Forget what you think you already know about marketing. Unlike in web2, marketing in web3 is like navigating uncharted waters. It requires a new mindset, a different set of tools, and a willingness to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. In a world where data and power are distributed among people, the role of marketers is no longer to control the message but to facilitate the conversation.
Marketing has continued to evolve with the Internet. In its second iteration, web2, the internet became more interactive, and marketing moved away from just running ads on magazines or billboards to becoming more user-centric, targeted and tailored. The proliferation of social media allowed for the democratisation of value creation. Leveraging social media platforms, individuals and groups can create and share content, ideas, and information more quickly and widely than ever before. For example, user-generated content platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok; crowdsourced fundraising platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter; or online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon Handmade have all led to a shift in power away from traditional gatekeepers, such as media companies and publishers, and towards the general public.
However, the top-down structure of web2 led to the centralisation of value distribution. Google controls a large portion of the online advertising market and is the most widely used search engine; Facebook controls a significant portion of the social networking market; Amazon controls a large portion of the e-commerce market; Apple controls a large portion of the mobile market and the distribution of digital content through its app store. These companies have amassed significant power and control over value distribution within the digital economy. They can shape the online experience for billions of people around the world.
With the transition from web2 to web3, a decentralised internet of value is altering how we conceive and approach marketing. The underpinning for the evolution of web3 is trust and authenticity. Hence, traditional hierarchies of information are being dismantled. From NFTs to Metaverse economies to AI models, a new world of possibilities has opened up for businesses and marketers alike. With new tools available, various approaches and marketing strategies are required to reach and engage users. This 3-part article takes a deep dive into what marketing in web3 entails. Part A touches on the ideology of marketing, the difference between web2 and web3 marketing ideologies and the role of storytelling in marketing. In Part B, we explore web3 marketing strategies for racking up market share and what the AI revolution means for marketing in web3. Finally, Part C touches on branding and corporate marketing.
Watch this space!
What is marketing really?
For many, this question is quickly answered by pointing at formulaic marketing strategies that every marketer is familiar with. Hire a PR firm, polish your website, create great logo designs with cool fonts and colours, publish blog posts, run social media promotions, etc. While these are helpful elements to facilitate the propagation of a project's message or vision, they cannot be considered marketing. This is because the whole idea of marketing goes beyond carrying out a series of sales stunts or product packaging in isolation.
In web3, marketing is often seen as the shilling and pumping of project tokens—a culture driven by memes and excitement. Unfortunately, most CXOs subscribe to this line of reasoning and often don't give much thought to crafting marketing strategies specific to their projects. As a result, marketers and CMOs are often faced with situations where they are left with little to no marketing budget yet expected to deliver maximum marketing value by towing the course of the accepted practice in the space. But marketing is not about doing things randomly and executing the best turnout. That is just wishful thinking.
Marketing is a well-crafted and articulated systematic process aimed at influencing the choices and behaviour of a prospective user. It is a journey that starts with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Next, a prototype is built and tested to gather data and feedback on usage, gauging acceptance. A series of iterations follow this, then the deployment of incentives like token-based programs in web3 and various strategies to grow the user base and market share.
Web3 is not Web2 - Your thinking is wrong!
A common mistake most marketers entering the web3 space make is that they try to port web2 marketing strategies into web3 blindly. In online or digital marketing, businesses leverage digital channels such as search engines, social media, email, and websites to connect and engage with current and potential users. Digital marketing in web2 can take various forms, such as social media marketing, search engine marketing, content marketing, email marketing etc. These marketing strategies are top-down and largely dependent on deep data gathering and analysis. And while there are some similarities in web2 and web3 marketing approaches, web3 has allowable boundaries and more creative ways for businesses to reach target users. In addition, web3 allows for the emergence of new markets and opportunities. For example, the Metaverse provides a new and parallel market for brands, requiring new marketing tools and strategies to explore.
