It’s harder than ever to be a marketing leader in 2023.
We live in a world where digital ad spend is hitting record highs ($680B+), but so is the rate of digital ad fraud (15%+). At the same time, Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) are rising as personalized targeting gets harder. Apple has implemented privacy features, cookies are less and less accurate due to GDPR, and increasing regulatory pressure on Facebook, Google, and other centralized middlemen reduces their ability to effectively create a high Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).
It’s clear that something needs to change. Thankfully, innovation moves in a cyclical nature, and we are just now seeing the beginnings of a massive new paradigm shift in how brands will interact with their customers.
So let’s zoom out for a moment, and remember just where we’ve all come from.
A little over a decade ago, we saw social media really start to enter the mainstream, but brands were reluctant and skeptical to enter the fray. Fast forward to today, and we all know just how radically social media has transformed how brands interact with and market to their customers.
Now lets consider the rise of Direct to Consumer & E-Commerce, and the way it completely revolutionized how retail brands market to and interact with their customers. Today, having an e-commerce presence is table stakes for any retail brand, and we saw many brands refuse to adapt, or adapt too late, only to go bankrupt shortly thereafter (ex. Lord & Taylor, Barneys).
Today in 2023, we are now witness to the rise of a new paradigm shift for ALL consumer facing brands. We call this shift Direct to Community.
Direct to Community is simply an acceleration of the trends that we’ve observed over the past two decades, where new technologies allow brands to build closer relationships with their customers.
Social media enabled brands to directly reach out, target, and interact with their customers through digital platforms such as Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and more. Direct relationships between brands and consumers became possible from anywhere in the world.
Building on this, Direct to Consumer (now more broadly known as E-Commerce) was an evolution of social media, through which brands could now leverage social media and the ad networks built on top, to SELL directly to their customers, without any need for wholesale middlemen for distribution.
And while both of these innovations completely transformed how brands interact with their customers, in recent years we have come to recognize one big glaring issue: while brands are closer to their customers than ever, they still rely on centralized middlemen - such as Facebook (aka Meta) & Google - that have every incentive to extract maximum value from brands and their customers.
Brands may have access to global audiences through paid social and programmatic media spend, but they also are beholden to the arbitrary whims and business needs of these monolithic gatekeepers and intermediaries. While one day a brand can have a “community” of millions on a platform, the brand doesn’t truly OWN those customer relationships, email lists, or data, and can easily be blocked or de-platformed for one of many seemingly arbitrary decisions.
This is why Direct to Community is so critical. While it is still early, we are starting to see the rise of new technologies, built on the blockchain, that allow any brand to directly own and grow their relationships with their superfans, curious customers, and everyone in between.
As any marketer worth their salt can tell you, the best marketing possible comes from Word of Mouth campaigns. A typical Word of Mouth campaign drives a 5x return over a paid ad, and 92% of global consumers trust User Generated Content (UGC) & Word of Mouth (WOM) over traditional advertisements.
Building on those principles, we believe Direct to Community is the ultimate form of grassroots, community-driven marketing, and one that we think will explode over the coming decade.
We are entering a new world, where brands can now build direct relationships with existing and potential customers by issuing digital assets (ex. NFTs) and using them to drive excitement, engagement, and further brand loyalty.
Brands can now empower their fans with real and meaningful ownership - not as literal stock equity, but as cultural equity. And because these digital assets, as NFTs, are truly owned by fans on the blockchain, they also possess real monetary value, meaning they can easily be bought or sold on open markets, allowing fans to have a clear cultural and monetary incentive alignment with their favorite brands.
Once incentives are aligned between brands and their customers, brands can begin to build TRUE communities. Today brands have “communities,” but more often than not it’s a one way street, where brands use social media platforms & email as a megaphone to blast out their messaging to their fans.
But now using these digital assets as the first level of membership into a brand-owned ecosystem, companies can directly engage with their customers, and enter an era of co-creation.
This means alpha access and testing of new products for digital asset holders, collaborative innovation and R&D initiatives between the brand and its most loyal fans, and of course, community-driven marketing campaigns & partnerships.
Existing digital asset holders working with strong brands have every incentive to spread the word and bring more friends into the community, because they now have a cultural AND financial incentive to support and boost the brands they love and support.
Are you starting to understand what can be unlocked yet?
In 2023, we’re already seeing countless leading brands across all industries explore & enter the wild and wonderful world of web3, an umbrella term for tech using blockchain.
From Nike launching its .SWOOSH program to empower its diehard global fanbase to help co-create new designs and learn what it means to grow with the brand, to Starbucks testing and integrating NFTs with its legendary loyalty points program with Starbucks Odyssey, we’re seeing many large and meaningful moves towards exploring what Direct to Community can look like for brands.
Ironically, we’ve also seen communities that previously expressed a deep skepticism of NFTs, tokens, and blockchain have suddenly become the communities that have fully embraced them. Nowhere is this more prevalent than Reddit, which converted their community-driven Karma points system to the Polygon blockchain, and set up wallets for their members as “Vaults.”
By simply reframing web3 tech into the language of the consumer, since launching the Vaults program in July, Reddit has seen more than 6 million users onboarded onto wallets and trading NFTs, a massive success by any standard!
And these are just the largest brands that we’re discussing. Countless brands are already experimenting and exploring just what Direct to Community means for their businesses. It’s still so early, but the opportunities to generate excitement and become true innovators are there for brands willing to take the leap.
All hype aside, we think it’s important to clarify that the rise of Direct to Community as a new paradigm shift in marketing doesn’t mean advertising dies. Like all things in life, there is a middle ground.
Just as we saw Direct to Consumer transform retail, enabling brands to seamlessly integrate E-Commerce capabilities with strategic wholesale partnerships, we are likely to see the rise of Direct to Community force brands to think more holistically around how they reach, engage, and collaborate with their customers and loyal fans.
As consumers continue to spend more of their waking hours in the digital world, and as Gen Z continues to gain purchasing power, brands will have to continue innovating and considering how they build relationships with their customers in a digitally-native way.
The world is fast changing, and so while the traditional digital marketing stack won’t disappear overnight, the writing is clearly on the wall. Big Tech (ex. Meta, Google, Apple) will be around for many more years, but its stranglehold on distribution and customer relationships is beginning to come to an end, through both regulation and innovation on many fronts.
Direct to Community will be a critical part of this next evolution, transforming how brands acquire, engage, and retain new customers.
Omnichannel marketing strategies will evolve, as marketing leaders shift some of their traditional top-down marketing spend to Direct to Community initiatives, where they can foster true communities of loyal fans, incentivized with digital assets to co-create, co-market, and co-build the future of the brands they love!
If any of our thoughts above resonated with you, let’s have a chat.
At Myosin.xyz, we’re a global marketing network focused on partnering with larger brands to help them enter web3 in the most thoughtful way possible.
To help brands learn more about Direct to Community and web3, we’ve created an introductory set of strategic workshops that we'll be sharing soon.
Myosin is a highly-vetted group of professionals (2% acceptance rate amongst our total applicant pool), with deep experiences working with traditional brands (Ex. Shiseido, Absolut, Heineken, King Gaming, Revlon, etc.), and web3 companies alike (Ex. Everyrealm, Mona, Consensys Mesh, Lockerverse).
We are a full-stack marketing DAO & product studio, capable of handling the largest of omnichannel campaigns. From growth marketers, community managers, content creators, strategists, partnership managers, developers, and more, we work closely with all our clients to develop & execute holistic marketing campaigns.