As the line between the metaverse and real life becomes increasingly blurred, it was inevitable that the beauty industry was ready to get involved as well. The rapid expansion of digital consumption has opened up a new world of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, disrupting the way we process transactions and even product ownership, particularly in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Not sure what an NFT is, you are not alone. NFTs are electronic tokens that represent the unique and genuine possession of a digital or real asset or concept. These absolutely unique digital assets can then be auctioned and traded in the cryptocurrency markets. Or more simply, “They are essentially unique digital works of art that can consist of images, video and / or audio that can be created, collected and exchanged on dedicated platforms,” explains Lise Arlot, Head of Strategy at MTArt Agency.
“NFTs are incredibly versatile,” continues Arlot. “They can trigger special logins, treats or interactions for their owners, which makes it endless for them to engage, nurture and grow communities online by providing unique all-digital experiences or by enhancing and recording real-life events.”
In the world of art and fashion, NFTs have made tremendous progress, with some of the largest and oldest fashion houses creating one-of-a-kind pieces offering digitally preserved ownership rights. Now NFTs are making their way into the world of beauty. Brands like Clinique, NARS and elf Cosmetics were among the first beauty brands to create beauty NFTs or, as they called them, NelfT, and to make them available in the cryptocurrency market. The cult brand NARS has teamed up with three artists: DJ and music producer Nina Kraviz, collage and crystal artist Sara Shakeel and stylist Azéde Jean-Pierre, commissioning them to create three NFTs inspired by their iconic NARS Orgasm product line. “Innovation is in our NARS DNA,” says Dina Fierro, NARS vice president for global digital strategy and socialization. “Be it iconic products, groundbreaking campaigns or digital interruptions.”
Designed to impart ownership of an original file, NFTs make sense from a consumer perspective, but when it comes to beauty, what are brands trying to achieve by implementing NFTs? “The use cases for NFTs are numerous and it is difficult to predict where the technology will take us in the next few years,” explains Fierro. “For brands like NARS, with a distinct creative identity, unprecedented product and strong IP, NFTs can be a powerful mechanism to tokenize loyalty and community programs or to enable consumers to show brand affinity.” .
Although still in their infancy, beauty NFTs represent an exciting and refreshing way for brands to connect with their consumers, beyond the products. For many brands, it is a new way to establish a more intimate, but also direct, relationship with their consumers – a concept at the heart of elf Cosmetics’ research in the NFT world. “The NFT space is evolving rapidly, especially as technology is becoming more accessible, making it easier for consumers to engage,” says Gayitri Budhraja, Chief Brand Officer of elf cosmetics. “It’s a new way for super fans to be part of the brands they love.”
It also goes without saying that the new revenue streams offered by NFTs offer an interesting perspective for beauty brands. It adds a direct line of communication from the brand to the consumer that provides a wide range of information on consumer data. NFTs are becoming a win, a win for the beauty industry.
In June 2021, elf Cosmetics created three limited edition NFT versions of their best-selling products: The Poreless Putty Primer, 16HR Camo Concealer, and Ride or Die Lip Balm, all dipped in gold. The brand then sold the gold NFT iterations on the NFT Bitski market as “Crypto Cosmetics”. Only nine were created, each costing less than $ 9. The purpose? To create NFTs straddling the concepts of accessible, rather than exclusive, while remaining marketable collectible. To appeal to both “diehard cryptographers” and loyal customers of the brand. A similar goal to the NFT’s original mission: democratize the world of art and design and create a more accessible playground.
The brand doesn’t know who bought the NFT product cufflinks, but Budhraja suspects that at least some super fans have been able to acquire them. “The response wasn’t entirely surprising,” he says. Crypto-enthusiasts responded well, but there has been some uncertainty on the part of the beauty fans. The beauty community is still trying to understand what this is and what the value is. ‘
The fact is, NFTs can be confusing. Even more so when it comes to a tangible concept like beauty. We look for beauty products to provide some sort of visual or sensory effect, whether it’s a classic red lipstick or a moisturizing mask to inject much-needed hydration. Yes, beauty products often have a collectible nature or beautiful packaging, but when they lose their practical function or application, do they lose their purpose?
Clinique’s approach to NFT is more emotional. For the beauty giant, the creation of NFT is more than just a transactional agreement, it is strengthening their relationship with the consumer. They have created three editions of their first NFT, called “MetaOptimist”, and are taking a different approach to how consumers can claim their NFT. Instead of selling them, Clinique offers its Smart Rewards members the chance to receive NFT, as well as a selection of products, once a year over the next decade, asking their customers to share their stories of optimism and hopes for the future.
“At Clinique, we are continually looking for opportunities to innovate and provide consumers with unique and engaging ways to interact with our brand,” says Carolyn Dawkins, senior vice president of Clinique Global Online, consumer engagement and product marketing. ‘In the world of NFTs, brand authenticity and consumer enthusiasm are key and we think our approach really lives up to it. These NFTs are a unique and contemporary way to celebrate loyalty and put our consumers in the driver’s seat, with storytelling and engagement at the center. ‘
NFTs are a new concept, and as with anything new, teething problems are likely, including financial risk. In the long run, it is unclear whether NFTs will remain profitable, the value could decline at any time. Furthermore, there is a potential huge environmental impact of NFTs. A Cambridge University study reported that global bitcoin mining consumes more electricity than the entire country of Argentina. With sustainability at the forefront of the beauty industry’s current challenges, addressing the environmental impact of NFTs is a pertinent issue.
The jury may still be out on beauty NFTs and their function in the industry, but it’s hard to deny their role in establishing a more committed, loyal and dynamic relationship between consumer and brand. If not simply for the charm of the novelty. As our world becomes more and more digital, the burgeoning success of beauty NFTs marks another step into a new era.