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Dole's foray into NFT: 3 areas marketers should look out for

Dole's foray into NFT: 3 areas marketers should look out for

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This year saw the emergence of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which saw booming popularity in the art world.

For instance, Vogue Singapore pushed the boundaries by stepping into the NFT space. In August, it launched the first NFT mystery box uniting all 28 editions of Vogue to feature a sunrise as a leitmotif indicating a hopeful outlook towards a new dawn. Its September issue also featured a unique print cover in the form of a QR code that acts as a portal to two digital-only covers created in partnership with local and international digital designers.

As for F&B brands, McDonald’s launched a new set of NFTs earlier this month to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the McRib - a burger with a boneless pork patty inside – and its return to the US market. This comes after its first NFT collection that was released about a month before, in celebration of its 31st anniversary China and the opening of its new headquarters in Shanghai. Other F&B brands also released NFTs, such as Coca-Cola, Campbell and Budweiser, among several others. Not missing the boat on the booming trend, luxury brands also jumped on the hype. Karl Lagerfeld released two NFTs on its birthday in September, in collaboration with fashion digital platform THE DEMATERIALISED. Additionally, August saw DKNY auction its redesigned logo as an NFT for charity, and Louis Vuitton roll out an NFT video game to celebrate the founder's 200th birthday. 

According to DappRader - which provides information and insights on decentralised apps - and Blockchain Game Alliance's blockchain industry report for the third quarter this year, the NFT space amassed US$10.67 billion in trading volumes during the third quarter; a 704% quarter-to-quarter increase. Among them, NFT game items accounted for US$2.32 billion in trading volume - 21.72% of the total NFT trading volume during the quarter.

For Dole Sunshine Company, the company felt inspired to enter the NFT scene following the news of Singapore-based blockchain entrepreneur, coder and angel investor Vignesh Sundaresan's - better known as MetaKovan - US$69 million purchase of an NFT created by digital artist Beeple, said Rupen Desai, global CMO at Dole, said during MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Digital Marketing Asia 2021 conference.

Desai and his team saw the rise in NFTs as an opportunity to leverage the new digital phenomenon, and connect it to the real-world challenges of hunger and malnutrition. 

The Dole Promise, unveiled in June 2020, was created on three key pillars around nutrition, sustainability, and the creation of shared value: Better for people, better for planet, and better for all stakeholders.

As part of its promise, Dole wanted to provide access to sustainable nutrition for one billion people, move towards zero processed sugar in all Dole products, achieve zero fruit loss from Dole farms to markets, and cease using fossil-fuel based plastic packaging by 2025. It also aims to grow its business value by 50% within the same timeframe. Additionally, Dole looks to attain net zero carbon emissions in its operations by 2030. At the same time, Dole hopes to continue to positively impact all farmers, communities and people working for the company; through its commitment to equal opportunity, living wages, and an ever-increasing level of safety, nutrition, and wellbeing. Dole also seeks to advance human rights within the direct operations and supply chains by building a culture of transparency and accountability. 

As such, the company felt that NFTs may be able to better bring across its efforts for nutritional equality in the world. Desai added that today in society there is an uneven distribution between the haves, and the have nots. Specifically, he elaborated on “the people who have to grow the food and the people that they feed”.

"We actually live in a world which wastes a third of the food we grow. Almost the same amount of people will go hungry as the number of people who have obesity and there is a very unequal [distribution] when it comes to access to good nutrition," he added. As such, the company approached artist David Datuna, who has been dubbed "the hungry artist" after eating another artists work.

According to media reports, when artist Maurizio Cattelan pasted a banana to the wall as an art piece at the Art Basel Miami in 2019, it quickly gained the attention of the public and was eventually sold off at US$120,000. The second banana Cattelan used to replace the first also sold at the same price. The third time, however, saw people bidding for the banana, reaching as high as US$150,000. Datuna, who saw visitors flocking near the “art piece”, went over to remove the banana from the wall and ate it in front of everyone as part of his “art performance”. Datuna had not sought prior permission from Cattelan or the museum and instantly rose to fame.

Dole and Datuna then partnered up to launch an NFT series of digital fruits, where all proceeds would go to Boys & Girls Club of America, which would help feed those who are dealing with food and nutritional insecurity.

