Rise of Digital Collectibles: The Long-Awaited "NFT" Rebrand

JC Macalintal
Feb 19, 2024
Statistics of collectible avatar holders of Reddit's digital collectible launch
Number of collectible avatar holders of Reddit's digital collectible launch from May 16 to October 23, booming to more than 2.8M avatar holders by the start of Q4 2022.

Approximately 2.8 million Web2 natives got onboarded into Web3 through the recent boom of the Reddit NFT launch from June 2021 to November 2022, beating the 2.3 million figure users of Opensea‚ the OG NFT marketplace launched last December 20, 2017.

A picture of a collection of Reddit collectible avatars
Reddit's collectible avatars

In the span of months, Reddit onboarded 2.8 million people in Web3 without them knowing it, and all it took was the rebranding' of the daunting, technical term "Non-Fungible Tokens" (NFT) to a term all fans of the internet know and love‚ digital collectibles.

Why NFTs aren't designed for mass adoption

The term Non-Fungible Token (NFT) has always been problematic for mass Web 3 adoption. In order for mass adoption to happen, conversations about Web 3 verticals, such as decentralized finance, cryptocurrency, and digital collectibles, have to have a "jump-off" point from Web 2.

For example, if there's Paypal in Web 2, there's Metamask in Web 3‚ though both of them are, in essence, wallets, Web 3 is decentralized, so Metamask can't control the funds of an individual or entity, unlike Paypal.

Nas Arcayan of Mothership, Neil Dimapilis of Social Media Marketing Philippines, Brian Corella of The Maverick‚ JC Macalintal of Bitskwela, and Nel Mozol.
From left to right, Nas Arcayan (CEO of Mothership‚ a cognitive branding agency), Neil Dimaphilis (Founder of Social Media Marketing Philippines and Digital Marketing Executive of Warner Music Philippines), Brian Corella (Founder and CEO of The Maverick‚ a hypergrowth men's product startup), JC Macalintal (CMO of Bitskwela, a Web3 edutech company), and Nel Mozol.

As Nas Arcayan (CEO of Mothership, an award-winning cognitive branding agency) says, "How we label things determines how we think about them because it changes both context and expectations attached to‚ more importantly, it changes what it's compared to."

"To specify, the digital collectible rebrand was effective because, for Web2 people, NFTs didn't make sense; there was no comparison. What was it building off of?" Nas specifies. "Digital Collectibles, however, stick in the mind because it has a jump-off' point. So, the mind of Web 2 people easily understand it," Nas adds.

Moreover, the shift of NFTs to the term "digital collectibles" is more in tangent with the term "cryptocurrency." That is, Web2 natives that hear the term cryptocurrency can easily file in their mind that the conversation is about money or a form of currency, and that digital collectibles are collectibles that people already know and love.

The bottom line is a conversation between a Web 3 and a Web 2 native is difficult and often full of resistance and "technical" explanations of the conversation about NFTs. Moreover, a discussion about NFTs will often bring in new technical terms like blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and consensus mechanisms that can be daunting even for people that were curious about the space in the first place. What more people who aren't even curious at all?

On the other hand, a conversation between a Web 3 and a Web 2 native is more ease-and-flow and relatable to the conversation about digital collectibles. Because everyone is a collector of something, it's simply just part of consumer behavior. Collecting and consuming is just what people do.

Collecting and owning are two different things

The magic in the conversation mentioned above then happens when Web 2 natives ask the difference between the digital collectibles they know and love, to unique digital collectibles in Web 3 that they can actually own‚ not just collect. Web 2 Digital collectibles are commerce, while Web 3 digital collectibles are property.

When I'm asked to introduce Bitskwela‚ our Web3 edutech company‚ we introduce ourselves as a "Web3 edutech company that helps Filipinos own a piece of the internet." We've found that reframing our elevator pitch to this from introducing ourselves as a "Web3 edutech company," which has Web3 educational materials, has captured the attention of the press, investors, and industry partners easier. Because the next thing that comes out of their mouths is, "You can own a piece of the internet? How?"

This is where the tech infrastructure of Web3 kicks in on the conversation, the blockchain technology that makes ownership and security in the new version of the internet possible. These Web 3 digital collectibles are non-fungible‚ they have a unique digital identifier that cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided, that is recorded in a blockchain, and that is used to certify authenticity and ownership.

Upcoming evolution in consumer and collector behavior

Comparison between Web1 the information economy, Web2 the platform economy, and Web3 the ownership economy

Web3 is not reinventing the wheel of the internet. It is simply the next version of the internet catering to the next consumer behavior. Web 1.0 was the first version of the internet, it brought an information economy where users can only read. Web 2.0 was its second version‚ the platform economy‚ where users can now read and write. It was the first time interaction was possible. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms you know currently fall in this category. Web 3.0 is read, write, and own. Aside from interacting with people, users in Web3 own every bit of content, activity, and property that they produce or acquire in the space.

Simply put, the term digital collectibles are just simply easier to understand. The NFT branding sounds like Web3 people are trying to reinvent the wheel. As Nas adds, "The plain reason why it works is that its value (digital collectibles) is clear as day. With the term "NFT," you don't immediately know what it's for, but digital collectibles have an immediate jump-off."

Mass adoption only happens when product conversations become household. Conversely, household conversations can only happen when people can easily understand the new trend in consumer behavior. People love to own things. They just don't know that until now, their social media profiles and everything they've published in Web 2 are only borrowed. The moment they violate platform guidelines and terms, no matter how much they use in ad spend or promotions, they will be de-platformed within seconds.

"No one wants to progress in a vacuum. We want all of the progress, with none of the risks. If we want people to adopt new information, we must make them feel safe to shift toward the new way of doing things. This can't happen by throwing around technical jargon, no matter how impressive they are. They can only happen if we work with the mind and give our innovation the correct labels to make it understand and feel safe." Nas adds.

Imagine the conversation when people finally understand that they can own a piece of the internet. This is crucial, so the next time you're asked why you pay so much for a JPEG? Your answer can be simply, "Because it's a digital collectible I own, and since I own the digital collectible, I get access to features, benefits, and a community of people who also own pieces of the collection."

Before, NFTs were far-fetched from being a household conversation; but the rebrand to digital collectibles allows people bullish and building in Web3 to have better and easier conversations with Web2 natives that are web-curious' (curious or open to engaging in internet activity with Web2 and Web3) in the space.

The long-awaited rebrand of NFTs to digital collectibles, as paved by flagship and Fortune 500 Web 2 brands such as Reddit and NBA top shot will remove a lot of resistance to Web 3 adoption.

JC Macalintal
Founder, Creative Writer, Designer, Storyteller

JC Macalintal is the community builder of Social Media Marketing Philippines, a community of 60K Filipino social media managers, marketers, and freelancers both in Web 2 and Web 3. He’s also the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of XO Projects, a Web 3 BPOS that provides full-stack marketing and community-building services to help Web 3 projects sell out and build communities. Currently, JC is the Chief Marketing Officer of Bitskwela — a Web 3 EdTech company that helps Filipinos own a piece of the internet.

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