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How to Use NFTs for Your Screen Printing Business

This emergent technology can add value to your shop creations, so long as you're willing to experiment a little.




DISCUSSING NFTs IN A screen printing magazine may seem a little strange. Our purpose is to champion printing; NFTs are digital and will always be digital. So, what gives? Let’s look at NFTs in general, and then we’ll unpack why you should be interested in them.

NFT Basic Primer

NFT is an acronym that stands for “Non-Fungible Token.” Non-Fungible means that it’s unique. No two are alike. Token means that it can be transferred to someone. And in this particular case, the transfer happens out there on the internet using the blockchain. So, this makes that transfer secure.

NFTs have been around for a few years, but in the grand scheme of things, they’re still in their infancy. There are a few uses for NFTs, such as:

  • Artwork. Artists use this digital medium to build and market their creative work.
  • Collections. Where each NFT is unique but fits into a collective set.
  • Affiliation. NFTs can show proof of belonging to a club, group, fanbase, or idea.
  • Ticket or Access. NFTs can be used as a ticket to gain entry or access to a concert or event.
  • Reward. Used for customer engagement or as a bonus.
  • Games. NFTs have been used to create games to engage fans and customers.
  • Link. You can link to something tangible, such as a T-shirt, an item, or even real estate.
  • Connectivity. Used by brands or creators to connect with customers, fans, or new interests.

According to a recent BusinessWire article, the growing NFT marketplace could reach $211 billion by 2030. That’s great, but what does this mean for your basic screen printer?

An nft is a digital asset secured on the blockchain … such as a photo, drawing, painting, video, audio file, or graphic.

NFT Innovation Curve

While there’s a lot of money to be made creating, investing, and selling NFTs, the best thing is lurking just below the surface: the ability to engage and connect with an audience.

It’s an exciting time for NFTs. It is early. Your core audience probably doesn’t know anything about NFTs or have the right tools and apps to obtain and use them. The newness is why you should be paying attention and learning how they work.

At one point, we had never heard of email. Or Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or TikTok.

NFTs work a little differently than other platforms, so let’s unravel that mystery and give you a few examples of how you could benefit from using an NFT in your work.

How to Use NFTs for Your Screen Printing Business

Constructing an NFT

An NFT is a digital asset secured on the blockchain. It could be an image, such as a photo, drawing, painting, video, audio file, or graphic. Anything secured on the digital blockchain can become an NFT.

Part of the uniqueness of the NFT is that it can have other properties or values attached to it. One of the most popular parts of the NFT creation is that a small percentage of the resale value could be transferred back to the original owner through what is called a “Smart Contract.” When a particular NFT is bought and sold, money can flow back to the original NFT holder. Look for sporting events and concert tickets to start becoming NFTs soon.

From a financial perspective, NFTs run on the cryptocurrency blockchain. The most popular is Ethereum or ETH. Creating an NFT is called “minting,” and there’s usually a “gas fee” you have to pay. You can, however, mint NFTs for free using a different platform called Polygon, which doesn’t have gas fees for NFT creation.

You can create a single NFT that’s unique or build out a collection of NFTs. All NFTs are unique and exist on the digital blockchain to be traded, bought, or sold.

There are three significant apps you need to familiarize yourself with and use.

  • OpenSea – This is where you can create your NFTs.
  • MetaMask – This is your digital wallet. Think of it as a place to store your digital assets.
  • Coinbase – This is your digital bank.

All three of these are free, but to use Coinbase, you’ll need to fund your account.

How to Use NFTs for Your Screen Printing Business

The NFT Collection

For screen printers, here’s one use you could consider to align a customer challenge or need with an NFT. Is it the only use for an NFT collection? Of course not. The idea here is just an example.

Let’s look at the high school senior class sales. Right now, school is starting back up, and an incredible number of students are preparing for their final year in high school. If you cater to this market, I’m sure you probably already have designs for Senior Class 2023 shirts.

