The move toward Web3 is changing what it means to be a fan -- and brands need to shift their thinking as well. Web 2.0 has relied on Big Data to drive engagement by tracking clicks and views, then serving more of the same. Web3 will leverage fandom to connect audiences to brands.
In the opt-in culture of Web3, it will be critical to understand what motivates people to give their data away. Data scraping and cookies will give way to community building.
Passive, one-way advertising to generic demographic groups is ending. Brands will rely on fans to be brand advocates. Web3’s nascency gives brands an unprecedented opportunity to create a more collaborative marketing content infrastructure. So what do brands need to do now?
Brands have been leveraging influencers’ audiences to get more eyeballs on their content, without developing their own relationship. As we move away from the Web 2.0 model, cultivating fans through content will require influencers to evolve into a brand’s creator partners. So, it won’t be just product placement or sponsorship, but more of an organic relationship that will expand the brand community.
Brands have to recognize creators aren’t outlets for their messages; they’re partners in connecting with a fan community. Platforms like TikTok and Twitch are building brand studios to connect directly with brands, often outside of the agency framework. This opens the door for smaller, nimble creative agencies to contribute their expertise without the formalized structures inherent in Web 2.0 culture.
Tap Expertise from Outside Your Comfort Zone
Gen Z may not be the decision-makers yet, but they have expertise most brands and agencies don’t. This doesn’t mean brands should blindly chase trends or ignore ideas from anyone over 25. But brands need to listen to their audience and create authentic content inspired by them and the places they gather.
Jack in the Box tracked what’s happening on Twitch and in Discord channels and used this information to launch a fun campaign with Mark Hamill, surprising fans at the drive-through. The response was huge, spawning tie-ins such as a comic book.
Agencies and brands have to give partners the latitude to disagree with tried-and-true ways. For example, most agencies don’t yet have the internal capacity to build in the metaverse, and will need technology partners who might be outside of their comfort zone.
When fans feel connected to your brand, they expect that connection to be deeper than giving away their valuable personal data. Younger generations in particular won’t support brands that don’t align with their values. Your company’s “opting out” of communicating your values publicly isn’t an option if you want to reach these cohorts.
For example, it isn’t enough for a brand to do a few supportive Pride Month posts. Gen Z expects brands to back it up with action, such as Converse’s Pride collection, with some proceeds supporting organizations like the It Gets Better Project. Content partners are also expected to have an authentic commitment to a cause and not be a hired mouthpiece.
Brands take note: It’s not enough to follow trends. The next stage of the web requires lasting and fruitful connections. You don’t want to identify your “target audience” anymore -- it’s time to create fans.