Web3 Marketing 101: Shaping A Symbol System.
How to create words, images, phrases and signs that'll make your brand loved.
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This article is the first part of a Web3 Marketing course I'm releasing today on how to shape a Symbol System. If you enjoy this article and want to become a 10x marketer, you can get the course for $1 for a limited period here:
Toby Shorin's essay Life After Lifestyle has been a bombshell recently.
Indeed, summarizing the never-ending evolution of the relationship between brands and cultures over the past decade in a single article is no easy feat.
From this 30min-long piece, one sentence in particular caught my attention:
"The Lifestyle era was not about creating culture; it was about attaching brands to existing cultural contexts. […] The new order we are entering reverses this. For some organizations, culture has become the product itself, and products have become secondary, auxiliary, to the production of culture."
In short, brands don't sell products anymore, culture has become the product.
A complete paradigm shift is happening in what we consider a "product," the most vivid example of that being the rise of Web3 communities being valued at $700M not based on a product they're building or selling but based on the cult and feeling of membership they've aroused among their members.
The new trending projects of 2022, such as Friends With Benefits, Doodles or NounsDAO are creating million-dollar brands based on the sole promise to make members interact and hang with each other.
These new brands have mastered the art of community building, and all have implemented a recognizable symbol system from the get-go to spark a feeling of belonging.
Their symbol systems are all composed of four main elements, each bringing something to the table to awaken deeply held emotions.
It's already pretty obvious that the next billion-dollar businesses will be communities, and after I spent dozens of hours analyzing their best practices to implement them at Coinvise (where I'm the Head of Community), I figured I'd share here everything I learned from those communities to create a strong common symbol system.
Without further ado, let's get to it!
1. Shaping Phrases, Ideas & Values
The first step towards creating a common symbol system is to come up with stories, ideas, and values that your members connect and are deeply aligned with.
The goal is to create a common ideal, a feeling that spreads across your community as you develop the story behind it and grow together.
Nike makes you want to surpass yourself.
Redbull gives you the courage to achieve the impossible.
From "just do it" to "Redbull gives you wings," phrases are essential in channeling emotions in a community and sharing values beyond the product itself.
It's essential, once defined, to include those phrases that encompass broader ideas in your storytelling. Your goal is to define a whole new language, a whole new universe around those values.
For the Grand Leisure Web3 community, for example, this practice is exemplified by publishing the post below instead of simply saying, "members have only three days remaining to mint an NFT."
But your phrases will only work if they give members the opportunity to:
Associate themselves with your project.
Feel part of your story.
A narrative isn’t one if not shared by multiple people.
That’s why coming up with phrases that spread ideas and values takes time, and needs to evolve over time to make sure members continue to adhere to them.
Indeed, a community, unlike a product, is defined by always evolving.
Inauthentic or outdated symbols undermine any possible sense of community.
This means it’s essential to be aware of the new tone of voice, new expressions, and new language style of your members to incorporate them into your overall community narrative.
If members have the feeling to play a role in shaping the community's future, they’ll see their involvement in your community as an important part of who they are, and might want to project that pride into the world.
And let me tell you, pride is a captivating energy.
Words, in a symbol system, serve several crucial functions, one of which being to maintain group boundaries.
"Understanding its language is a prerequisite to understanding a community."
Remember, for example, at the beginning of your career, how hard it was to understand the acronyms of the tech community (e.g., CTO, BD, PR, etc), and how non-trivial it was to remember the names of the tricks you were trying to perform at age 14 when you started skateboarding. (ok, maybe not everyone went through this, but you get the idea.)
My point is, a shared language is foundational to raising the boundaries of a community. It makes the people who know the language feel accepted and part of a group with shared values. That’s why, for example, so many people in the crypto community keep saying “gm” (meaning good morning), or “wagmi” (meaning We’re all going to make it).
Creating a language and coming up with new words that appeal to your audience is essential, and if you succeed, you'll soon see members using them, even outside of your community (see the example below, "nounish" originally coming from the Noun community.)
But the line is thin between a community with high enough boundaries and an unreachable, too exclusive one.
And, while many communities may use exclusivity as a way to grow in the early days, the strongest and highest value communities today are not overly exclusive.
That's why you must be cautious when creating a language that is exclusive enough to define these boundaries, but not so hard as to make your community an unreachable group.
Beyond raising boundaries, words are also an opportunity to make your community appealing and easily recognizable.
