Just look at marketing industry news sites to see what’s trending among professionals at the moment; odds are that there will be some hype around the recent emergence of hip hop at the Superbowl halftime show, a think piece around the latest Netflix must-see show or some more news about the controversial rise of the NFT and what it could mean for marketing.
So do you always need to acknowledge the cultural zeitgeist? Is there mileage in picking your battles? Some would say yes; for example, when it is misjudged and totally at odds with your brand or company’s persona, it can be damaging.
See long-standing videogames developer Team17, who recently launched a range of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). This release was ill-advised. Many people are becoming more aware of the crypto-based artwork assets, but many fail to see them as anything more than a cash grab. Following protests from its fans and the gaming community, the NFTs they had released were pulled, and a hasty press statement was drafted to apologise for the misjudgment. This is a clear case of jumping on a trend without considering an audience.
The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) also had similar problems, when it was pointed out how cryptocurrency and NFTs were actually harmful to the environment.
Conversely, NFTs have taken off in quarters where collectables and consumerism is the norm, for sports brands for example. Sports giants like the WWE have also jumped on the trend, selling NFTs of its most famous performers in a way that it has similarly sold trading cards, stickers and other merchandise shamelessly in the past. Celebrities have also been talking endlessly about their NFT collections, raising the profile of the medium and providing an ‘in’ to the average consumer.
When considering piggybacking on a trend, it’s always important to consider your audience and your brand. If it’s at odds or feels awkwardly shoehorned to fit your overall messaging, it could well be a bad idea. If your brand is a historic, well-respected paragon of virtue, cheapening it with something brash and the opposite of your beliefs will no doubt cause problems further down the line. However, some of the most daring campaigns have been when brands have taken a calculated risk and sharp left turns. It can often create surprise, but will only work if the turn still places your brand at an advantage.
NFTs are a controversial statement, but if you have a switched-on audience, then it could be a useful element within your marketing.