2022 was not a good year for cryptocurrency.
“Crypto winter” is in full swing now after a series of unfortunate but not unexpected events: the collapse of the so-called stablecoin Terra, the bankruptcy of major crypto exchange FTX, and the failure of multiple crypto lenders like Celsius. It seems the whole market is basically in turmoil.
And, of course, all this market uncertainty has hit NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, too. For example, the biggest NFT brand, Bored Ape Yacht Club, is now trading down 80 percent from its peak value just eight months ago.
But that’s not the only thing hurting NFTs. Many online communities have come out strongly against the idea of tokenizing everything on the blockchain, effectively turning their favorite brands and hobbies into speculative assets.
Yet, some brands are still buying into the NFT-hype. And Mashable couldn’t help but take a look back at some of the more bizarre ones from this past year.
Donald Trump Digital Trading Cards
Getting in at number one on the list (and just under the wire, too) is the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
In the final weeks of 2022, Trump posted on his social network, Truth Social, that he had a major announcement to make on Dec. 15. His supporters all speculated that it had to be something big for Trump to tease such an announcement. Dilbert comics creator Scott Adams guessed that since Trump had already announced his 2024 presidential campaign, this big reveal could be his VP pick announcement.
Low and behold, Dec. 15 came and Trump announced…an NFT collection called: Trump Digital Trading Cards.
babe wake up
Trump just dropped an NFT collection pic.twitter.com/1Eh9XjpSiu
— Matt Binder (@MattBinder) December 15, 2022
(opens in a new tab)And it was great timing, too! Smack dab in the middle of the biggest crypto downturn in years, Donald Trump has decided to enter into the NFT market.
The Trump card collection includes 45,000 NFT pieces consisting of badly photoshopped portrayals of the former president as a superhero and a professional football player, as well as riding an elephant, and much more. Priced at $99 each, the Trump NFT collection includes a chance to win prizes such as a dinner with Trump, a group Zoom call with Trump, or “autographed memorabilia.” If someone buys 45 NFTs — yes, $4,500 worth of NFTs — they receive a guaranteed ticket to a Trump gala event in Florida.
The whole thing is very weird and poorly timed, but once you see the infomercial Trump released when announcing the NFTs, you’ll find that it’s very on brand for Trump, too.
JUST IN: Donald Trump’s “major annoucement” turned out to be a launch for his new NFT collection.
Each collectible purchase entitles you to a sweepstakes entry to win a chance to spend time with the Former President.
— CoinGecko (@coingecko) December 15, 2022
Starbucks’ Loyalty Program (now with Web3!)
Coffee giant Starbucks has long offered rewards to its customers via its successful loyalty program. It’s fairly simple: Customers download an app and get exclusive offers, as well as earn food and drink rewards based on their purchases.
Then Starbucks decided to experiment with a new loyalty program…powered by NFTs.
The coffee chain started rolling out its Web3 rewards program, called Starbucks Odyssey, in early December. The new program on the Polygon blockchain appears to mostly gamify the old, already existing program. Instead of just buying your favorite drink and earning rewards, Starbucks wants customers to go on “journeys” and accept challenges from the company. For example, users can earn NFTs by going to a new Starbucks location that they haven’t previously visited. These NFTs act as “stamps” and each stamp has a certain number of points associated with it. Users can earn more points by completing challenges which give them additional NFTs or by trading NFTs on the aftermarket.
Starbucks has not yet divulged just how many users are currently beta testing the program, but it did share that there was “unprecedented interest” in Starbucks Odyssey.
Why just passively buy your morning coffee on your way to work when you can spend your day completing challenges and then speculatively trade NFTs on the crypto markets in order to earn that free latte?
But, really, the most incredible NFT-related Starbucks moment of the year came in April. During a time when unionization campaigns were spreading across Starbucks locations nationwide, CEO Howard Schultz attempted to rally his employees during a company-wide meeting. Right there, before a live and livestream-viewing audience, Schultz excitedly announced that Starbucks was looking into entering the NFT space. His audience — the workers at his company — looked like they couldn’t have cared less.
Here's the video of Howard Schultz revealing his genius plan to use Starbucks NFTs as a way to woo back unionizing workers. This man has a net worth of $4.3 billion. pic.twitter.com/VYX6SYgYVq
— Jordan Zakarin (@jordanzakarin) April 5, 2022
NFTs “R” Us?
Who doesn’t remember Toys “R” Us?
If you’re reading this, it’s possible you have fond memories of going there yourself as a kid. It was once the biggest toy store chain in the United States.
Then in 2017, Toys “R” Us declared bankruptcy. Stores closed. In fact, some of the biggest Toys “R” Us locations actually still remain empty to this day. The company and its beloved mascot “Geoffrey the Giraffe” all but disappeared in the U.S. for a while. There were attempts to bring the brand back as new management companies opened up seasonal locations for the holidays over the years. A deal was finally made with Macy’s to basically open up toy sections with the Toys “R” Us name within its department stores.