Titled #BiteOutOfHunger, the five-part NFT art collection focused on the intrinsic connection between nutrition and food security. The final piece featured a physical artwork that brought the first four pieces together and embedded a nod to Datuna's banana-eating moment. The NFTs were sold on NFT marketplace Rarible and were well-received with over 42 million social impressions and over two million engagements on Twitter and over seven million on Reddit.

According to Desai, it also generated a discussion by 3,500 crypto enthusiasts within minutes on Clubhouse, and was reported on by major news outlets. The company also held a giveaway on Twitter for fans to stand a chance to win a NFT and debuted at the Decentraland gallery - a user-owned, Ethereum-based metaverse – where people could bid for their favourite artworks while at the gallery.  Dole earned a total of 25.8 ether, (worth over SG$151,400), with the highest bid reaching 10.8 ether (worth over SG$63,300). Ether is the native cryptocurrency of blockchain platform Ethereum.

Desai said that, based on Dole's journey in using NFTs to enhance its digital brand reputation when launching NFTs, brands will need to ensure they remain authentic to their purpose, find the right partners, and account for the planet.  As more brands tap onto the new digital phenomenon to market their offerings, Desai shared three tips to launch a successful NFT, especially for brands that wish to enter the metaverse but are not sure how to go about it. 

  1. Be authentic to your purpose

Every time a new technology or digital platform emerges, marketers of the larger community get excited about it, and sometimes lose track of why they do what they do in the process, Desai said. That is not ideal, especially for brands who are trying to get more exposure for themselves. He added:

Marketers should ensure that the NFT will continue to be authentic to the purpose.

Deloitte's 2022 Global Marketing Trends Consumer Survey revealed that consumers cited price and quality as their top-three purchasing criteria when purchasing from a specific brand. As such, other criteria such as purpose-related factors, become competitive differentiators in getting your brand noticed. 

At the same time, high-growth brands are looking at purpose more holistically and translating it into action, Deloitte's Global Marketing Trends Executive Survey found, implying that brands that commit to purpose are gaining a critical competitive advantage.

  1. Find the right partners

Finding the right partners is also essential when navigating through the ins and outs of NFTs. "We went through this crazy learning curve - setting up a digital wallet, getting our partners to set up a digital wallet, and finding out that most of the media that we normally use for brands, such as Facebook and Instagram, aren't as effective [when it comes to NFTs]," Desai said.

Embarking on partnerships with companies and professionals such as designers and crypto marketplaces will enable brands to tap on partner expertise to ensure that their needs are met. For instance, Dole tapped on Zytara for its knowledge on how to market its NFT, and partnered with decarbonisation advisor Aerial, to create a climate positive solution

  1. Account for the planet

Desai said that when adopting new technologies such as NFTs, marketers should aim for campaigns to be planet positive or, at least, planet neutral. Marketers need to remember that not all technology is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

According to a report by Forrester, consumers in Asia Pacific who purchase based on brands’ values have made businesses more aware of their CSR and sustainability practices. However, the sustainability efforts of most businesses in the region are driven by compliance and investor pressure, as opposed to strategic planning and risk management – as they should.

Forrester's report revealed that 42% of businesses in Asia Pacific said the importance of CSR and sustainability as a business initiative increased due to COVID-19, but noted that only 30% of businesses are making their sustainability efforts more transparent; 30% are reducing their carbon footprint or e-waste.

As a company that believes in the goodness of the planet, Desai said it was very important that whatever it does as a community, it accounts for the planet. "Our partnership with the team at Aerial actually helped make sure of that, whether in the minting, selling, or reselling," he added.

Join our Digital Marketing Asia conference happening from 9 November 2021 - 25 November 2021 to learn about the upcoming trends and technologies in the world of digital. Check out the agenda here. 

Related articles:
What do a panda, gorilla and bear have in common with Dole?
Dole's global CMO Rupen Desai admits he is the 'accidental marketer'
Marketer's perspective on NFT: A tech-driven trend or hype?
Analysis: What exactly are NFTs and why it's relevant to marketing
#ExplainIt: Is there a need for a chief metaverse officer?

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