leveraging web3 for web2 brand collaborations

minute read

Just poured a fresh cup of coffee, but I can tell you that I don't need it. This is a post I'm genuinely excited to write about.

But before we can get into the exciting bits, we need to accept a hard truth. Brands, big and small, are in trouble.

The solution is right in front of us. And no one is talking about it.

It all started with cookies. You might know them from the endless accept all cookies banners across today's internet. Or, if you're a marketer, then you might know them as the backbone of the internet advertising industry.

But cookies, believe it or not, are finally on their way out. While some might have said they've seen it coming for years, the vast majority of commerce is run by small to medium businesses. Many of them did not, and some will not, see this coming. This sudden decline of cookie-based tracking presents a significant challenge for all Web2 brands. Businesses will need to reinvent their advertising playbooks to find new ways to understand and engage with their customers effectively.

But with chaos comes opportunity. Opportunity to reexamine some of the existing options, with an outside the box lens. Maybe we've been on the right track (that's still debatable), but with the wrong tools.

Web3 has entered the chat.

But what is Web3? To understand this next iteration of the internet, let's take a closer look at our current internet, Web2, and the previous major functional and cultural iteration.

Web1: READ

The early public internet. It's labelled here as "READ" because although you could still throw up a website, for the most part, it was just a static reference. A time when most of the internet was read-only, and much of the content was created by the few.


Web2 is the current mainstream internet as we know it. Boiled down to the basics, Web2 is Web1, but with "WRITE" functionality, pretty much everywhere. Think Facebook, Instagram, Medium. You can do more than read on these platforms, you can submit your own content, or engage and remix someone else's. Much of the content on the internet today is user generated. There are still many fewer users creating content than consuming it (as will likely always be true), but the capability is there, and gets used appropriately.


That brings us to Web3. The next phase of the internet. The big difference between Web2 and Web3 is the capability to own. But to fully grasp the benefits of ownership on the web, we need to cover a few of the basics first.

Web3 relies on a blockchain to manage data. There are many blockchains, but the most common are Bitcoin and Ethereum. A blockchain is essentially a shared public ledger, tabling all transactions happening across the entire chain. That public ledger, the blockchain, is Web3's secret sauce. Since the ledger and it's entries, the blockchain data, is public, it is possible to verify (with certainty) that your account contains the assets that you say it does.

What are assets? Why do I need to prove I own them to anyone?

Think of these assets as items like a membership, or a backstage pass, that grants you exclusive access or discounts. Should you want to take advantage of those benefits, you'll need to swipe your membership to verify it's you. But on the blockchain, the equivalent of swiping your membership card is connecting your blockchain account, called a wallet.

Furthermore, the ability to own assets means you can do with them as you please. Bought some tickets as NFTs and can't make the show? Transfer them to a friend's wallet so they can go instead. Or maybe you decide to use a third party NFT marketplace and sell them to a stranger to get your money back.

But brands might not want customers to be able to share their loyalty cards

And that's fine too! When creating the NFT for the program, brands can specify whether or not the NFT can be transferred. That means that once they issue the NFT to your wallet, you won't be able to sell, trade, or transfer it to anyone else. If for some reason you lose access to your wallet, then you'd need to get in contact with the brand to have another NFT issued and the old one nullified.

With the ability to own digital assets, especially those with real world counterparts, Web3 is a logical next step for the internet and the way we interact together as an increasingly global community.

Blockchain Assets in Marketing

Think about loyalty cards for a moment. Traditionally, they've not been seen as a direct marketing tool, similar to cookies. But with the emergence of Web3, is it time to rethink their role? Time to rethink how brands provide value directly and indirectly to their audiences?

Blockchain assets, such as loyalty and exclusive access type NFTs, open up a realm of possibilities. As brands begin to adopt NFT-based loyalty programs and digital collectibles, these assets become powerful tools for gaining deeper insights into customer preferences.

"The hype and price bubble for nonfungible tokens may already have peaked, but the more interesting and enduring business uses have just begun." - Bain & Company

Understanding customer preferences about your brand is vital. However, the real game-changer is the potential of NFT-based programs to reveal insights into your customers' interests in other brands, paving the way for truly impactful collaborations.

Let's take a moment to consider the broader implications of NFTs. Imagine a scenario where a brand hosts an event, and attendees receive a digital collectible NFT as a souvenir. This token can be more than just a keepsake. It can be a gateway to future benefits, like discounts or exclusive offers for the next event. This innovative approach exemplifies how NFTs can interweave the digital and physical realms, creating dynamic, long-lasting relationships between brands and customers.

Hypothetical Brand Partnership Examples

You might already have a few ideas of how existing brands, maybe your own, can start integrating Web3 to provide more value to customers. But let's add some fuel to the fire, and explore a few hypothetical scenarios. These illustrate not just the potential of Web3, but also how it can be creatively harnessed to add significant value for customers and brands alike.

Nike x Spotify

Nike could create exclusive access NFTs for a special line of athletic wear. Spotify users who purchase these NFTs gain access to custom, athlete-curated playlists. This collaboration taps into the intersection of fitness enthusiasts who are also music lovers, enhancing both brands' reach and engagement.

Starbucks x Goodreads

Consider Starbucks issuing NFTs for unique in-store experiences or special edition beverages. Goodreads users with these NFTs might unlock special reading recommendations or even participate in book club events at Starbucks locations. This partnership would link coffee enthusiasts and avid readers, fostering a community around shared interests.

Sephora x Pinterest

Sephora could provide NFTs for exclusive makeup tutorials or early access to new product lines. By engaging in activities like sharing a Sephora post on Pinterest, users might unlock further content, such as personalized beauty boards or exclusive online beauty webinars. This strategy would blend Sephora's beauty expertise with the visual platform of Pinterest, catering to both beauty enthusiasts and influencers.


The journey from Web2 to Web3 is not just a new chapter in digital marketing; it's a response to a pressing challenge facing nearly all businesses today. The decline of cookie-based tracking is a call to action for brands to innovate and connect with their audiences in more meaningful, and sometimes, collaborative ways.

Web3, powered by blockchain technology, heralds a new era of ownership, transparency, and engagement. It's a paradigm shift enabling brands to craft unique experiences through NFTs and blockchain assets, deepening customer loyalty and providing valuable insights.

The potential of collaborations like Nike x Spotify, Starbucks x Goodreads, and Sephora x Pinterest is immense. These hypothetical examples represent what is only the tip of the iceberg of what can be achieved when brands fully embrace Web3, and the collaboration opportunities that come with it.

As we continue to navigate this new, and sometimes chaotic, digital landscape together, the brands that will stand out are those that embrace these changes with creativity and a willingness to experiment.

We're standing on the brink of a marketing renaissance. Let's look forward to a near and very possible future where digital marketing is not just about reaching customers but about collaborating with peers to create meaningful value for customers and industries as a whole.