Cover photo

Follow the Doge

How IP assets can be turned into platforms to enable community co-creation.

TLDR;

  1. The transition to digital necessitates brands to evolve from viewing IP as products to platforms for community creation.

  2. The blurring line between creators and consumers online leads to deeper engagement through participation and ownership.

  3. Memes and crypto demonstrate how digital assets can gain tangible value through attention and virality.

  4. The Doge meme's journey from a viral image to a valuable NFT showcases the potential of community-driven IP evolution.

  5. Enabling community co-creation and rewarding engagement can transform traditional IPs into dynamic, participatory platforms.

The world will be more digital tomorrow than it is today. People’s attention is increasingly spent in digital spaces. This gradual transition leads to new consumer behaviors and requires established brands and businesses to adapt.

We have previously explored how entertainment brands can thrive in the future by enabling more community participation. This requires reorienting from protecting “IP as products” to letting these assets flourish as platforms.

The line between creator and consumer, previously well-defined offline, is blurring online. Fan experiences should be designed as funnels with participation (and even ownership) as the deepest levels of engagement (something we explored last year in “The Spectrum of Entertainment Participation”).

We also circled the idea that memes and crypto meme coins serve as a blueprint for how a digital value system (blockchain) can make intangible assets more tangible. Visible. Measurable.

For a meme coin, that intangible value comes in the form of attention and online virality. But we don’t have to make a huge mental leap to see how this can be relevant for legacy IP businesses.

Disney, for instance, carries $90B of intangible assets on its balance sheet (some of this is “goodwill” from overpaying for the 21st Century Fox assets in 2019, but the rest is brand and IP).

We’ll eventually combine all of this into a coherent framework I’m working on. But, before we get there, we need a tactical and practical touchpoint.

That’s what’s on the plate for today.

Hi, Doge

The “Doge” meme is part of internet history. It originated when a blogger posted pictures of her Shiba Inu dog, Kabosu, online in the 2010s. Since then, the dog has been the character in countless meme images online. The Doge also inspired the first big crypto meme coin, Dogecoin. However, that coin has no direct affiliation with what we’ll discuss below.

The owner later minted a 1/1 NFT of the original photos. The most famous one with the Mona Lisa-esque smile (above) was sold for $5.5M to the pleasrDAO, an online community.

(If you think that’s insane, please read “Investing in Internet Culture”).

PleasrDAO then fractionalized the NFT (dividing the NFT into smaller, tradable shares that allow multiple people to own a piece of it) and issued the $DOG governance token.

(Sidenote: The full story about pleasrDAO and the Doge meme and community is worthy a dedicated essay that I’ll get to later, so we’ll just do the TLDR here.)

Let’s pause here for a moment.

The path described above to bring an IP asset onchain is obviously a little esoteric and not what it would look like for a legacy brand. But the Doge meme is an IP asset as much as Elsa from Frozen is.

At this point in our story, the Doge IP is an asset and a product.

Now is where it gets interesting. Let’s look at how the product becomes a platform.

Manifesting Culture Onchain

Imagine you have a visual asset with a community attached to it. To drive growth and engagement, you invite the community to co-create content on top of the original asset.

You could do it without any orchestration. It might become beautiful chaos, but it is not a foundation on which to continue building.

It might look like this:

Instead, maybe you want some way to organize this engagement:

  • A way to lower the barrier for more people to participate

  • Organize all the different creations

  • Keep track of participants (to reward engagement, for instance).

That’s what the Doge wanted. The community partnered with Titles to solve all of the above. Titles is a new, all-in-one tool for creating and publishing media onchain. It enables artists to train AI models on their original works and lets community creators use that generative AI model to make derivative works.

Creating an AI model for Doge means anyone can participate (not just those proficient with “handmaking” digital art or memes).

Now, the community contributions look like this:

The IP asset becomes a graph of creations that can eventually have hundreds of layers and even include multiple original IP assets. The source material is traceable, and so are the different creators.

Here’s a remix I made while researching for this essay:

This derivative uses multiple samples, including the Doge AI model. A few days ago, I minted a cute pixelated penguin. Since my wallet was connected to Titles, the penguin was available as an owned asset, so I threw it in there. The NFT was also automatically included as a source for this remix.

To incentivize engagement and creation, the Doge community distributes $DOG tokens as rewards for the most popular contributions. It creates a forceful feedback loop; engage more to own a bigger share of the original IP asset. Distribution of the rewards is simple since every derivative is attached to a contributor with a crypto wallet.

You can see how the meme is growing with derivative works here.

Now, Imagine This

How does this connect to legacy entertainment franchises? Imagine all of the above, but instead of a dog meme, it’s your favorite character from a movie. Imagine that instead of creating a picture, you’re creating an interactive asset that can be used inside a 3D online world like Roblox.

Mattel could train AI models to allow fans to interact, create personalized assets in family-friendly confines, and keep track of it all through the IP graph.

A knee-jerk reaction for a legacy brand might be to fear diluting the asset. The reality is that the world is moving online, and the online world is a big attention market. Allowing fans to cross over to participation as an outlet for their fandom increases the surface area for the original asset. Mix that with ownership and rewards, and you create a powerful incentive for people to create and become the distributor for those creations.

Both IP assets and NFTs share a similar and important trait: They are powered by network effects, and the value of these network effects accrues to the asset itself. For IP, this happens in an intangible, harder-to-measure way, while for NFTs, it happens in a very tangible and measurable way. Combining the two (IP + NFT) also combines these powers.

As IP transitions from product to platform, the Doge+Titles initiative is the best practical blueprint I’ve encountered (so far).


Please reach out on Farcaster (@brg) if you have any thoughts, ideas, feedback etc.

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