Web3 is the greatest story of our time
tips on how to use storytelling for your web3 brand building
11 min read
The title of this article is a brilliant quote credited to Corrales Cachola, a friend and one of my favourite thought-leaders in the web3 space. I resonated with this line of thought because it couldn't have been more apt. Web3 is arguably the most significant technological advancement in human history. It is a term that describes a basket of technologies—crypto, AI, VR/AR, which conjure the biggest movement the world has ever seen and birth to revolutionary stories that will chart a new course in human evolution. In this piece, I delve into the heart of web3 storytelling, why it matters and how we can do it better.
How do we tell great stories in web3?
"Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell". ~ Seth Godin
Stories, no matter their origin, are relatable. They uniquely aggregate different points of view (POVs), whether visually communicated in TV commercials, social media videos or texts. But in Web3, it can be hard to tell if a story starts with technology or with people. For instance, most times, emphasis is laid on the base technological infrastructures such as the blockchain architectures—should it be monolithic or modular; consensus mechanisms—PoS or PoW. Other times, emphasis is shifted towards the community and its importance—tokenisation, NFTs, governance, DAOs etc. The two become intertwined as real people's issues spur on the technology's possibilities. But that in itself is not a problem. It's an opportunity. The solutions and opportunities should always be tightly tied to real issues. And, while the excitement of the technology can act as inspiration, for a story to truly resonate with your audience and community, it has to be traced back to a real problem. Storytelling provides the best way to connect your product with your audience and propel adoption and loyalty in web3, not just through incentives.
Storytelling means you're not ready to go solo as a brand; you're interested in building a community with shared values and experience. The best sales pitch, ads, internal communication, and marketing campaigns are all rooted in great storytelling. If your focus is on how sleek your UI is as a web3 product, you're missing the point, and you will soon close shop and start organising fine art sessions. Instead, the focus should be on how perennial pain is being alleviated. By doing this, you're shifting attention away from products and benefits and ascending to what every company wants to elicit from their audience: Emotions!
There are so many ways to tell a story. But to make your audience see and feel what you feel, the Hero storytelling framework. This framework allows you to make your audience the centre of your brand story and take them on a journey to a better place, situation, and life made possible with your product.
By making your audience the hero in the story, you set them on a journey from their current situation to a better one by solving their problem. Uniswap exists because people want to seamlessly exchange assets any time they want without relying on anyone. Uniswap promises to shift the power to access and exchange financial assets from traditional banks to the people (the hero). To get your audience to resonate with the problem you intend to solve and believe in your solution, the story must revolve around them.
Let your audience see what they are losing and what it is costing them. Present their pain. Before iPhones, most people were comfortable with keypad phones. Before Uniswap, most people were okay with dealing with banks. Without a better alternative, people tend to downplay their problems. Use data to paint a clear picture of their situation.
Without a sense of urgency, people won't take action. Your story must help them answer the "why". Why now? What's changed? Why do I need to do something about my circumstances? Uniswap and many blockchain-based financial products like Aave, Curve and Maker are successful mainly because of the historical failures of the traditional financial system. People understand the need for decentralised ownership of financial assets, and these products make it possible.
Present your solution. How do you make the pain stop? This is more powerful if you make them feel they are part of the solution. Your solution should be a product, a lifestyle, and a community. Build a relationship that thrives on trust, credibility and value.
Call the hero to action:
Tell your hero what to do and how to use your product. Then, help them make the decision. Educate and incentivize.
Audiences are demanding brand storytelling for authenticity, purpose and connection. Web3 companies have to realise this, especially exchange protocols like Uniswap. Otherwise, as soon as the juicy APYs in native tokens run out, the community abandons the ship. However, web3 companies that nail compelling storytelling in branding will care little about cyclical markets and be more focused on engendering unforgettable experiences.
Why NARRATIVES matter
Narrative and storytelling are essential elements of web3 marketing because they help engage and connect meaningfully with audiences. Remember the famous Coca-Cola Santa Claus ad? Before that ad, there was a mirage of depictions of Santa Claus; there was even a scary Santa Claus. But the 1931 Coca-Cola Christmas ad significantly shaped the image of the cheerful, jolly Santa Claus we know and love today. This was in line with Coca-Cola's brand messaging, which they have consistently followed. Web3 brands are not doing this enough.
Sure, we have pretty successful and well-established products like Uniswap, Aave and others. But as the industry matures, and we have 5 or 6 more successful and even more competitive DEXs and lending protocols, what would make an average user stick to Uniswap or Aave? Do they have strong enough stories to keep their users loyal?
Savvy executives for most successful B2C companies have come to understand one thing: a strong brand identity serves as a better moat than technology. Strong branding can convince your audience to stick with an imperfect product/tech. But before a strong brand comes great storytelling. It gives your brand a face. A vital tool that allows brands to emotionally connect with their users in ways other forms of marketing simply can't. Through storytelling techniques, web3 marketers can effectively communicate their message and create a deeper, more meaningful connection with their target audience. Narratives allow marketers to present information in a way that is relatable, emotional, and memorable. They can be used to illustrate the benefits and features of a product or service or to convey the values and beliefs of a brand. Storytelling makes brands relatable through its ability to help targeted audiences understand a company better. The bond between brands and their users created through stories is the foundation for building trust and loyalty, establishing a brand's identity, and effectively getting one up on the competition. Stories also can capture people's attention and imagination, which is crucial in today's fast-paced and competitive marketplace. When you control the narrative, you control the pace. Using great storytelling in marketing, brands in web3 can differentiate themselves from their competitors and stand out in users' minds.
