Brand3: Brands, Bitcoin and Open Questions🇬🇧
We want to rethink brand building in the web3 ecosystem.
Brands are revolutionizing the crypto ecosystem. We are seeing how web3 projects need other types of processes and needs. DAOs, NFTs projects and other organizations where there is no traditional CEO are innovating when it comes to creating more collaborative communities and new brands.
The following notes are a compilation of excerpts from the Headless Brands article and FLOC*’s BIERNES #9 meeting —on the concept of branding and brand3— answering the following questions:
How has the concept of branding evolved since the advent of the web?
What are the origins of Brand3?
What are the challenges of creating a Brand3 project?
What is BRAND?
A brand lives in the minds of those who are aware of it.
A brand is the set of concepts, expectations, impressions and reputations that are usually associated with companies, products or people. The brand is not only the logo or the visual identity as one might mistakenly believe. It is the tone, positioning, naming, personality or values, among other qualities. It is a roadmap that cohesively narrates why, how and what we do as a brand to generate emotions to users.
Brands are cultural phenomena that only emerge when all these elements come into contact with people. As a brand can mean different things to different people, the challenge is to create a coherent set of beliefs that function as a consensus system among users who consume the brand.
Brand distribution channels
The channels through which brand narratives have been distributed have changed considerably in recent decades with the advent of the Internet. This means that users are becoming increasingly more important and powerful in influencing a brand.
In the pre-web era, traditional media offered companies a high degree of control over brand exposure to their audience. Customers received messages about brands directly through print, radio and television advertising —centralized systems controlled by a few.
As a brand is born out from the feelings of its users, the shared opinion held of a brand was limited by the communications infrastructure available to consumers at the time, predominantly word of mouth, email or telephone. Companies had a high degree of power over the opinion of their brand.
Since the transition from traditional media to the web1, brands have become much more volatile. The Internet drastically reduced the barriers to publish and access in real time the opinions that any user could have about a brand. Public opinion through review sites and personal blogs began to become part of the brand itself.
Overall consumer sentiment has become highly visible, so positive and negative sentiments and brand narrative can escalate and circulate across the web quickly. Companies begin to lose control over their brand and users take more power.
With the emergence of social media, the brand narrative has spread even further from being concentrated in a small number of review sites to the abundance of real-time opinions from millions of users. Not only that, but influencers' own personal brands have taken on significant power as a means of communication and opinion about brands.
In response, many companies have hired social media managers who use media management strategies to keep the brand image under control: from sponsorships with influencers to closer communication with the end user.
Despite the significant resources devoted to monitoring real-time public reactions to brands on social networks, most companies impose a hierarchical model of brand management in a world that is now global, distributed and transparent.
The debate so far has been limited to companies with centralized models that try to actively manage their brand presence. Other Internet, an organization that investigates how to apply decentralized models in society, proposes in the article Headless brands an alternative vision further away from the centralized model of brand management inspired by the blockchain Bitcoin phenomenon. With the rise of decentralized models, the following questions arise around branding:
Who or what can claim the authority to manage a brand when ownership of a protocol is distributed among a network of users?
Who has the authority when those same users are often also responsible for the productive work of the project?
How can you incentivize users who own the brand and benefit from wider adoption to publicize the project and hype it?
How can you ensure that a strong and coherent narrative emerges around the brand if there is no central management body and no place for coordination?
Bitcoin, the first headless brand
Bitcoin is the progenitor of all crypto projects and is the most recognizable brand in the industry with a history worth studying. However, there is no one person or entity responsible for maintaining this history. Bitcoin is what we call a "headless brand".
While Bitcoin was named and given a visual identity by a single founder, Satoshi Nakamoto chose to remain a pseudonym and has now completely disappeared from the public. All subsequent branding material —visual elements, messaging and positioning, etc.— has been created by groups of community stakeholder. This has become the main dynamic of Bitcoin's evolution as a brand throughout its history:
In short, Bitcoin's mutable brand is the result of three main characteristics:
Bitcoin is leaderless, completely lacking a centralized entity that attempts to control its brand discourse;
Its protocol design decisions are immutable;
Its users are financial actors and network workers at the same time, both of which benefit from the growing adoption of the Bitcoin protocol.
Let's talk about Brand3
Bitcoin marks a new model for product and service brands that is achieved exclusively thanks to blockchain technology. Decentralized brands are facilitated by users truly empowered to create their own narrative and incentivized to spread it.
However, the mere existence of a blockchain does not guarantee the success of a headless brand strategy. So how do decentralized systems maintain consistency with brands? Is there a right time for a web3 organization to "go headless"?
In a humble attempt to start thinking about what Brand3 is and how we can build brands for the web3 communities, the folks at FLOC* organized a colloquium exploring the Brand3 concept.
The main principles inspired by web3 movements to build brand with the community are:
Collaboration of community members: The brand is defined by all stakeholders participating in a product.
Direct benefits from participation: Every member of the community is rewarded for the value they add.
Decentralized and open source ownership, assets and decisions: Everyone owns the brand.
Dynamic and organic brands: Brands are ephemeral and eternal, they are a living entity that represents the feelings and values of the community.
The Meta questions: how to create Brand3 with Brand3 philosophy?
The principal question is how can we define and build the foundations of a decentralized brand where access to users is democratized so that they can contribute, control and own a piece of the brand in community. This is why we discussed the following challenges:
Democratization to the blockchain revolution.
The social, economic and technological complexity of the web3 movement makes the barriers of entry to decentralized products or brands chaotic for non-crypto users:
How to get adoption and facilitate access in brand3?
How to educate on web3 values, philosophy and benefits?
What onboarding processes must be define for new users?
What is the value proposition to convey?
Too many voices, too much blocking
Traditional brand work processes clash with decentralized organizations. Times, needs and opinions are very varied and they generate noise and disorganization during the creative process:
How to generate quality content for decentralized brands?
How to overcome the designer's ego?
How to make participatory processes between agencies and community?
How to detect convenient profiles within the community that want to get involved?
How to listen to everyone? How to avoid analysis-paralysis??
How to avoid malicious actors (e.g. trolls, haters)?
In web3 everything changes very fast. Top companies like Decentraland, Kraken or Foundation have changed their style, design, vision or even their business drastically in the last years:
How to create dynamic brand manuals?
How to create brands that are timeless but constantly evolving?
How to differentiate yourself and not have the same degraded, fonts and concepts?
How to deal with the own evolution and mutability of a community?
Members who contribute to brand building can be rewarded materially or socially:
How to align product, brand and community to build together?
What incentives from web2 can be brought to web3?
How to reward economic incentives (tokens, NFTs, POAPs)?
How to distribute incentives according to the value that each person brings (talent)?
How to make people feel part of the brand?
Is the process more interesting than the result?
BRAND3 as community managers
Understanding a brand as an expression of the community itself puts the user at the center. Surely inspired by an innovative and transformative initial idea, branding agencies will be more community managers than executors: they will be the mediators and moderators between community members to coordinate the creation of a brand:
How do we act as mediators in the creation of the brand with different timezones?
How do we validate the expertise of the people who want to participate?
What are the communication, coordination and participation tools in brand3?
How do we involve the community in the design?
How do we build global brands that represent different nationalities?
These were some of the topics of the last FLOC*’s BIERNES dedicated to Brand3. Would you like us to do more sessions like this? We left some open questions for the next sessions:
What do we want to do?
Is there an evolution of web3 brands?
What tools are necessary to build a brand3?