POAP is an acronym for Proof of Attendance Protocol and is a type of Non-Fungible token (NFT) “badge” that is given out to prove attendance at an event, both virtually and/or in the real world.

Similar to when people once saved concert ticket stubs as proof they saw a musical artist, POAPs themselves are collectible and proof that a person attended an event.

As brands move forward into the metaverse and Web3, how will they use POAPs?

What Standards Do POAPs (and NFTs) Follow?

POAPs were created in 2019 at the ETHDenver convention to reward those who attended for showing up and supporting the convention. Since then, as with the growth of other NFTs, their use has expanded to include many different types of events.

While most POAPs are given out for free to event attendees, they have become collectible, and as such, are now sold and exchanged in the same way that a 1969 Woodstock festival ticket would be — they are meaningful and valuable to those who place meaning and value upon them. 

Every POAP, along with many NFTs, is created according to the ERC-721 Standard. This Standard describes how to create NFTs on Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible blockchains, and includes a set of rules that simplify the process of working with NFTs (which can also be ERC-1155 tokens).

Maria Rebello, head of business development, NFT Magic Box at Gate.io, a cryptocurrency exchange, told CMSWire that ERC-721 is one of the most popular token Standards used to create NFTs (including POAPs). "A token standard helps define the template and functions required to give the NFT its particular flair. These functions allow the token creator to establish ownership of the NFT and to transfer the tokens to other wallets."

For an NFT to be classified as a POAP, it must fit a certain set of criteria: 

  • It must be minted through the official POAP smart contract
  • It needs to contain metadata related to a specific time or date, up to one year in length
  • It must have an image associated with it

Beginning in October 2020, POAPs have been created and distributed on the Ethereum sidechain xDai, which was itself designed for fast, inexpensive transactions, making it ideal for the creation of POAPs. 

Related Article: NFTs: A Digital Generation Defines Its Cultural Artifacts

How Are Brands Using (or Will Use) POAPs?

Think of POAPs as a way for customers to prove their dedication to brands, and to provide a way to verify the journey they have been on throughout their life. The more legitimacy that is afforded to the digital world (think virtual concerts, conferences and webinars that happen in the metaverse), the more value will be placed on proving a person attended an event. 

Adam Brotman, CEO of Brightloom, a customer growth platform provider, told CMSWire that POAPs can be thought of as loyalty access passes that open up new opportunities for customers.

“When thinking of how POAPs are being used by brands today, consider this example: You attend a Twitter Spaces event for your favorite podcast, for attending that event live you receive a POAP, that POAP goes into your crypto wallet and later allows you access to buy exclusive merchandise from the podcast,” said Brotman. “It works as a loyalty access pass for customers to gain a unique experience or product.”

Brotman said that as POAPs become available to the general public, more brands will start to get involved and come up with new and inventive ways to use them. “For example, in the future, a brand may host a pop-up shopping event and anyone who attends receives a POAP that is the only way to be invited to the next event. POAPs provide brands the opportunity to create unique, exclusive brand experiences leading to more engaged and dedicated customers.”

POAPs Will Revolutionize Digital-First Events

Currently, the concept of a virtual concert or conference is that one merely witnesses (or maybe contributes to, via live chat) a live streaming event. But no one is really there. Contrast that with an event in the metaverse, where, for example, Megan Thee Stallion could perform live, everyone uses VR goggles and one can see every person (i.e. each person’s avatar) in the crowd and the performers on stage.

At a certain point, the idea that such an event is not real will be proof of being out of touch with the modern world, because the majority of people will not question the validity of such an event. Once that shift occurs, having a POAP to prove attendance would be no different than saving a ticket stub to a concert in 2010. 

Learning Opportunities

“POAPs are the next-generation tickets — forget black and white QR codes, forget printing your tickets on paper. Communities are developing fast into ultra-segmented spaces that accommodate everyone’s needs and tastes. And POAPs are a way in and a guarantee of membership,” said Rebello. “As of now, entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck has championed the idea of using POAP collectibles as tickets for his conferences. This is going to get more widespread in the future.”

Not all POAPs celebrate a singular event. Adidas created a POAP to celebrate their entry into the metaverse and provide a way for loyal Adidas fans to prove that they were there right at the beginning. Additionally, the Adidas POAP provides holders with an entry into Adidas' mysterious plot of land on The Sandbox. As the metaverse grows and more people use it, more brands are likely to view POAPs as another way to reward loyal customers in a tangible way.

Related Article: Will the Metaverse Revolutionize Marketing and Customer Experience?

POAPs Show Use Beyond Event Attendance 

If one views POAP collections as decentralized identities, there are even more practical applications for using them as a kind of blockchain résumé. For brands hiring in the cryptocurrency domain, an applicant’s POAP collection could be a reliable record of their activities within a community.

When people are hired to be part of self-governing, community-driven entities, there is a greater desire to make sure that every participant is aligned with the goals of the organization. This would be particularly true of a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), which is a member-owned community without centralized leadership.

Saro McKenna, a founder of Alien Worlds, one of the world's most popular play-to-earn blockchain games and breakthrough NFT metaverses, shared with CMSWire that in Alien Worlds, users can play with unique digital items (NFTs), stake Trillium tokens, travel on Alien Worlds Missions to planets, vote in elections and run for planetary council.

The game has six planet DAOs that compete with one another for Trillium, allowing users to collaborate, compete and strategize with each other. Since its launch in December of 2020, the game has garnered 3.6 million players and over 700,000 monthly active users. 

NFTs and Trillium tokens are used as “badges” in Alien Worlds, in a way that is very similar to POAPs. As more brands create metaverse presences, one can expect to see POAPs used as a way of recognizing the achievements and loyalty of their customers.

Final Thoughts

While it may still be a challenge for brands to see the metaverse or Web3 as an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with customers, the possibilities are infinite, and both digital currency and tangible digital goods are already being purchased, traded and, in the case of POAPs, given away.

Whether brands use POAPs as part of a loyalty program or proof of attendance for VIP extras, there will be many ways for brands to incorporate them into their real-world strategies.