What can marketers learn from witches?

As I end my adventure at the fall cohort of Metacurious, the marketing accelerator, I decided to write an article about my learning experience within the cohort. We were asked to share an interesting perspective on web3, from our unique viewpoint, or summarize our takeaways from the program.

The number of thought-provoking prompts and takeaways could probably feed a series of writings (and most probably will). As I write these words, I still struggle to define the scope of this reflection. Instead of choosing to continue mind-mapping, I’ll start to get my thoughts onto this page and go from here.

You must have chaos within you to give birth to a star.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-68)

In all sessions of this cohort, and also in the conversations that take place in our group channel, my mind kept going to concept of intentional consistency. This is, maybe, my biggest take-away from this path with Metacurious (although I expect some other nuggets to work as seeds for future reflections).

Web3 native brands or web2 brands that want to enter this space need to be intentional about their choices and their messaging, in a way that is authentic to their brand, their audiences or communities, their values, their vision and the world they want to build.

The intentionality that comes into this process is even more relevant in web3, because most people are disappointed in web2 and its common practices, of user data exploitation and normalization of creator burnout to make ends meet.

Users and creators are tired of being taken advantage of, and both web3 natives and crypto curious audiences are craving for trustworthy brands. And the best way to deliver is through consistent and intentional world-building.

Branding is world-building

As I write this at a local cafe in Halloween, a baby girl of about 2 years old runs around in her cute witch costume, proud of her pointy hat, which prompts me to illustrate my point with an obvious example, using Crypto Coven as a case study to understand brand building in web3.

For those of you who are admirers of this witch-inspired NFT project, like me, it is worthless to say that it is a classic example on how world-building can shape a successful brand.

Before the dead were put to rest,
before the wizard kings were cast off thrones of pale bone...
before their unassailable walls crumbled to dust,
and wonder seeped from the cracks in our skin...
there were WITCHES who wove the threads of all things,
carefully adjusting each string to tune.

Crypto Coven is an immersive, narrative-driven experiment in world-building... the weird wilds await.

Crypto Coven was launched precisely one year, starting their community sale on October 31st, 2021, on Halloween. Prior to that, the team have been building their community for a couple of months.

Crypto Coven was launched with the intention of finding a space for people that didn’t identify with the “crypto bro” mindset, that was very much taking over NFT project by the summer of 2021.

Nyx and Aletheia, founders and artistic team of Crypto Coven, first ideated the PFP project as a way of giving a voice to an audience that didn’t feel represented by the projects on the market. They chose witches as the main characters because of their agency, contrasting with so many women historical figures, that are mostly defined by being associated with a man, as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, etc.

Soon, a creative team of five women (high witches) was assembled, welcoming Xuannu, Aradia and Keridwen, to build a femme forward PFP project.

The 9,906 Witches in the collection were constructed with an eye toward diversity & inclusion in mind and feature 3 body types and 7 skin tones. According to Xuannu, one of the High Witches, these NFTs have three primary objectives: “They’re the faces of the characters in the world we’re creating, they’re an open, interoperable interface for these characters’ metadata, and they represent a financial stake in the part of the metaverse in which they exist.

While counting on a web3 native audience, the team also made sure crypto curious femme-identifying people could be welcomed into the project, by providing easy-to-comprehend materials and a tutorial that helped non-crypto natives to open a new wallet and minting a WITCH.

Some of the High Witches were, themselves, new to NFTs and that shared experience with the community ended up being one more factor that furthered the sense of being a community-driven project since its inception.

The art developed for the project was, also, conceptualized for inclusion and diversity, representing a wide variety of women skin colors, body shapes and physical features.

On the technical side, the team ensured that the cost of minting a WITCH was affordable, not only by setting a very reasonable price but also innovating by optimizing the smart contract, so that gas fees (cost of transaction) would be significantly lower than the ones the market was used to, at the time.

Once again, inclusion was at the core of the team’s decisions, being one of the brands values.

What was most important to us is that we had the flexibility to create a set of witches that were truly diverse—a range of body sizes, skin tones, and hair textures, whereas many people as possible could find themselves in a witch. A lofty goal made difficult to achieve by traits that by default are randomly shuffled together. (Nyx)

WITCHES were forged to be unique in their shape and personality, coming into the world with unique names, articulations (descriptions), archetypes, astrological signs, and attunements (stats of types of magical powers). That allowed people to feel not only included but to celebrate their individuality.

I wanted a structure that would give each WITCH an identity made particular, idiosyncratic, and strange, that still unified the archetypes, created an overall tone for the voice of the project, and delivered our ethos of individuality. (Keridwen)

As way of including their forming community and building with them, the team asked the community to participate in building the aesthetics and the lore.

Community members were challenged to contribute with visual mood boards, and many of the looks and accessories in those boards were included in the final looks of the WITCHES.

They were also asked to write some sentences for the WITCHES’ articulations, and the selected ones were combined with the ones weaved by Keridwen, high witch of wit.