But what if a special senior class NFT collection was created? The collection has each student’s name, grad picture, or something unique. Embedded in the NFT could be a special access ticket to the Grad Night Event, discounts to the online merch store, or any other URL landing page. The NFT could be free and act as a way to deliver market differentiation.

The NFTs value connects and engages customers in a new and exciting way.

The NFT as Validation

Another use for the NFT could be in validating authentic merchandise. Think of all the hologram stickers placed individually on championship T-shirts, posters, and other printed material every year. High-end brands struggle with counterfeit products constantly.

As the NFT is tied to the blockchain, the merchandise can be created and produced using special symbols, numbers, QR codes, or anything that makes the piece a unique item. This art attribute could also be paired with an NFT that matches that piece. Here’s where digital hybrid screen printing adds tremendous value to brands that are concerned about this challenge.

Imagine doing rock concert tour shirts for a band and having each T-shirt linked to an NFT for that concert, with actual footage from that show embedded. The “T-shirt as a memory” item just grew in value. Not only was I there, but here’s my favorite song from the show.

How to Use NFTs for Your Screen Printing Business

The NFT as Access

Many screen printers produce apparel for restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, associations, and other types of businesses that have memberships. At one time, it was common to have printed paper cards that showed you belonged. Then, plastic cards, often with your photo on them, showed affinity and access. Now, it’s common to have a downloaded app that displays a scanned QR code.

The next evolution of this is going to be using NFTs. To gain access to the VIP area, eat at the restaurant, work out at the gym, or be a member of the club, you will have to have the NFT. The fun thing about using an NFT is that it’s part of the blockchain. This means if you’re a gym member and move away, you could potentially sell your gym membership to someone else who could use it. Maybe even profit on the transaction, too.

For screen printers, our place will be to support this new level of access with exclusive product ideas. There could be different levels of NFT access, such as basic, advanced, and premium. How could you connect the NFT experience to what you provide? Could you somehow tie in their NFT ownership with the custom product you produce?

You could even design and create merchandise to promote the NFT sales. The sky is the limit!

How to Use NFTs for Your Screen Printing Business

The NFT as a Ticket

As mentioned before, NFTs will be coming to any venue that’s selling tickets. Sporting events, tradeshows, special classes, music, movies, theaters, and other activities.

One of the unique characteristics of an NFT is the ability to embed something inside that can be unlocked if you own the NFT. While this could be an enhanced experience such as a video clip from the performance, an interview with the star, or access to a particular VIP area or tailgate, it could also be a link to your unique online store.

Imagine the impact for that superfan who bought tickets to the game or the show and was issued a special NFT ticket. Embedded is access to your VIP online store with exclusive high-end merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else. When they show up to the event because they have the exclusive merchandise, they can spot other superfans, which makes the entire experience overwhelmingly unique.

The NFT as a Service

You probably already have an art department. Everything you produce must have something created and made for the customer. We don’t sell a lot of blank stuff.

Because you’re already creating art for your customers, why not look into creating NFTs, too? NFT usage is such a new and relatively confusing place; this could add more value to your relationship in solving problems for them.

Jump in and try your hand at creating NFTs. The time is now to start learning what to do and to build out your processes.

Create a collection, buy some NFTs on the market, and maybe sell a few, too. Learn how it works so you can educate your staff and customers. There will be plenty of cases where NFTs will be used to engage with customers. Is it the perfect platform? For some, it will be. For you? Who knows? The thing to do is to roll up your sleeves and play around a little bit. Learn how it works. Experiment. Talk to other people playing in the space.

My interest in NFTs is in the possibility of higher connection and potentially adding more value. It admittedly has a lot of drawbacks and a steep learning curve. It won’t be for everyone.

Yet, an email was weird when it initially came out 25 years ago, too.

Want more from The Marshall Plan? Read all of Marshall Atkinson’s columns at here.




Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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