Ana Andjelic: What Web3 means for brands

Web3 is about more than NFTs and crypto, says marketing leader Ana Andjelic. It offers brands the chance to monetise their archives, and rethink their partner relationships.

Ana Andjelic is a leading thinker in the marketing space. She recently left her role at Banana Republic to launch a new venture. In the third episode of the NEXT – SHOW series 3, she explored what Web3 could mean for brands and businesses over the coming decades. 

Watch the complete episode

While the business world struggles to get its head around Web3, and what it means for the future, Ana Andjelic has a vision of what it could be. And it will be more than just collectable assets like NFTs, she’s clear about that. 

Does she have a big NFT collection herself? No. She’s waiting for the prices to drop. But she’s also waiting for something “aesthetically pleasing”.

“I’m not going to comprise on aesthetics just to own an NFT,” she laughs. 

Defining Web3

So, what is Web3 to her? Now, she gets serious. 

“It’s a completely new operating and organisation system of ownership, of how people interact with each other and brands,” she explains, carefully. “It’s also a whole new strategic paradigm that applies the principles of decentralisation and ownerships in solving business and brand problems.”

Or, if you prefer something simpler:

It’s a strategic direction more than a technology. 

And she sees a significant problem in the technology focus of much of the discussion:

“Most people are thinking ‘what is this digital thing’ rather than ‘what is Web3, and how can I use it to grow my organisation, to connect with my customers and expand my market share, to launch a new product?’” 

Rethinking creativity with Web3

To give one example, she suggests that we know now there’s such a thing as the creator economy. That raises the question of how we employ talent and inspire and engage the talent that exists outside our companies, and use their creativity for our brands. 

“It’s especially relevant for brands who trade in aspiration,” she explains. “Web3 allows self-expression and status-signalling that’s not connected to physical goods. That’s a progression that’s been going on for a while: from the knowledge economy to the experience economy to the transformation economy. Now intangibles, like travel, meditation have become the new status signalling, the new aspiration: eating organic food, cooking at home…” 

And it’s this idea of status accruing through digital goods rather than physical ones that fascinates her. She points to the examples of the Bored Apes Yacht Club or CryptoPunks.

“These are status signalling in a digital wallet, but also on Instagram, on Twitter, as a sign that you’re plugged in and that you have $10,000 or more to spend on the virtual avatars. The purpose of the product is pure status symbol. The value is not in the aesthetics, it’s in the status symbol — it’s desired by numerous people.“

Evolving towards the intangible

Which, of course, raises the question of why a business is still operating almost 100% in the physical world when consumers are showing that they desire things in the virtual world? 

However, we’re still a long way from this mixed reality enterprise becoming really mainstream, she suggests:

“The most business-relevant things are yet to happen. Brands are minting tokens, or creating virtual goods, but they’re still operating according to the old economic logic,” says Andjelic. “They’re creating virtual goods you can wear, but it’s very brand-controlled in a limited environment.“

So, how do you move to the next level?

“First involve the creators, and then devolve the creators; you have The Fabricant which behaves like a platform for digital creators, giving them tools to create fashion in the digital domain, and get royalties if it gets a sale. It’s a service, it charges a fee.“

Brands as Web3 platforms

Could Gucci set an aesthetic vision, and create a platform where creators could deliver within that vision — and Gucci takes a fee? Maybe not in five years, but in 50 years? She certainly thinks so.

“This is brands as platforms, opening up new revenue streams,” she explains. “Thirty to forty years ago, you bought a fashion magazine, and you could make a dress from the pattern. You’re opening up the design by giving people the blueprint for the dress. You don’t make money on physical goods, but on your intellectual property.”

Imagine, then, if you made digital assets from your archives and tokenised them, so you could prove ownership. 

“That database could, in its most basic form, live on Web3,” she suggests. “But then there’s also authentication of rentals, or vintage originals. Why can’t Chanel have control over its own secondary marketplace?” 

“What token really give you is authenticity of ownership and access,” she says. “You have a jacket which is connected with a token, which proves ownership, but also gives you access to some experiences, art, other people, events, even physical stores.” 

The most interesting ideas are those that connect the physical and the virtual, she suggests. “Your Gucci jacket is your membership card.”

Distributed autonomous organisations

This is a shift towards a creative and business ecosystem that isn’t governed by corporations. They, after all, are organisations designed to create trust. They create the trust that you’ll be paid at the end of the month. 

“But if I have a token, I know I’m going to get paid because I own a piece of that, and it is verifiable,” she says. “That subverts traditional mechanisms of trust for establishing an economy.”

Distributed autonomous organisations are complicated to set up now because all the policies and regulations are set up for the old model of trust, the Web 2.0 economy. But think about what happens when people create DAOs to buy something or create something — think about how that changes things. The purchasing power then moves towards distribution. 

A new frontier for creativity

“Imagine if all the biggest trends and creativity happen in the virtual domain,” she concludes. “Instead of always buying the latest fashions in the physical world, you can wear your comfortable, familiar clothes, and show off in the virtual domain. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but it’s something to consider as we move towards an intangible world.”

Many of us have slipped into a quasi-online existence over the past couple of years. Could it yet become a more fashionable, creative and status-driven one? 

This is a summary of an interview with Ana Andjelic, conducted by Monique van Dusseldorp and broadcast on the NEXT Show on 17th March 2022. You can catch up with Ana and her work on Twitter and Substack.