Here's for example the sole promise of the Grand Leisure Web3 community when joining their community:
"Explore what's possible when thousands of the Internet's finest leisure-inclined minds come together to re-imagine media, fashion, collaboration, and olive-forward martini topping technologies."
In seconds, you're with them and understand the feeling they want to convey.
Finally words allow you to spark a feeling of membership. Giving names to your members is an easy, yet extremely efficient way to make them connect deeply with your community. You were simply an outside observer, but when you enter the Safary community, you become a Lion; or in the Crypto Coven community, you become a Witch.
Images in a symbol system are everything that people will see displayed on their screens.
It's the universe in which your members will evolve in, your graphic identity, your logo, your NFTs, etc.
The Goblintown community is the perfect example of a successful community that has implemented images in its symbol system. When you enter the Goblintown Website, there is music, the graphic identity is easily recognizable, and the whole universe comes from an old myth.
From your website to your NFT collection, membership tokens, or token logo; images will play a huge part in earning a spot in your community's shared universe.
Now, if you want to use your image to get new members, I recommend you to make your NFT CC0, meaning its copyright allows anyone to build upon your story and branch off in their own way without requiring your explicit permission.
Some successful example of this strategy:
BAYC members have created a fast food restaurant, a media brand, and plenty of music videos (like Eminem and Snoop Dogg's).
NounsDAO members have created a coffee brand, as well as several side-collections like Gnars DAO, an extension of NounsDAO dedicated to supporting the artistry of extreme athletes.
Again, this is an opportunity to let your members feel like they really belong in the community, that they have ownership over what's happening inside the community and the freedom to improve upon it.
When members of the community start sharing and spinning off projects based on your original graphic identity, you've cracked the code of free marketing and building a long-lasting brand, web3 style.
So remember, come up with a strong graphic identity, and incentivize your community to build on top of it.
Finally, the fourth element of a symbol system is Signs.
Signs are a great way to create a sense of exclusivity for members and brings them status.
I suggest you to create signs that are:
For example, the main Sign of the Safary community , a Web3 community for Web3 growth leaders, is the emoji 🦁.
The 🦁 sign in their Twitter handle becomes the new blue checkmark for those true members who want to be associated with a project they believe in.
It allows members (also called 'Lions') to recognize each other easily, and start a conversation beyond the limits of the original community space.
Signs are essential as they are the easiest element in your symbol system for members to showcase they're a part of your community.
There are two elements that make signaling efficient:
Signal message —This is the message you are trying to convey. In the case of Safary's members, this is probably something along the lines of "I'm a Web3 growth leader".
Signal distribution — This is how you distribute the message. In our case, having a 🦁 in your Twitter handle.
It's equally important to focus on the message being shared through your sign as much as the distribution channels.
Some other signs in Web3 communities can be:
NFTs (that you can easily display as your profile picture)
Social tokens (that you can show proudly in your wallet)
Good merch can be one of the most powerful signs, serving as both the message and the distribution method.
Try to be creative with your signs, as the more recognizable they will be, the more people will wonder what they are and will try to dig more to learn about your community.
If you succeed in creating a symbol system that is adopted by your community, you’ll have created a fully aligned brand experience and, beyond anything else, a culture.
A community with a culture, unlike an audience, doesn’t need anyone to be managed and spin-off new projects based on the original ideas to expand the community universe.
Building the next billion-dollar company is all about creating words that increase boundaries, images that convey emotions, phrases that make a space for people to share stories, and signs that allow signaling status.
Enjoyed this article?
This is only the first part of a Web3 Marketing course I'm releasing today.
I've created a full course about Symbol Sytems with the goal of helping anyone become a 10x asset for any Web3 company. By purchasing the course, you'll:
Get access to:
8 Written lessons
3 Video lessons
1h Live AMA
Get to learn:
The concept of a commitment curve & how to create one.
How to implement rituals in your community
How a Symbol System can 10x your community's engagement.
The best practices (with examples) from thriving communities.
I've set the price to $1 for the first 25 subscribers purchasing the course, then the price will increase to $15.
Don't miss out on this opportunity - access the course here:
As someone who went through the ups & downs of content creation and Web3 community building, I can assist you in two ways:
The 5 Pillars of Web3 Community Building: If you need help starting & growing your community, I’ve written a free 40-pages guide with all the best practices I've discovered to launch, grow and monetize your Web3 community. Grab a copy here:
The Modern Web3 Community Builder - A Handbook to Collective Symbol System: If you’ve already created a community and are now looking to unlock the next phase of your journey, I’ve created a written course that’ll show you how to arouse a feeling of belonging and expand your community’s culture.