These days, it is practically impossible to escape the new-fangled, Non-Fungible Token. From the biggest brands on the planet to a plethora of independent creators online, everyone is getting in on the action. Perhaps one of the reasons for these digital collectibles’ enduring popularity is the fact that you can do so much with them. Want to token-gate access to a music festival? Issue limited-edition collectables for fans? Sell never-before-seen artwork? NFTs can do it all.
However, a quick look at some of the collections that have been rolled out in the last year shows an interesting pattern. Take the social media platform Reddit which has seen runaway success with NFTs it airdropped for free and offered for sale to users. These tokens, which showcase the platform’s beloved mascot, Snoo, are not referred to as ‘NFTs’, but rather as ‘collectable avatars’.
Then, there is the iconic band, The Rolling Stones, who are joining the likes of Madonna and the late Biggie Smalls with the launch of a new NFT collection this month. These will feature never-before-seen images of the band spanning from the 1960s to the 1990s. These digital assets are being created in collaboration with the Stones and OneOf, a web3 company that has been at the helm of NFT projects in the past. But, curiously, the official announcement does not use the phrase ‘NFT’ but rather ‘Digital Certificate of Authenticity’.
These are just two high-profile cases of digital assets being released that are, for all intents and purposes, NFTs. They are based on blockchain technology, are non-fungible in their own right, and in the case of the Reddit avatars, have raked in millions on NFT marketplaces like OpenSea. However, despite obviously being so, many of these projects seem to go out of their way to avoid the NFT label.
Why This Might Be
On paper, it seems paradoxical; if NFTs are clearly a money-maker, would it not be more logical to lean more into the industry and embrace the title?
However, one thing to remember in all of this is that while it is profitable to release NFTs these days, the asset class is still controversial. A quick glance online will see endless videos, articles, and social media posts decrying NFTs as a scam, a fad, and everything in between. Some news stories have deemed companies and celebrities who have gotten into NFTs as cash-grabbers looking to make a quick buck off the public, and then there is the attitude in some creative circles that NFT-based art is not ‘real’ or valid.
These could be the reasons why companies and public figures are choosing to distance themselves from NFTs to a degree.
What are the Implications of choosing ‘Digital Collectibles’ over NFTs?
At the end of the day, all these efforts to sidestep the term ‘NFT’ in branding come down to stigma (it certainly isn’t about financial viability, else these collections would not be released at all). Sadly, these acts of self-preservation only serve to increase the stigma around NFTs.
Because many already casual observers see mainstream companies embracing NFTs as ‘selling out’ in some way, their distancing themselves from the term ‘NFT’ only further implies that they are something to be wary of. It also casts NFTs as not being ‘legitimate’ ventures that ‘respectable’ companies would want to be associated with.
While it has only been a handful so far, we could see even more mainstream companies, public figures, and projects release NFTs and refuse to call themselves that. If a euphemism for NFTs (say digital collectables) becomes the safest way to refer to them in the mainstream, more entrepreneurs might adopt the tech to secure funding and earn the trust of the public that aren’t yet onboard the NFT train. Overall, this practice will push NFT visibility to the sidelines if it continues and further dampen morale.
What Can Be Done?
There are several options that the NFT sector has in response to this naming debacle. First, projects can and will continue boldly carrying the NFT label. This could be as a means of pushing back or as an organic action (after all, the projects rushing to distance themselves from the term ‘NFT’ are non-NFT-focused enterprises that are mostly dipping their toes in the water).
The companies with more skin in the game will probably not back down and will not distance themselves from the word NFT lest they alienate their core customer base. Some, however, might see this name debacle as a chance to ‘rebrand’ the industry. They might see the controversy that has followed NFTs so far as too much of a hassle to deal with and could even support an industry-wide rebrand (after all, while there is a plethora of content denouncing ‘NFTs’, there is little of such content denouncing ‘digital collectable assets’).
Who will win out in the end, however, depends on several factors that are yet to unravel. These include recovery from the ongoing bear market, less backlash against NFTs, and if this NFTs-but-not-NFTs naming trend endures.
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*All investment/financial opinions expressed by NFT Plazas are from the personal research and experience of our site moderators and are intended as educational material only. Individuals are required to fully research any product prior to making any kind of investment.
Tokoni Uti has written extensively on blockchain and cryptocurrency for years. Her work has appeared on sites like BTCmanager and Blockchain Reporter. She has a degree in Corporate Communications.