One of our goals for the project was to incorporate the creativity and enthusiasm of our early supporters. We collected community mood boards and ARTICULATIONS with the goal of selecting those we loved most to fold into the makings of the weird wilds. The results were, frankly, fantastic... (Keridwen)

As they launched their first collection, or, better said, as the Wandering WITCHES of the Weird Wilds were summoned, the team partnered with some friends in the Crypto universe, to run giveaways on twitter. With easy tasks and a special attention to the part of their audience that wasn’t yet familiar to crypto, they on-boarded a lot of new crypto curious that didn’t feel represented by the collections that were on the market, at that point.

To capture a non-crypto native audience, the team also posted content on Instagram focusing on art and lore, avoiding a lot of more technical explanations about NFTs.

One interesting distinction within the Crypto Coven community is that many of their members are new to crypto. Xuannu shared that half of wallet-holding Witches have fewer than 40 transactions, and 8% of wallets that minted Witches did so as their very first Ethereum transaction.

There’s a balance to strike among crypto projects that engage such a high percentage of new entrants to the space: Your project must toe the line of accessibility while also retaining some element of intrigue. Crypto Coven strikes this duality in a particularly compelling way.

Crypto Coven did not release a roadmap, leaving some hints of a gamified experience into the realms of the Weird Wilds of the World, seeded in collaborative narrative world-building. The mystery around the roadmap was purposeful, and has, since the first days of the project, contributed to crafting an intentional brand.

Moreover, everything that happens within the sphere of Crypto Coven is carefully absorbed into the lore, whether is an unpredicted glitch or a thoughtful community initiative, what feeds the growth of a healthy brand.

Everything they do is 110% dedicated to their brand, and they leave no detail overlooked. My favorite example of this was reading about an early glitch in the smart contract when they initially deployed Crypto Coven, which prevented anyone from minting on that contract. They turned that into a crafty piece of “lore,” galvanized the community around it, and even converted the bug into a new type of art piece*.

(*the soul vessels of WITCHES lost to the void)

A few games soon populated Crypto Coven’s website, like Memoria, a memory game with WITCHES visages, and quizzes, in Divination, where one can find out their witch stats and their archetype of power. These brought back those “old days” of the internet, where quizzes about the most cute and deep subjects would cement our teenager friendships.

Coming into the discord that the team put together to harbor the Coven, sharply watched by the pact-keepers, people began to join the channels with content that best suited their interests and, of course, their witch archetype. From tarot readings, book discussions or fashion appreciation and beauty tips, witches became used to gather with true appreciation of the pace and language that they experienced in the Coven contrasting to the hype and FOMO that is usually seen in the NFT world. The team also organized some community building activities, from talent night, coven trivia, lore reading and game night (a very “on brand” Monsters Prom, a fun and inclusive narrative dating sim).

The team has also built publicly from inception, openly documenting their process in thoughtful blog posts and sharing their expertise with the community every time it was solicited.

This is probably why the coven was been a hub of initiatives and projects, welcomed and cheered by the High Witches.

One of the first ones, Crypto Coven Library, was set to build a comprehensive guide into NFTs, from beginner’s to advanced level, and has helped many newcomers to get more at ease with the ecosystem. The librarians also organize themed twitter spaces, the Fireside Chats, with subjects ranging from working in web3, creator royalties and the experience of being a web3 artist.

From the community, also emerged the Weird Wilds Detective Agency, WWDA, that started as a fun project to help people find their forever WITCH(ES) and developed around a most needed focus on security, never forgetting the lore building side of a witch detective agency.

The impact of their detailed documentation on the creation and art process (including the Crypto Coven Library) is an incredibly brand-loyal community who not only uses their Witches as PFPs but also openly shares about their own positive experiences as part of this collective.

As a consequence of the team’s openness and the community’s strength, a few independent NFT projects have been generated by community members that decided to develop their own projects, such as WITCH Hearts (for Valentine’s Day), Pocket Coven (a very cherished coven of small witches), and Coven Cats, of which I’m a part of, and that was spontaneously born from a few comments on a tweet from WWDA’s Head Detective (Old King) and a deep appreciation of Crypto Coven.

“It’s really important to us to have a vibrant community of people who are writing stories, creating art, imagining this world we are building, and getting involved,” Xuannu said. “We are looking for people who want to build stuff, and I think we have one of the strongest communities of people like that. Almost everyone is a talented artist, writer, or engineer.

As a collaborative world-building project, Crypto Coven launched a contest of witch stories, that had an impressive participation from the community. The quality (and quantity) of the submitted stories was so high that the team decided to let all of them live on the website and has already announced their intention of reopening submissions for the tree of Echos, the first stop of the Weird Wilds map, where the community-written stories are nested.

Once more, every aspect of the project is intentional and consistent with the brands values and vision.

The team has also organized two IRL events at NFT-NYC in June 2022, and one in the bay area (now happening) for ETH-SF. The events are always strongly branded with witchy vibes, like an immersive experience into the Weird Wilds.