Oh yeah, and there’s Toys “R” Us NFTs now, too.
.@ToysRUsNFT 🦒 is the latest collection to launch with Open Creator Protocol & the first on Launchpad!
Looking forward to protecting royalties with you pic.twitter.com/mQdJqfIMOz
— Magic Eden 🪄 (@MagicEden) December 9, 2022
(opens in a new tab)Toys “R” Us began selling 10,000 NFTs of digital animated versions of Geoffrey the Giraffe toys that are apparently “inspired” by physical toys available in the company’s stores. According to the official website for the Solana-based NFTs, all seem to have sold out.
Who is the market for NFTs, again essentially speculative volatile assets, from a toy store?
“I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys “R” Us kid,” went the lyrics to the earworm tune that was the Toys “R” Us theme song. So perhaps this was more a nostalgia play, trying to hook in those adult fans of the toy store who have fond memories running down the aisles when they were a kid.
Still, the hook here, if not for pure speculation, includes exclusive discounts, in-store experiences, and events for NFT holders. As one Twitter user discovered when inquiring about the NFTs at a physical retail location, Toys “R” Us employees aren’t aware of the program.
Just as crypto Twitter is finding out for the first time today that @ToysRUs is still alive, Toys R Us employees are also finding out for the first time that they are now selling #digitalcollectibles @EasyEatsBodega #NFTs pic.twitter.com/4sKfcNMWIM
— Trizzytrunk.eth ⌐❀-❀ 💐🗑️🎨 (@trizzytrunk) December 9, 2022
NFT sharks doo-doo, doo-doo
One can buy that Toys “R” Us NFTs are for adults looking to reminisce about good times at their favorite childhood toy store. But what’s the deal with these Baby Shark NFTs?
Baby Shark became a viral hit song for children through a version uploaded in 2015 by the South Korean kids entertainment brand Pinkfong. It inspired a never-ending line of products ranging from toys to TV shows. There’s no nostalgia effect here. The kids who grew up listening to Baby Shark are very much still children.
Yet, in November, Pinkfong announced it was partnering with Toekenz, which bills itself as a “kid-friendly” NFT platform, in order to create a blockchain-based Baby Shark game “for kids age 5 to 9.”
According to the announcement, Toekenz turns buying and selling NFTs into a game for kids. Children will be able to earn “licensed digital tokens” while learning about cryptocurrency and NFTs.
Translation: Kids under the age of 10 will be speculating on securities. What’s next? Baby’s first day trading platform?
Your favorite ’90s music apps sell NFTs now
Who didn’t use ’90s-era media player Winamp? I bet just seeing that name takes you back to the good old days of Windows 98 and AOL dial-up.
Fast forward decades later to March 2022, and Winamp had a moment in the spotlight again. But not for a good reason. Winamp announced via Twitter that it was launching an NFT collection based on Winamp skins.
The reaction from Winamp supporters was not good to say the least.
straight-up garbage move, nice work
— Jeff Gerstmann (@jeffgerstmann) March 17, 2022
But no take was more biting than one from Justin Frankel, one of the original creators of the Winamp software.
“I have spent the last number of years giving the owners of Winamp benefit of doubt,” Frankel tweeted. “No more. You are terrible.”
https://twitter.com/JustinFrankel/status/1504140679655858177(opens in a new tab)
Frankel went further on his website and derided NFTs as a “negative-sum ecosystem” where people are told to buy-in just so NFT promoters can dump on them and cash out.
Unfortunately, Winamp wasn’t the only beloved old-school internet audio relic to turn to the NFT-darkside.
Remember Limewire? Sure, you may have downloaded numerous viruses while illegally downloading your favorite music. But, you also probably discovered a slew of unsigned indie bands that wanted you to listen to their music.
Well, Limewire’s basically just an NFT platform now. Bummer.
RadioShack goes edgelord to promote crypto
Speaking of zombie brands, RadioShack made waves over the summer, years after the company went bankrupt (twice) and essentially closed all of their retail locations.
Why? The official Twitter account for RadioShack, the electronics store which once sold ham radios to your grandpa, started tweeting like a little 4chan-wannabe edgelord.
WHAT IN TARNATION is going on with Radio Shack's Twitter????? pic.twitter.com/AEbaGjRFXF
— Brent Black (@brentalfloss) June 29, 2022
“If you find a squirter marry her,” RadioShack posted in June.
People quickly started speculating that the RadioShack handle had been hijacked by hackers. But, no, that wasn’t the case. Its new owner, get-rich-quick internet marketer Tai Lopez, was just doing a little guerilla marketing for his re-branded RadioShack.
What is this re-branded RadioShack? Well, it still sells some electronics in its e-commerce store. But that doesn’t seem to be its only focus. RadioShack hawks NFTs and crypto now. The company has rolled out its own cross-blockchain bridge to swap crypto and launched its very own NFT collections.
What a bizarre turn of events for the store where you used to get Duracell batteries for your RC cars.