Newsletter: Brands in Web3 & Web3 in Brands #5

This week: Decentralized identity, yes, but why Worldcoin? Musk releases the bird once and for all, and how Web3 technology gives value to legacy art. 

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Newsletter: Brands in Web3 & Web3 in Brands #5

Welcome to Edition #5 of “Brands in Web3 & Web3 in brands“, your regular dose of the latest news from the blockchain, crypto, and Web3 space, curated to provide unique marketing and brand strategy insights with a pinch of spice. 

This week: Decentralized identity, yes, but why Worldcoin? Musk releases the bird once and for all, and how Web3 technology gives value to legacy art. 

Why, Worldcoin, why? 

The launch of Worldcoin has been perhaps the biggest in crypto so far this year. The brainchild of ChatGPT wunderkind Sam Altman and backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Worldcoin launched in late July to much fanfare in the crypto press. The project’s core premise is that it offers a universal, blockchain-based ID, which cannot be cheated since it relies on retina scans to identify each individual. Anyone who signs up by having their retina scanned by one of the physical “orbs” can earn an allocation of WLD, the native token. 

Even before launching, the project drew criticism from observers. An MIT investigation from last year questioned the ethical practices the company was using to sign up participants for its beta. Since launching, it’s drawn further criticism and now scrutiny from German regulators for its data protection practices. The latest news is that the Kenyan government has issued an outright ban

From a reputational perspective, none of this is good news for a startup company – no matter how much Silicon Valley celebrity clout it wields. But I can only assume that the entire project lacks any branding expertise or has shunned sensible advice since it has decided to run with the name Worldcoin. 


I’ve said it before, and I remain true to my belief – a future exists where governments and corporate entities don’t control our identities. (Or, for that matter, our data, intellectual property, or financial affairs.) 

Decentralized technologies are the most promising path we have to this future, and tech visionaries like Sam Altman are among the people we need to lead us there. 

However, at this point in the evolution of Web3, post-FTX, with the regulators circling like hawks and investors nervously hoarding their cash, we need to recognize that calling a project anything-COIN will distract from everything else the project stands for. 

“Worldcoin” doesn’t say anything about digital identity, accessibility, privacy, or any other ostensible benefits of Worldcoin’s existence. 

What Worldcoin does scream is “crypto project” and all the negative connotations that were attached to the word crypto in 2022. From a branding perspective, it’s kryptonite. 

If you’re someone from within the crypto community and finding this difficult to swallow, then consider it from this perspective: if Sam Altman had chosen to name his project “Worldbook,” would you have thought it is a good call? 

If not, you understand the power of a negative brand association. 

A bird. But not in the hand 

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or so they say. It’s also worth at least four unicorns, according to one apparently conservative estimate. For Elon Musk, who took over Twitter at a total cost of $44 billion last year, it probably doesn’t feel like much of a further stretch to his wallet – particularly so, considering the damage already done to the Twitter brand since he stepped in. 

But like every other branding expert out there, Musk’s move has me scratching my head for different reasons. Firstly, the unsentimental destruction of the phenomenal brand value that Twitter has built up over so many years with the name and the blue bird logo. 

Of all the noteworthy achievements that have emerged from Silicon Valley over the last three decades, to my knowledge, only two firms have acquired the ultimate badge of branding success – when your name becomes a verb. To tweet or to google are defining acts of brand loyalty.  Regardless of the success of Amazon, Facebook, Apple, or the rest, they’re all stuck with the same generic verbs – post, browse, search. 

So from over a decade of verb-level brand familiarity, now to X. 

This brings us to the second major head-scratcher. 

What is X to most people? 

Or a NSFW warning? 

Or something unknown? 

The only logical explanation for X seems to be that it’s Elon’s obsession. The name has been associated with his ventures (or misadventures, depending on whose side you’re on) at PayPal. The same thread is visible with SpaceX, with Tesla models, with the child he has with Grimes, and now with his latest toy, Twitter. 

But it won’t be Twitter as we know it. According to Linda Yaccarino, the company’s CEO: “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities. Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine.”

Perhaps then, it’s not so difficult to follow the logic in the line of thinking. He wants to create something new and different from Twitter. So he’s doing away with the old brand and ushering in something new. 

Unfortunately, in the execution, he’s also throwing out all of the value associated with that brand and alienating a vast portion of a loyal user base – in service of delivering a platform that nobody, not even his most loyal acolytes, asked for. 

As a side note, hats off to the WWF for taking the opportunity of Elon’s antics to boost their own brand with this perfectly-timed jibe:

Advancing adoption

It’s often only possible to consider technological innovations in terms of their impact on the future, but every now and again, technology offers a new perspective on the past or the opportunity to established artists to gain new value from their modes of work. 

A new exhibit due to go on show at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles will feature photography by Beat poet Alan Ginsberg, along with a collection of generative poetry created by an AI based on Ginsberg’s literary works. The exhibition, titled “Muses & Self” was developed in collaboration with NFT poetry platform and community TheVERSEverse, supported by the Tezos Foundation.

Long before anyone had heard of NFTs, legendary pioneer of generative art Vera Molnár was developing algorithms for creating imagery back in the 1950s. However, until the advent of NFTs, there was no way to attribute value to her digital works. 

Last week, the 99-year-old Hungarian artist sold out an NFT collection auctioned via Sotheby’s in just one hour. The “Themes and Variations” collection features 500 collectibles, with the floor price having risen by over 100% since the initial sale closed, indicating high demand.  

NFTs are continuing to gain adoption elsewhere on the art scene, with the news last week that The Sandbox and the British Museum are entering into a collaboration to bring history, culture, and art into the metaverse in the form of themed collectibles that reflect collections and artifacts held in the museum.

Last week, Suku, a crypto payments app enabling transactions via social media platforms, teamed up with Polygon to allow Twitter users to mint NFTs automatically using a hashtag. During the period the offer was open, over 48,000 users opened up Suku accounts to mint 50,000 NFTs. 

Elon might have to speed up his plans to advance X into the fintech space as competition is heating up. 

Welcome to the era of blocks and mortar

When you’ve been fortunate enough to observe successive tech cycles play out, some parallels become apparent. At this point in the emergence of Web3, I can see a very similar pattern in enterprise exploration as happened with the first iteration of the internet. 

In my latest piece for Cointelegraph, I explain the areas where history seems to be repeating itself, and what I believe this means for corporate adoption of blockchain and Web3 technologies. 

Read: Welcome to the era of blocks and mortar: Learning from the past on Cointelegraph

Looking towards the next growth cycle, many Web3 firms are now recognizing that they need to raise their marketing game beyond pure name recognition. Learning from experienced entrepreneurs is often a great place to start. Another recent piece from Cointelegraph rounds up 16 pieces of advice for Web3 leaders seeking to refine their marketing messages (with input from yours truly, of course!) 

Read 16 tips to help blockchain companies refine their marketing messages

In internet terms, blogging is one of the oldest ways to communicate with an audience, predating both video sharing and social media. Blogging was the launchpad for some of today’s biggest online publishers, including Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Mashable. And yet, even in 2023, the humble blog retains its engagement value, rightfully earning a place on most business websites. 

Over on LinkedIn, my latest thought piece considers the enduring longevity of the blog. As an added bonus, it also outlines 14 ways you can level up your blogging game.

Read 7 reasons blogging never dies (and 14 ways to get it right)

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