Launched in 2015 as a multi-chat service app for gaming communities, Discord currently has 300 million registered users worldwide, including 140 million are monthly active users. A favorite of gamers, Gen Z, and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), it has evolved into a powerful social platform in the digital sphere.
By Caroline Courtois (Director, frog Brand & Content) and Emma Peton (Consultant, frog Brand & Content)
On Discord, users create their own “servers” where they discuss and collaborate on topics of mutual interest of all kinds – whether it’s teachers setting up classrooms, politicians hosting campaign meetings or of artists discussing their work. In a turn of events that may seem surprising for the platform given its origins, fashion companies are leading the way in using Discord to promote their brands, co-create products, and build communities with consumers.
A key question for brands today when approaching Discord communities is both simple and complicated: how can brands in all industries adapt their playbook to thrive in their new world? The key to success in this space is gaining real, authentic trust and building hyper-engaged communities.
Engage through exclusive experiences
In April 2022, luxury brand Gucci hosted an exclusive party in Los Angeles. Not for the press, not for influencers, not for their best customers, but for the most active and wealthy members of their Discord community. These Premium Discord Members Just Got An Exclusive NFT Gucci Grail created in collaboration with 10KFT Creator.
Unlike Instagram or Twitch, to be part of the conversation on Discord you need an invitation to join one of the platforms 6.7 million active servers. Some servers use a token locking mechanism, granting access to certain NFT owners only. As Discord fosters exclusivity and conversation between members of a particular server, it opens up the possibility for brands to create new exclusive experiences centered around and aimed at that particular community. Within a given server, members can level up and access private channels to unlock rewards based on their contribution to the server, their NFT wallet, or other rules of the moderators’ choice.
Most popular fashion use cases:
- Pre launch: DressXa leading digital fashion apparel startup, and worship and raina luxury sneaker brand born out of the crypto universe, has pre-launched its digital and physical collections respectively.
- Co-creation with fans: Luxury shoe brand Collegium co-created a version of their cult Destroyer High sneakers on Discord with their motto “Imagine a place” and pulled 20 pairs exclusively to their community of 4,500 fans.
- Membership: to access Friends with benefitsone of Discord’s hottest social clubs on NFTs, culture, and art, the cost to join is $75 FWB crypto (over $4,000 USD).
The Web3 playbook for brands
In a recent episode of the Design Mind podcastfrogs Kelley Kugler and Spencer Scott pointed out that Web3 is a “design reset”. We encounter a new “more decentralized” framework in which people have “digital ownership of the assets they generate and the things they do online” and users are “rewarded for their participation”.
In this new virtual environment, brand communications should be thought of as iterative and co-created with community members in order to connect with the aspirations of Gen Z. Discord should be seen as a decentralized hub of collective intelligence, bringing together a wide range of hyper-engaged talents and interests. Discord communities are deeply engaged: the average user in the US spends five hours per month on the platform.
Examples of communities active in the field of fashion:
- Corteiza popular streetwear brand, has a very active small community of young fashion enthusiasts near a thousand active members who swap tips for getting their hands on the latest drops, sharing looks, organizing and participating in gatherings.
- Kenzo embraces Discord’s potential as a creative hub. In March 2022, the brand invited its Discord community to a 24-hour challenge to create a visual around The new Tiger Trail collection. Winners received an exclusive NFT and were featured on the brand’s global Instagram with over 2 million followers.
For brands to connect with communities in Web3, they need to invite communities to be part of the brand story. The “superfans” are ready to contribute and become the new influencers motivated by passion versus the cost of a sponsored post. These superfans can very easily sniff out the slightest hint of inauthenticity and corporate sponsorship. For example, Discord CEO Jason Citron was lambasted by the community after he announced on Twitter intentions to integrate Ethereum-based NFTs into the app. Following public reaction, he backtracked two days later and announced the decision to change policy two days later.
But Discord communities don’t spring up overnight. Managing and engaging Discord members on a particular server requires time, creativity, and a deep understanding of these new social engagement paradigms.
Discord stands on the brink of an exciting time in its history. That moment is now to follow fashion’s lead in using the platform to launch new levels of engagement between customer and brand. Discord’s expansion from a gaming platform to one that all brands can leverage could be a sign of what the future of social media may be: intimate, niche-focused, powered by community and unwilling to accept anything less than reality.