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NFT Briefing: “Digital Collectibles”

Top brands are shunning the term "NFT" and replacing it with "digital collectibles." Chris Williams explains why.

NFT Briefing: “Digital Collectibles”
Shutterstock cover by Sweet Art

Key Takeaways

  • Many top brands have released NFT collections and branded them as "digital collectibles."
  • Brands are likely avoiding the term "NFT" due to the fierce backlash the technology faced as it went mainstream in 2021.
  • As with other crypto terms like "Web3," branding NFTs in a more accessible way could accelerate mass adoption.

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FIFA, Meta, and others have embraced “digital collectibles” in recent months.

Why Are Brands Touting “Digital Collectibles”?

Many globally-renowned brands have dived into the NFT space over the past year, with mixed results. We saw VISA drop six figures on a CryptoPunk, Adidas joined the Bored Apes with exclusive physical merch to boot, and Coca-Cola launched its own Metaverse drink.

But while many of the world’s most recognizable companies have rushed to join the bandwagon before it leaves them behind for good, they’ve encountered a problem on the way. As I noted the other week when I unpacked David Bowie’s charity NFT drop, the public perception toward NFTs is extremely negative, which creates a potential PR headache for big brands.

At this point we’re all aware of the outsider’s aversions toward NFTs even if we don’t agree with them. Critics think that NFTs embody an ugly form of hypercapitalism, and they often believe that there’s a huge climate cost to minting them. Even with Ethereum’s recent move to Proof-of-Stake, the energy consumption argument hasn’t gone away. 

As brands attempt to navigate the Metaverse without losing their core customers forever, I’ve noticed a trend playing out among some of the big players. Forget NFTs—big brands are more interested in “digital collectibles” now, or at least that’s what they’re telling their audiences.

“Official. Digital. Collectibles.” (Source: @FIFAPlusCollect)

Soccer giant FIFA partnered with Algorand in May and launched a new banner called FIFA+ Collect to start experimenting with NFTs, but you could be forgiven if you didn’t pick that up from the official website the official website, Twitter account, or press release. FIFA+ Collect describes its World Cup digital sticker packs as “collectibles,” and I think this is because FIFA wants to avoid using the term “NFT” altogether. By marketing them as “collectibles” instead, FIFA likely has a better chance at preventing a backlash and onboarding new people. 

FIFA isn’t the first big organization to take this approach—Meta pulled a similar move when it announced that Instagram was rolling out NFTs, avoiding the Ethereum community’s term in favor of “digital collectibles.” A bunch of gaming titles have done the same thing over the past few months (gamers have been particularly critical of NFTs, perhaps because they’ve built such an affinity with the brands they support and fear big changes).

When NFTs exploded in 2021, followers debated whether we’d still be using the term “NFT” a decade from now. I think it’s still too early to make a call on that, but I don’t think FIFA will be the last brand to take a big jump to embrace “digital collectibles.”

We’ve also seen crypto evangelists extolling the virtues of “Web3” in a bid to help people understand “crypto,” and perhaps we’ll see more attempts to market niches like DeFi in a more accessible way in the future. At the end of the day, it all comes down to branding. And if that leads to mass adoption, then I’m here for it.

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned ETH and several other fungible and non-fungible cryptocurrencies.

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