For Eric Bandholz, they were the good old days. Way back in 2012 when he founded his bearded lifestyle company, Beardbrand, the internet was a fun, exciting, and innovative place.
It was well after the novel and innocent era known as Web1, yet at the time, Web2 seemed like fertile ground for a new business to grow a solid platform. He started with a blog and soon established a presence on YouTube and Tumblr to inspire others with wit and wisdom about growing and styling the perfect beard.
“In the early days there was a lot of energy,” Bandholz said.
Growing slowly and organically, by the end of his first year in business, he watched his brand popularity blow up. Now celebrating 10 years in business, he doesn’t consider himself an internet expert, but he’s been a big fan of the exposure it generates.
However, he admits the passing years revealed a dark side. The tweet. That one tweet that seemed perfect. But apparently not all agreed. “If anything, there is more fear in the current situation because if I make the wrong tweet, we can get shut down,” he said.
He’s hopeful that Web3 will change all that. “Web3 will resolve those things and allow different voices,” Bandholz said. “I don’t agree with the majority of things said on internet, but I still think people should be allowed to say it.”
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With Web3 and its dedicated mission of a more decentralized internet, many business owners are looking forward to the opportunity to have an internet base that isn’t generated through a single funnel. Web3 is an internet world that relies on blockchain technology where creators, not giant platforms, have more control over content.
Bandholz believes the best-case scenario is that the drive for decentralization forces the current centralized players to reconsider their role on the internet and create a more open platform.
“I’ve been an internet user for a long time, and I am a big fan of freedom," he said. "It’s good for humanity and society as a whole to have an internet that cannot be censored or shut down by a bottle neck. I hope to see it continue to thrive."
So, what’s his organization doing to adapt and prep for the impact of Web3 on branding?
Nothing. At least not yet.
From a business perspective, he firmly believes there’s always a risk of being too early or too late.
“We have considered ways we can enhance our community experience — specifically an NFT (non-fungible token) to build a community together around a common bond and concept,” Bandholz said. “But we need customers and audience members already familiar with the technology, so we don’t have to spend our resources teaching them what an NFT is.”
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Waiting Until Public Catches up to Web3
According to Moonshot: Web 3.0 Ready for Liftoff? a study conducted by the National Research Group, only 22% of Americans understand what an NFT is, and just 13% think they might know what Web3 is. The research also suggests that for most Americans, cryptocurrency will be their “first taste” of Web3.
For his brand, Bandholz thinks it just makes sense to wait until the general public is more familiar with what Web3 is all about, and he doesn’t want to be the one tasked with teaching them.
“Our primary audience tends to be a little older and a little more engaged in the physical world,” Bandholz said. “If we were targeting a young, vogue audience, it might be different.”
With Web3, 'Consumer Has a Plan'
For Ardon Lukas, it is different. He’s the founder and chief meme officer of Shirtwascash.com, a meme-based clothing company focused on internet culture. He started the company from a bedroom laptop back in 2014 and said he built the first NFT auction on Shopify where buyers own full copyright to the work and a percent of merch sales. Now he wants to help teach the future to consumers.
“There are specifically interesting aspects to current Web3 culture and ecommerce happening,” Lukas said. “I think it’s better to learn and integrate aspects into your current audience to start.”
Because Web3 has a focus on maximizing a more fun and meaningful impact on each person an organization interacts with, Lukas is an advocate of building a web of people around the work.
“Web2 was throwing creative in an algorithm for Facebook to find us a consumer,” Lukas said. “With the inevitable arrival of Web3, the consumer has a plan.”
For Shirtwascash.com, the near future means they will begin offering NFT with purchases of their clothes for customers to wear both at home and in virtual worlds. “The products will be tied to one NFT making it a collector’s item and unique identifier,” he said.
Related Article: How Will Web3 Improve the Customer Experience?
Start Minting Smart Contracts and NFTs
Lukas believes the digital aspect of these purchases will bridge the parallel worlds inhabiting the virtual reality of Web3, augmented reality with real life wearables, and of course, our regular material world.
And, as opposed to that regular, material world where consumers may have one house — in the metaverse at the core of Web3, consumers as fashionable digital avatars can have numerous houses in their virtual space. Houses can be furnished (furniture companies take note) with digital couches and coffee tables.
In a future he describes as more hip hop than Orwellian, Lukas suggested companies start minting their own smart contracts and NFTs.
“Web3 can’t be separated from that sort of knowledge," he said. “Now, what you build or do with tokens is an open canvas. Ideally, we can recruit more ethical long-term minded people into taking that potential seriously. It’s unavoidable.”
But aside from the excitement, he believes for the most part there can be a lot of smoke and mirrors mixed into the hype because there are too few real builders in the space.
“Truly it doesn’t exist yet besides a few pieces of the puzzle like crypto creating a globalized infrastructure of businesses, NFTs making B2C commerce possible, and the beginnings of new online community spaces,” Lukas said. “It’s important for any potential ecommerce store owners to mint their own smart contracts and learn the technology to discover its use.”