How Non-Fungible Tokens May Affect Branding.

Eventually, the world will succumb to everything digital. At this rate, we’re putting our bets on society’s dynamics shifting at a rapid pace as opposed to the transition from dial-up to commercial broadband in the 90’s. 

We are moving fast. 

So fast, in fact, that if brands choose to standardise their process rather than adapt, we’re looking at a higher phase-out rate for anyone who wants to cycle the same processes.

But ‘where does cryptocurrency fit into this picture?’, you ask. To put it simply; NFT’s are a unit of data stored on a digital ledger called a blockchain, certifying a digital asset to be unique and not interchangeable. They’re a new-aged era of cryptocurrency. A branch off it, but not exactly crypto. Unlike cryptocurrency and fungible tokens, non-fungible tokens cannot be traded or exchanged at equivalency. It’s not 5x $1 notes in exchange for a 1x $5 note per say, rather an original painting of the Mona Lisa with a photocopied version, or a 1999 Holographic Charizard with a 2002 Blue-eyes White Dragon. Both are not equivalent to the same value and therefore require unique identifiers to them. 

Remember these bad boys? 1999 Holographic Charizard (1st Edition) and 2002 Blue-eyes white Dragon (1st Edition). 
Images: psacard.com

So, what is NFT?

To make it more clear, they’re not like bitcoins. Bitcoins are ‘fungible’ – you can trade one bitcoin for another. These cryptographic tokens have an identification code attached to them that help distinguish them from other NFTs. They cannot be replicated, they represent real-world tangible assets, and they reduce the chances of fraud within the trade market. Your sole ownership status on an item you claim with NFT makes it fraud-proof. That is, if you can afford to crypto your way into that sphere in the first place – because NFTs ain’t cheap.

It’s like buying a Tesla produced and made by Elon Musk himself – except you’ve personally received a certificate signifying to doubters that your vehicle is the real deal. The only issue with this tangible method is that some shady person could counterfeit that certificate when they purchase a regular Tesla, and then we’ll all be playing the game of who is Andy’s Buzz Lightyear. 

The point is; any kid could buy a Buzz Lightyear, but not all Buzz Lightyear’s have Andy’s name under their boot. Here’s the thing – Buzz becomes the original collectible once Andy’s name is written on it, and that imprint would technically be an NFT if Andy’s name was unreplicable. He is now the only space figurine to be of high value. NFT’s will essentially allow society to demolish fraud within the industry of trade, leaving less room for credibility checks since it acts as a digital certificate of authenticity. Because, you know, you’ll be the only one with a non-fungible token on your asset, and no one else could prove otherwise. 

It’s crazy out there right now. Tweets are selling for money, someone just cashed in $69mil on a digital art piece, and Takashi Murakami has just joined the NFT chat himself. However, some of us are still scratching our heads over this phenomenon and how it might affect us in the years to come.

Beeple’s collage, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, sold at Christie’s. Image: Beeple

Reminiscing the era of dial-up, we didn’t have much on our plate to worry about. At the time when 4chan and Tumblr made its way through the cracks during the transition (a more exposé use of the internet), artists were just grasping the idea of social media and how they could best showcase their work – or if they could even showcase them at all (truly humble beginnings). Nobody was predicting the erratic nature that would become of artists now trying to stop people from not citing the original creator. And yet, 2021 is seeing us propelling our best foot forward with the potential of slapping an NFT on it to ensure others will think twice before resharing our work and not providing credit where credit is due. 

Social media platforms have been the biggest culprits in advocating for artistry displays while killing the process of authenticity because the Internet of Things is still so nonlinear and unstable. These cryptographic certificates could potentially be rallying for spaces online to start recognising artists for their original work. Perhaps creators can have a footing to stand on when the rug is pulled from underneath them for every screenshot and regram that fails to credit. NFTs could possibly fix a difficult problem for digital creators on the internet that’s been lingering for a while now: how to make their creation scarce and therefore, more valuable. Placing NFTs on online digital assets like these can enhance perceived value, or better, create an insurgence of hype over its exclusivity. 

Our industry will most likely get a good whiff of NFT’s if they become a predominant strategic implementation in branding. Any designers out there reading this right now? We’re looking at you. This is where we’ve been sitting on the scale of branding in the last 10 years. The more social media platforms are creating space for designers, the more this space is becoming an uncontrollable force of unwavering uncertainty when it comes to authenticity. Especially when it dwindles down to qualitative measures within an agency perspective. Over the years, the number of creative startups and branding businesses have risen insurmountably, which in hindsight, has provided many small business clients a fair-go next to the big guys. But in saying this, there’s also been an increase of self-taught marketing gurus which have led to a serious case of decreased industry value.

The birth of NFTs comes from a push-pull effect, whereby the introduction of new technology is meant to uphold or neutralise another – creating balance. Technology has increased value in so many ways for designers, yet it’s simultaneously given leeway to shortcut platforms that send the wrong message to potential clients. These platforms are saying: ‘Hey you can overrule a Graphic Designer by using this downloadable tool! Now anyone can get design at an affordable price’. Businesses understand they need branding, but some don’t see the value of investing in it; and it’s because in 2021, creatives are still undervalued. Can an NFT slowly increase agency value again after some time? Is there a slight possibility these tokens can help our industry with streamlining processes such as; determining value-output through being a certified agency? Much like getting your CA as an accountant can further prove your professional stance? NFTs might just be the ultimate solution for designers and marketers to claim back ownership for the field that they’re qualified in. Not side-hustlers. Not multi-level marketers. And certainly not template enthusiasts. 

For the first time in a while, it seems promising. Finally we have a solid bar to lean on if this is where the future of these non-fungible tokens are heading. For however long we have it good for – before it becomes a hindrance – we’ll sit idly on the hopes that this is a solution for clients to stop undermining the value of our industry and trust that design is a comprehensive and strenuous process.  

That being said, with the ever-increasing fraudulent activity on the internet and the amount of false claims in certain professional fields, NFTs may just be that trigger for creators to hold onto whatever small shred of originality there is left in this intensifying digital age. 

Or…is it all just a pervasive online bubble awaiting its demise?