With web3, it is not marketing as usual. Web3 is a decentralised internet that uses tokenisation technologies to merge physical and digital economies. Unlike in web2, web3 marketing takes the bottom-up approach because it is creator and community-centric. Hence, marketers in web3 must derive effective strategies for community building, value distribution and network effects, effectively moving from SEO marketing to community-centric marketing. In web3, users set the pace. This is not to say that web3 startups and marketing professionals cannot apply practical marketing tools used in web2, such as SEO or email marketing in web3. The point here is that marketers in web3 must recognise the uniqueness of web3 and leverage these tools intelligently and where applicable.
Tell a good story
"Story persuades, data convinces."
Narrative is at the core of marketing. This is true in traditional marketing but is most essential in web3. A good story is key to harmonising and propagating ideas as an industry rooted in communities and driven by people. If you want people to buy into your idea, let them know and understand its motivation. The best way to do this is through brand storytelling. Great storytelling allows for clear brand or product messaging communication to target users. It is an essential tool that combines facts, fiction and improvisation to build powerful narratives that help drive home a business's core message's key components. Successful founders and businesses such as Elon Musk or Apple are masters in storytelling. A lot can be learnt by observing the storytelling abilities of the most successful businesses in traditional markets and then applying them to web3 by amplifying them.
Similar to missionaries trying to sell an idea to a community and influence their culture and way of life, businesses need to develop progressive storytelling frameworks that allow them to weave narratives that resonate with their target user base or communities.
Start by identifying the problem by recognising your target market's significant pain points.
Agitate these pain points and draw attention to why these problems need urgent solutions. This is important because people will often try to downplay their problems to enable them to cope.
Get them excited about the possibility of having something better.
Share your solutions with them. Do not tell them about the solution. Show them. Bring the solution alive and make it personal to them.
Focus on the benefits and not the features. Let them experience how your solution makes their life a whole lot better, different from what technology or software was used to build it. Focusing on the wrong things makes you lose the plot and, by extension, the users.
Finally, share the full potential of your vision and how scalable your solution is.
Gradually build trust by improving on the solution and making it better.
Here are some case studies:
Alchemy is a web3 blockchain scaling platform that allows developers to securely create, test, and monitor their decentralised apps (DApps). The story of Alchemy starts with a founder who identified a problem in blockchain node infrastructure and how it is significantly stifling adoption. Armed with a clear understanding of how to optimise and scale blockchain node architecture, Nikil Viswanathan and his co-founder set out to solve this problem. They believed that to drive the adoption of blockchain technology; they needed to help developers build applications that users could use and derive value from. Without a robust application layer made up of valuable applications such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, the Internet would've been nowhere in adoption. The founders understood that just as Microsoft standardised the operating system and the emergence of the web browser enabled developers to build precious applications, the blockchain system needs a similar infrastructure to enable developers to scale productivity. Their message was straightforward: find out what makes building on the blockchain difficult and provide the tools to alleviate that difficulty, allowing developers to build valuable products seamlessly.
Another project with a similar incredible story is Celestia. However, Celestia's story revolves around blockchain scalability on the app layer rather than at the node layer like Alchemy. The central message in the Celestia story is simple—launching a blockchain is as easy as deploying a smart contract. The vision is to decouple the consensus and execution layers to unlock new possibilities for decentralized application developers. This innovative concept is called the modular blockchain architecture, allowing developers and communities to seamlessly deploy their own sovereign, custom-made blockchains at what could be as easy as clicking a button. The stories of these two projects are unique and powerful and resonate with the entire web3 community. This is because they are solving real problems and helping advance the industry's growth in innovative ways.
Storytelling is a powerful technique for building relationships. It’s an age-old concept that brings people together and keeps them engaged. Develop a unique community language but keep it simple. Do not use jargon. Remember, in web3 it is all about the users. Do not focus too much on the brand or product. Your narratives should be centered around the users, their problems and the benefits your products offer them. These stories can be told verbally, in pictures or in written forms. Weave them into the project's DNA by investing in educational and thought-leadership content. Leverage multiple channels, such as social media or traditional billboards, to reach your target market.