In the summer, one of the events, the burning citadel, was conceptualized as a “woeful evening of technomancy, potions and dancing rituals” to celebrate the summers solstice, and the other, the Siren’s pool, a “wondrous dusk to bathe in dulcet tones, weave flower crowns and hear whispers from the Wilds”. On this last event, the team prepared a party treat for the community, an NFT embedded with the sounds of Jaks singing (a cherish community member and opera singer), as an experiment for multimedia NFTs.

The bay area event, on Halloween Night, was entitled “The Demon Market, an evening of Wit and Wiles, when witches, ghosts, and demons abound...” and turned into a community celebration for the launch of their 2nd collection, the Narrator´s Hut.

Crypto Coven IRL events
Crypto Coven IRL events

As a curious and interesting note, it is relevant to share a memorable episode that happened after NFT-NYC. A group of degen minters entered the (non-token gated) Coven’s discord to know more about the NFT gifted by the team (as a free mint). The tone and frequency of their chosen approach wasn’t suited for the Coven’s community, and they were fast and wittily kicked-off by the community itself and pact-keepers, with some of them showing even a shift in behavior and a nice attitude. This episode is now told as a tale of degen sailors that approached the weird wilds in a pirate ship, in search of the sirens’ shell. It has become a piece of lore.

This episode, and others like the initial smart contract glitch (that also had its twin in Coven Cats), ended up being incorporated as relevant pieces of lore that shape the contours of this world we’re collectively building.

It is important to note that the community-centered approach and the storytelling involved in this world-building process has an enormous impact in crisis management, because of the intimate relationship between the members and the project. Crisis are avoided or dealt with in a much more understanding and positive way, from a trust perspective rather than an inquisitive and demanding one.

And, coming back to my original statement, the only way to build trust is through consistency. We can only shape a brand if the story is clear and without mismatching pieces.

So, at the end of the day, what can marketers learn from witches?

I wanted to tell this story to illustrate my point-of-view about brand building and how can storytelling and lore craft help us build trustworthy brands in web3.

Stories are the most effective way to make our brain remember a brand. Through stories our emotional response is activated in the brain, and memories are forged more effectively.

If a brand wants to tell a story, it has to do so in a consistent way.

Crypto Coven does exactly that, it tells a story of agency, transparency, cooperation, co-creation, balance and inclusion. It does it in an effective way because it is intentional and consistent. Every action the team decides to take has an intentionality, being a mirror of its values. And it keeps delivering that same message in a consistent way, in every choice: what audience to choose, which media channels to use, what kind of messaging, how to build and cultivate community, how to shape their experiences (either online or IRL), how to engage with members and turn them into active participants, what partnerships to consider, what kind of influencers can be considered for the project (if any)...

Story plays a major role here. And I would even add that lore has an even bigger role. Lore comes from the story, but it springs spontaneously from the community, and we cannot write it in its final form, only shape it. We can feed prompts to the community, like when using an AI tool, and try to influence the “machine” by our deliberate choices, but the end result will always be a product of the collective.

Lore can be a most helpful ally when it comes to build a project and a community, but it can go wrong if people spot inconsistent behavior or messaging.

As web3-related projects stand on the shoulders of community, lore is even more important in this context.

So, consistency plays a most pivotal role in web3.

Thinking about other projects, like Murder Head Death Club, the NFT-collection launched by Liquid Death Sparkling Water, a web2 brand’s adventure in web3, we can see that the reason it went well was, again, consistency. Every aspect of the project was on brand: disruptive brand that makes sense to experiment in web3, terms very much on brand (murder fee = mint price, 6666 NFTs launched), utility with IRL relevance (web2 brand), gamification built in with rarity, building lore by air-dropping souls to rarity-owners when people sold their souls for water in the past).

Another good example is 10KFT, that used with world-building to connect with their audience, portraying a Japanese artisan that builds the physical products for NFT projects that align with their brand.

For projects that are aimed mostly to web2 users, then the story has to be framed differently, avoiding web3 jargon. “Cleaning” the space for potential customers to use web3 without the preconceived notions that are still very present in the mainstream, will leave space for the storytelling to work its magic. Recently, Starbucks and Reddit have done it masterfully and have onboarded millions of users. Time will tell if these users continue to use web3 for other applications in the future.

In sum, I think there are two essential pillars to bring more users into web3: a seamless experience (focused on easy-to-use customer flows, security, devices) and storytelling/ lore crafting.

From my perspective, I see latter as a pivotal piece of web3 tooling, in building solid brands that can carve a place in people’s minds and hearts.

Storytelling is the back story, the values, the marketing aspect.

Lore crafting is a more spontaneous and organic being, that can come from story but is prompted by community and, therefore, we can only shape by building community in an intentional way. It is, however, an essential part of community management, being consequently determinant for businesses sustainability, since communities have network effects that can help with retention and direct acquisition from word-of mouth marketing.

As a witch would say, this is spellcrafting. Spells can be viewed as intentional writing that weaves narratives that can hook your audiences and bring them to gather in immersive experiences as a community.

Marketing is, after all, witchcraft.

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