The Learnings from a 10k NFT Project That Never Saw the Light of Day
August 2021. The crypto markets were booming. Exciting NFT projects were being launched every day. Digital collectibles hit the mainstream media.
The team at Cope.Studio wanted in on this action. Having built NFT projects & digital collectibles for some major brands, we wanted to explore the realm of launching our very own NFT project.
So we set out to build a utility-based 10k NFT project featuring some cute Shiba Inus 🐕
The project was called Cyborks. Get it? “Cy-borks”
On the surface, it looked like Cyborks had what it takes to set a precedent for utility NFTs.
But after months of building, iterating, and reflecting, we decided against launching Cyborks as we thought it just didn’t make the cut.
And with every failure comes valuable learnings. Here is ours.
1. Community-first approach from Day 0
Distribution eats JPEGs for breakfast.
No matter how amazing your product is, how cool it looks, or how unique it is — the ability to reserve a specific slice of the market means you need to set yourself apart; in one or ideally more than one impactful way.
Perhaps the first mistake we made was not approaching the project with a marketing-first approach.
The nucleus of an NFT project specifically is a loyal community. Without a community, NFTs are quite literally just JPEGs floating around on the blockchain.
The marketing strategy & product strategy should go hand in hand — at the inception of the project.
A community & distribution strategy is best planned before the product development stage. This allows the marketing team enough time & bandwidth to organically build a loyal community around the NFT project.
- Community-first approach — building a solid distribution plan is step 1
- Involve the community in decision-making processes.
2. Product roadmaps that balance delight & surprise with practical possibilities
When we started building Cyborks, we were a product studio creating mostly Web2 products for the world. Cyborks was an experiment into Web3.
The utilities we had attached to our NFTs were also planned with the same vision — to push out Cope services, with a new Web3 twist, utilities that included landing page designs, Webflow development, and AR filters.
As time progressed, we too evolved. Our acquisition & deep dive into web3 pushed us to upgrade our utilities. We started pushing out web3-centric utilities, which obviously changed our target audience.
This change took a few months, and by that time, it was February 2022. Utility NFTs were much more mainstream and we had to sprinkle some extra magic into the project to gain attention.
The Cyborks game was born.
We spent 2 months building a Space Shooter-inspired browser game with the vision of engaging the community through it. Members who owned Cyborks NFTs could play the game and win more NFTs.
As you can imagine, the constant pivoting & addition of utilities blurred the overall vision of the project.
Let’s break it into a chart, shall we?
On one end, you have NFTs that possess high interest & low utility. These are the projects that revolve around art & the appreciation of the art is what drives adoption.
On the other end, you have NFTs that possess lower interest but high utility. These are the projects that come with plenty of perks & benefits, but perhaps the culture around the art isn’t enough to drive itself.
Both types of projects have a high potential for success. But projects that fall below this curve will find it difficult to succeed.
A project like Cyborks arguably falls under this wing. Although the utilities were quite valuable, the only audience it would interest is other companies & projects.
And regular changes in the utilities undoubtedly distracted the interest of potential buyers.
- When starting an NFT project, aim to be above the curve — either generate extremely high interest so that people buy purely for the art, or attach extremely valuable utilities so that people essentially invest to access those utilities.
3. Designs that practically sell itself
Somewhat continuing the points made in the previous section — many successful NFT projects bank on the sheer mastery of the designs. In this context, the community is formed & inspired by the designs.
During the early planning days, we set out to design a bunch of cute 2D Shiba Inus. After some reflection, we decided that 2D dogs were too typical. We needed something with more pizazz.
So we explored the realm of 3D NFTs, which was a huge challenge in itself. We scoured the internet & our network to figure out how to generate a 10k NFT family in 3D.
And we did. We learned the tools that enabled the development of 10k 3D NFTs — a skill that came in handy for some of our future projects.
The final result was something we were happy with, but at the same time, we felt like it wasn’t up to the standards.
Perhaps, not having a marketing-first approach resulted in an inconsistent vision, leading to pivots on both design & product.
- Deep research on NFT designs that are taking off. Set a balance between being unique & using traits that are popping up in the NFT world.
- Involve the community in the design process. Early community members are the most valuable assets — use their opinion in shaping designs.
After months of deliberating on the feasibility of the project, we eventually decided to shut it down.
Failure is a part of every learning process. We likely learned more from this project than from any other successful product we launched.