Can you sell 10,000 pictures of cherryade-addicted aliens on the internet?

By Darryl Sparey, Co-founder of Hard Numbers

NFT Marketing Series

Around 2011, when I was Group Business Development Director at Precise, I invited my dear, now sadly departed, Nan along with my Grandad and Mum (who are both still with us) to see our offices and to help them understand what I did. At the time, we were the UK’s leading “media intelligence” business, working with 84 of the FTSE100 and 1,000s of PR departments, agencies and professionals.

Our production director Seamus, to his eternal credit, gave my family the extended tour of the business, the tour that he reserved for the most important people like Sir Digby Jones, the then head of the CBI, or visiting procurement teams from our many Government clients. No stone was left unturned in showing them where the print media and paper was delivered every day, how it was scanned into scanners, turned into individual articles, OCR-ed, summarized, evaluated, and sent to clients via websites, email, courier, fax and other methods that I’ve probably forgotten about (we used to SMS people headlines of their coverage, for example, true story).

Following the tour, the next week my Nan’s hairdresser asked her about it, as she’d gone all the way up to “that London” for the day for it. And my Nan said “oh yes, it was lovely. My son works in computers you know”, because there was a computer on every desk.

In retrospect, “media intelligence” or “reputation measurement” are quite ephemeral things to sell. How I often described that to other people was “I sell bits of paper, stuck on other bits of paper, and graphs about those bits of paper”. And, in a career spent in PR, marketing and communications, I like to think I’m pretty good at selling services, ideas, concepts and other things that might have seemed more than a little intangible to my Nan. I might not, like Sean Carter, have yet sold ice in the winter or fire in hell, but I have sold a lot of other stuff. But I’ve never been asked to sell 10,000 pictures of aliens on the internet before.

This was the brief when I sat down with a former client of Hard Numbers who’s set-up his own NFT business in November of last year, called Pandimensional Trading Company. PJ Cooper designed a range of cherryade-addicted aliens called the Phanackapans, which were taken from a book penned by his co-creator Sam Banfield. PJ is a brilliant product designer, who, much like my co-founder Paul Stollery, has a gift for melding seemingly completely contradictory and impossibly hard talents together – technical development, design, website building and coding. I can only do one thing fairly well – sell – and I’m always intimidated by others who can do so much more. Sam is a gifted artist and writer who has created a universe of characters through years of doodling, drawing, writing and crafting. But, they needed help in promoting this range of artwork, and wondered if I, and Hard Numbers, could help.

At this exact point in time, what I knew about NFTs could, in fairly large handwriting, be committed to the back of a postcard from a Borrower’s holiday. So, I quickly had to learn about them, if we were to take on this brief. I ploughed through the websites, Twitter accounts and Discord servers of many of the most popular NFT launches of recent months. I trawled sites like NFT Scoring to understand how the market operated. I read a lot of the content on sites like The Block, Cryptonews and Bitcoinist to try to understand it.

The market is not without challenges. It’s ALL about Twitter and Discord, and growing an audience quickly on these channels. Earned media plays a very limited role, as does paid media – in fact, many NFT buyers view it as a red flag if you use paid social to promote your collection. It’s VERY noisy. There are anywhere between 25,000 and 50,000 tweets per hour using the hashtag “NFT” on Twitter.

There is a negative perception of NFTs in some quarters of the media and Twitter, too. A deluge of new projects all purporting to be “going to the moon” or offering “revolutionary opportunities” for owners and investors piling into busy journalists’ inboxes. Concerns of both speculation and the kind of froth in the market that would make a Cappuccino envious. And there are issues of both “cultural speculation” and quality of the artwork of some of these projects.

But this was an intellectually really interesting challenge, for many of the above reasons. It was well attuned to some of Hard Numbers’ core competences as well. Hard Numbers offers a Community as a Service proposition for clients, where we set-up, manage, grow and run customer and prospect communities on platforms like Discord, Slack and Guild for clients already. This aspect of the brief felt in our wheelhouse. There was a clear measure of success and KPI, and one that was directly aligned to a sales outcome. And it ticked one of our three core boxes for why we do work – fame, fortune or fun. In this case, PJ Cooper is a great guy, and this felt like a lot of fun.

So, we’re in. We wrote a strategy document just before Christmas, which I’ll share in the not-too-distant future. We’ve augmented our team with a few specialist freelancers with knowledge of the NFT space, and expertise in digital marketing. And we’ve done our on-boarding call with the client last week.

On a personal note, I’ve committed to giving this project a red hot go. To do this, I’m going to do a few things. There’s a trend in tech for “building in public” in recent years – openly talking about the day-to-day challenges, tragedies and triumphs of trying to build a successful start-up. Well, for this project, I’m going to start “marketing in public”. I’ll blog about this project regularly in the run up to the launch of the first Pandimensional Trading Company NFT collection in early Q2 of this year. And I’ve created a separate Twitter account for the purposes of promoting Pandimensionals – Darkly Spray. When I was at university, the word processor (yes, I’m that old) that I had always auto-corrected my name to these two words, so I’ve used this as my (not evil) alter ego to chart my course through the choppy waters of the NFT-verse. If you’re interested, follow me there, and keep an eye on Pandimensionals, too.

Whatever happens next, I’ll know that my Nan would in no way be able to wrap her head around what I’m doing. To her, all my efforts will still be “in computers”. But I know that she’d be proud of the effort, application and elbow-grease I’ll be putting into this one to try and make it a success.