Storytelling and data in web3
Some say Web3 is incredibly noisy. Sentiment analysis can be misleading. I get it. But as a marketeer in this space, you must listen and investigate. Data is what guides you through the mesmerising maze of sentimentality.
Why? Every story starts with research!
In web3, every marketer needs an entry point or inspiration for their brand storyline development. And the answer is data! It is crucial in how every story is approached; how new characters are built and designed to drive a given narrative. This is why deep data is so prevalent in Web 2. The entire web2 is practically based on observing and tracking user behaviours. These observed behaviours are then used to determine how targeted audiences want to participate and engage with brands/products. These benchmarks are critical for onboarding new users.
With web3, marketers can explore what new types of interactions might mean for narrative development. For example, with the undying need for financial inclusion and exploring alternative financial instruments, Coinbase, Bittrex, and Poloniex were all waving and rubbing it in our eyes until Binance came and changed the game with - "Because I Need Another Cryptocurrency Exchange". Today, it's "Exchanging the world." We can argue that Binance broke through ahead of the others because it paid attention to data. However, Coinbase and the other OG exchanges left a lot of pie on the table. Binance capitalised on this and sold the "banking the unbanked using crypto rails" story better than the others. Similarly, Composable sees the gap in existing crypto-bridging architecture and tells its story around the XCVM and its proprietary bridging tech - Centauri!
Data provides the much-needed insight to tell better stories. You learn from what people are engaging with and what other projects are trying: the experiments, tools, and mechanics that have gained community traction. What you're looking for is always: how are users engaging, and how can you supercharge that engagement? E.g. The Uniswap vs Sushi DeFi Summer battle was all about narratives. Sushi vampire attacked until Uniswap quickly countered with its joker—the UNI token airdrop. Sushi saw what people were raving about at that time: hardcore crypto natives getting fed up with the VCs grabbing controlling shares of the most important primitives like Uniswap DEX, which is why they came up with the Fair Launch mantra. A brilliant move informed by great insight into user behaviour using data. However, Uniswap was quick to counter.
To become an excellent storyteller, you must combine data, visuals and a grand narrative to evoke emotions. It is not an "either-or" situation. It's a must! And web3 companies need to keep telling that story now more than ever, leveraging the radical openness of on-chain records!
Leveraging data storytelling in community building
Data is knowledge. Good data allows you to identify problems, visualise inefficiencies and make it possible to develop workable theories for solving problems. But it is not enough to analyse data; you need to know how to communicate the story it tells clearly and compellingly. This is important because the brain engages more easily with stories than with pure data. Weaving data into stories allows you to contextualise and put things into perspective for your audience in order to inspire action. This is the basis of data storytelling.
Using data storytelling, you can evoke an emotional response on a neural level that can help rally people around a clear message. For example, Ultrasound.money is a simple landing page dedicated to tracking the real-time supply of ETH. It originally started as a meme but has grown into a strong community of people who resonate with the narrative that ETH is ultrasound money. In web3, the ability to effectively communicate insights from datasets using narratives and visualisations cannot be overemphasised. Data gives your story credence and helps you build trust within your community. It is one thing to leverage data for insight; it is another thing to leverage it in brand communication. The story is what makes the difference.
Aligning ideas with talent using storytelling
Human capabilities are immense. The alignment of these capabilities brings about success or defeat/failure. Without the right human capacity, even the brightest ideas will wither and fade, regardless of their potential. So as a founder, it becomes critical to attract the necessary talent needed not just to birth your idea into existence but to feed, nurture and grow it constantly. Think about how many potential world-changing ideas never lived because their originators could not tell a resonating story to attract good talent. The Ethereum ecosystem is the behemoth it is today and boasts of the best and largest developer community in web3 because many bought into Vitalik's vision of a blockchain that can do more. Since then, there's been new roadmaps released: the Merge, Verge, Surge, Scourge, Splurge?
Ethereum is a story well told that attracted devouts willing to propagate this idea in the way they could best relate. Nothing more than ever is a perfect alignment glue for idea and talent than the right story. This is why storytelling is critical to the survival of web3 companies and the evolution of the next frontier of this technology. Innovators building using the web3 tech stack have to realise that stories are crucial in bringing like-minded individuals together who are passionate about a project.
Find the correct narrative and craft the right story to align the founder's ideas with the right talent—this is the role marketers in web3 have to play. Doing this right means you've conquered the biggest hurdle - making your mark and gravitating resources to actualise your vision.
The One true role of a Web3 Marketer
This is what most people think the roles of a web3 marketer are: set up a solid content and distribution pipeline, arrange AMAs, get on a call with partners for cross-marketing initiatives, obsess about attributions and whatnot.
But, if that's all that a marketer in web3 is about, then you're playing the catch-up game with competitors. You're no different; before long, the founders will notice something is inherently missing. They might not know what exactly, but they can definitely tell something is indeed missing. And you know what that means, replacing you.
Now, what is the one true role?
Every project begins with an idea—a string of individual or group thoughts. But for this thought to be birthed, made whole, and accepted by the end user, it needs to go through a series of critical stages, of which the most important is propagation. The marketer's magic is idea propagation, selling the founder's vision and bridging the technical or ideological gap between the project team and the users. To pull this off, a web3 marketeer must possess extraordinary storytelling abilities. Narrative is everything!
The vision of any successful project flows from the founder(s), but it is the marketeer's job to tie everything together to form a transparent and leakproof mesh that users can see through. This means mapping out coherent narratives with simple yet effective communication to drive a clear understanding of the values of the project. The user has to trust you and the brand. That is why the mesh must be transparent. It is straightforward to lose the narrative, especially in an endless sea of FUD that web3 is accustomed to. Hence, as a true web3 marketeer, your responsibility is to nurture, protect and project the founder's original vision onto the marketplace!