of urgency around it, like, ‘Let’s do an NFT right now’ or ‘What metaverse are we building?’” Rolfe said. “I actually think now we’re having just more strategic conversations, really figuring out the right way to approach it.”
Brands that have a large contingent of early adopters among their customer base or an image associated with innovation are still pushing forward with NFTs and other Web3 projects, while other clients are thinking more strategically about whether this tech is right for them, Rolfe said.
“Every brand is different. Some want the publicity of being an innovator, of being there first, and their audience really needs that and that’s who they’re connecting with,” she said. “And then others are taking a more strategic approach. And we’re working with them to figure out what the right way forward is.”
While Web3 technology has had its share of troubles in the past several months between FTX’s collapse, plummeting NFT sales and investors souring on Meta’s vision for the metaverse, Hubman said brands that succeed with these tools going forward will focus on core business cases rather than the more speculative side of the space.
“There’s actual business use cases that are at the core of this thing,” Hubman said. “You don’t have to jump into your own branded NFT but think about the utility behind them and what that value would be that you couldn’t have done otherwise.”