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Taking NFTs Beyond Commercial, to Community

VaynerNFT's Avery Akkineni outlines the NFT opportunity for the beauty industry.

NFTs — non-fungible tokens — emerged as a major commercial opportunity in 2021.

But the opportunity for them is much broader than that, according to Avery Akkineni, president of VaynerNFT, an NFT consultancy that has worked with Coach, American Eagle and other brands.

“There’s a tremendous commercial opportunity that NFTs provide, and anyone who looks at OpenSea and is following the headlines knows that some NFTs are going for crazy high amounts of money, and that’s exciting and amazing. And what’s really exciting is that a lot of that is actually going into the hands of the creators, people who are making art or making music or developing these communities and programs,” Akkineni said in a conversation with WWD technology reporter Adriana Lee.

“But, there’s so much more to NFTs than just the commercialization aspect,” Akkineni continued. “NFTs can build communities, they can highlight emerging creators, they can contribute to philanthropy, they can help build brands and so much more.”

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Akkineni shared the example of Cryptopunks free NFTs — “one of the most valuable NFT projects to date” — as a means of community building.

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For brands, Akkineni said there’s an opportunity to think long term and use NFT’s to do the same thing. She used the examples of L’Oréal and Clinique‘s NFTs as standouts thus far, and said that marketers should be looking to NFTs to “add value to the space and add something special.”

“The current buyers of NFTs is about 90 percent male and there’s an opportunity for beauty brands to create something really special for female consumers,” Akkineni said.

“Twenty-twenty-one really opened up people’s eyes to this new phenomenon of digital asset ownership,” Akkineni said. “To me, NFTs really represent the first time that an individual person has the opportunity to own digital assets and have this be proveable on the blockchain.”

WIth newer digital concepts, like NFTs, the Metaverse and Web 3 emerging, Akkineni suggested that a cultural shift is underway.

“As with anything, there are going to be people who are skeptical of a new technology. There were people who were skeptical of using credit cards online,” Akkineni said. “There are people who were skeptical of the internet, or skeptics around, ‘who’s gonna care, you know, what I eat for breakfast?’ Who’s going to follow Campbell’s Soup on Twitter?”

But 2020 created massive shifts in how people use and consumer media, the executive said, and that has led to “a very clear opportunity.”

“To the skeptics, we say, educate yourself. Listen, learn and see if this is a community that you want to be part of,” she said.

The big shift with the latest generation of digital offerings is the idea of ownership, Akkineni said. “A lot of the content that people have been creating and sharing, that’s actually all owned by the main platforms,” she said.

For consumers looking to participate in these technologies, simplification is coming, Akkineni said. “The advancements being made by Twitter with their hexagon and NFT ownership verification by Coinbase, they [are going to launch] their NFT marketplace … there’s so much going into the development of these easier onramps to consumer adoption,” she said.

“I don’t know how a light bulb works, right. Like, the mechanics of it — I understand that it works, the use case and how to activate it,” Akkineni said. “That’s how the next generation of NFT early adopters will be. Understanding the value, understanding the use case, being able to engage with it, but not needing to know every single technical detail.”

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