2022 trends: New Materialists

At the end of last year, we launched our annual trends report – Think Forward 2022: Brave New Worlds. It features the five key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months. This post looks at the final trend covered in the report: New Materialists. For more, check out the full Think Forward report here.

People have started to understand and appreciate the monetary value of digital content.

Digital goods have been given new value by the sudden spike in interest for NFTs: 8% of social media users globally have already invested in them. Why? Because NFTs have introduced the notion of scarcity to a digital landscape overloaded with stuff.

By ‘tokenising’ a piece of content on the blockchain, a creator is essentially saying that they have only approved one of that piece of content. 

Content has become an asset – and as a result, digital ownership has evolved from fringe fascination to legitimate investment. 

Just like the status symbols of yore – buying a Rolex, buying a Porsche – buying an NFT is an act of conspicuous consumption. But this is the NEW new money. In digital economies, who gets rich isn’t defined by who you know, but who you follow; in this world, investments aren’t just in digital assets, but in the communities around them. 

Investing in online goods has become the hottest way to earn clout, both online and off.

It’s why digital clothing has become such a success story: 33% of Gen Zers globally have purchased digital clothing or skins for their avatars. Industries that already trade in status are the natural early adopters in this shift. Not to mention the fact that virtual goods hint at the promise of a more sustainable future for an industry steeped in eco-nightmares: Farfetch, for instance, has been sending influencers ‘virtual samples’ to minimise its carbon footprint.

But for brands across industries, the economy that’s building off of digital stuff presents exciting opportunities. Investing in virtual goods can indicate so much more than great taste or financial independence. 

Digital ownership is increasingly being used as a way to signal what you believe in, show people what you love, and give a shout out to the communities you’re a part of.

The Behavioural Change

People are nesting and investing in virtual environments.
On the cutting edge of digital ownership, in early 2021, artist Krista Kim sold a virtual house that can be visited via VR platform Spartial for over $500,000 (all the better to hang your NFTs in!). 

Creators are reclaiming the value of their images and creativity.
In a climate where memes are actually worth cash, previously unwitting (and uncompensated) internet stars have been able to win some earnings off their viral success.

Fans are investing in creators in exchange for IP rights.
Some artists and creators are creating NFTs that fans can get a return on investment from.  

How can brands use it?

1. Brands should extend the physical ownership of their products into digital.
Nike has filed a patent to create CryptoKicks, with conversation currently bubbling around it. According to the patent, when customers buy physical shoes in the collection, they’ll also buy the representative NFT, essentially giving them physical and digital ownership of their purchase.

2. Brands should be showing up in digital environments.
Spanish fashion brand Paloma Wool and British bedding brand Crisp Sheets collaborated with Argentine 3D artist Mercedes Luna Larrahona to create fantastical virtual showrooms for their products to feature in.    

3. Brands should collaborate with digital artists, communities and social-first franchises to build digital credentials.
The ‘Sunrise Red’ collection of NFTs from ASICS are all created in collaboration with young digital artists. When sold,  the proceeds are reinvested into the brand’s Artist-In-Residence programme, ultimately funding the next generation of digital artists.

Read more about New Materialists in Think Forward 2022: Brave New Worlds here.