PFP Projects: Beyond the Art

We were fortunate to attend NFT. NYC this November, 2021. 5,000 attendees of which many were trying to interact with NFTs and the content as a means for discovery and initial analysis of the market. NFT’s are new and so is everything around them but the size of the potential community is massive as the technology shows promise to impact many industries globally.

PFP stands for Profile Picture and is the term used for many 5,000-20,000 unique NFT projects. Many online are using these NFTs as their profile pictures on Twitter, Discord and Instagram as a way to signal their support of web3, the metaverse and decentralization.

Access:

NFT PFPs are being used for access. Access to communities and access to events. Owning a specific NFT PFP in some ways is equivalent to a membership to a culture club. At NFT.NYC, holding a specific NFT allowed for access to a number of events. NBA TopShot required attendees to have TopShot moments. Creatures NFT didn’t require it but the information about its events was distributed to its social followers. Bored Ape Yacht Club held 2 events at NFT.NYC that required NFT ownership to participate: a private yacht party and a warehouse party. Monstercat through an incredible event at Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan that prioritized their NFT holders in the ticket line.

This access is also being applied to tokens. Friends With Benefits, or $FWB, is leading the way in tokenized social clubs, recently receiving a $100M valuation following investment from groups like Andreessen Horowitz. To attend their event with Zora in Brooklyn, you needed 5 $FWB tokens for 1 RSVP or 75 $FWB tokens to bringing your friends as well. One person spent $47,000 to buy these right before the event happened, spurring speculation about the fact people at the conference were free wheeling with their spend as long as their were women at the venue.

We know about NFTs as digital assets that people are collecting and speculating against but when used as points of Access to community and culture, they introduce a number of new dimensions to what NFTs are and what they mean for the space moving forward. Having spent a number of years in live event production and digital ticketing as COO at Guest Manager, I’ve seen what implications Access has on how people connect with culture around them. These are the top:

  • Women run things – if an event is male dominant it is less fun and less interesting and less desired. Men go where women go and women go where they feel most comfortable and are surrounded by similar women.
  • Exclusivity drives demand – sold out events create FOMO (fear of missing out) and increase demand for tickets, scalping and greasing the door. Scarcity mixed with excess demand are power for event producers and hosts and can be leveraged for amazing connections and economic optimization.

Access can be both physical and digital. In the world of NFTs we are now seeing both converge. Holding an NFT can mean early access to lineups for digital purchases or physical events. Questions this raises are:

  • Which type of access (physical vs. digital) is more important if you had to prioritize?
  • Are projects that use both more than NFT projects that only have digital roadmaps?
  • Will this lead to regionalization of NFT ownership?
  • Should pre-existing culture-focused communities issue NFTs?

Physical events can be used to create demand for an NFT project that has yet to be released. The good times and media generated from these events serves as organic marketing but the feeling of community connection that is physically based may mean more than purely digital communities.

So where are the best places to launch your community? Places with liberal COVID rules around social gatherings that intersect with a high level of wealth and understanding of crypto currencies seems to be the right cross-section. New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Berlin, Singapore are cities where it is easy to bring large numbers of people together around NFT communities and technology.

So will NFT projects launched from these cities succeed more than their peers who cannot generate in-person connection?

Community

This is the center of successful NFT PFP projects. Driven mostly by Twitter and Discord, NFT communities provide rabid support as excitement for new drops and promotion of pre-existing asset prices are all rolled into one. It’s here, in a COVID world, that people are forming strong new relationships online as everyone tries to figure out what is happening in this space.

Discord communities are the heartbeat of successful NFT projects. When MekaVerse launched it’s minting process, it had 175,000 members in its Discord interacting with the content and schedule on an on-going basis. There’s no paid cost associated with this which makes it cost efficient. Community members also help each other out, greatly reducing customer service resources in answering basic questions.

A well-oiled Discord community becomes a free digital street team for your project. You are able to get 1000s of people to promote the project online to increase the value of the NFTs they own or will purchase. This organic promotion is worth much more than typical paid ad programs and user acquisition. It’s a win-win.

Simplicity

So what is art, anyway? And are NFTs good for art or are we confusing the general public about what type of art should be appreciated? If a computer makes something, is it worth less than human created art? These are some of the amazing conversation pieces in the NFT market today.

There is a lot of misunderstanding and under-appreciation of of the Profile Picture NFT projects today, or NFT art in general. Much of it is generated by AI like the bluechip NFTs, CryptoPunks.

PFP projects are being used for digital asset speculation, access and identity. When viewed through the lens of identity, as we witness the fast progression of the metaverse, social media profile pictures are providing the place where people are first using their NFTs for identity. It instantly links to the community and lets online viewers and followers know that this person is part of the metaverse revolution; a digital-first, web3 promoter who is part of creating a new future for all of us.

So do PFPs need to put art front and center? Is a pixelated image of a penguin with a hat and scarf worth more than a hand-painted canvas?

When we look at human identity and the world of crypto communities we need to respect how the human mind works and the cognitive processing involved related to our notions of self. Art has the ability to impact both our intelligent mind (neo-cortex) as well as our emotional mind (limbic), where we process a lot of the feelings we primarily regard as being ‘human’. Simple PFPs make it easier for the mind to process and if the subject matter makes us feel something, we have a recipe for an impactful profile pic.

This is the reason CryptoPunks have been able to gain such a strong community: that a simple, smoking due with crazy hair is more relatable to most people than complex impressionism. Art is not the lowest common denominator – feelings are. Using simple images to connect better with people’s emotions is a driving force behind which projects are currently succeeding in raising their floor prices of the NFT assets. Paired with strong community leaders, you have a culture club ready for short and medium term success.

If we are creating images that represent identity within this emerging technology field, where wrapping your head around how crypto works is really tough for most people, simplicity is king.

Demand and community can absolutely form around the quality of art within a NFT project and over time we may see a greater level of demand for aesthetics as the market evolves. The same can be true for the utility of the NFT assets, the lore and any games around the content.

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