While the NFT are nowadays everywhere, the number of projects that are flourishing in the world of luxury : Gucci, Hublot, Dom Pérignon … What is the real contribution of this new concept which now seems to be inseparable from our luxury icons?
Icon-Icon went to meet Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel, CEO and co-founder of Arianee, the leading platform for web3 solutions for brands, to learn more.
Created in 2018, it is the leading platform for comprehensive web3 solutions for brands wishing to tokenise, distribute and operate NFTs. the purpose ? Transform the customer relationship by allowing them to interact with the brand in different ways: from digital to physical to immersive, while freeing themselves from dependence on large platforms – the GAFAMs. In addition to disintermediating the customer relationship, the aim is also to regain control of our digital identity and data, while enjoying an experience that allows us to be actors rather than just consumers.
Already working with major brands such as Breitling, Panerai and Paris Fashion Week, Arianee is sure to help create new icons in the luxury sector, and more!
Arianee will be at the stand #H51 from next June 15 to June 18 at Vivatech event.
As an introduction, could you remind us your career in a few words. How did you get to Arianee?
Arianee is the history of businessmen – this is not only my personal history, actually, it was not me who came up with this idea, but rather Fréderic Montagnon. Now Executive Chairman at Arianee, he is a serial businessman in ad-tech and media (founder ofoverBlog and Teads.tv), who, after observing the evolution of decentralised technologies since 2013, saw the opportunity to bring to the world of retail and customer relations a new technology that would allow a brand, a designer or a retailer to be in direct contact with its users, without intermediaries.
On an ongoing basis, the group has expanded to include Alexandre Cognard (co-founder of Vestiaire Collective), Julien Romanetto (co-founder of Overblog with Frédéric) and me. Before that, I had différents expériences in consultancy, in fashion industry and tech ; especially in the United states where I lived for ten years and where I developed and organised large professional events at the intersection of Fashion and Tech.
We formed a small team of entrepreneurs in their 40s, with international backgrounds, a diversity of views and we tackled this project around 2017-2018.
What is behind the Arianee name ?
Our main vision is reflected in the name Arianee, which refers to Ariadne’s thread.
Today, everything that happens online is intermediated, meaning that the GAFAMs have imposed themselves as concrete walls installed between users and brands, with payment as the only means of overcoming them. What we call third-party data, which has allowed the centralisation of information systems created by the GAFAMs, is ultimately the complete intermediation of digital customer relations.
Our belief at Arianee is that NFTs – created by a brand, distributed to a customer who becomes its owner in his wallet, without any additional intermediary – are the new direct and perpetual link between the brand and this user. Reinventing the customer relationship by creating this direct and perpetual link between a brand and its customer is Arianee’s raison d’être. Our ambition is to give freedom, or rather control, back to brands and users, while innovating and creating enhanced uses in the digital world, based on digital ownership and digital value.
What does a digital identity certificate now associated with a product change in the customer relationship?
Until now, nothing digital could be owned. So the possibility of creating rare or even unique digital objects (“tokens”) that you can actually own creates a completely different link between the person who generated the token and the person who owns it. It is no longer consumption but participation. I am no longer a user but a member because I own a piece of this digital value. I am in consensual and chosen contact because I own an element of this collection.
I think it’s pretty much the same as owning a Birkin or a Royal Oak. The difference is that with the NFTs, we are extending this possibility to everyone. Tomorrow, the possibility of feeling like a member, of having a very strong link with a brand and its iconic objects will be open to many more people because by following a project, its creation, and then obtaining one of the perhaps 100 tokens created, you become part of this dynamic. Then, on maybe more basic things, you could create 10,000 or even many more tokens. Because I came to a concert, because I had an experience or interacted with the brand, I now have this possibility of owning a piece of digital value that would correspond to that very specific moment or object, which makes me the custodian of it and gives me a potential value perspective.
We know that when we buy a Birkin or a Royal Oak, the multiple is immediate. Well, in some cases, the NFT will be the same, in other cases, it will be a little less sacred, but if I own a piece of it and the project succeeds, maybe it will evolve positively and I will gain from being part of it, from being a member, in order to get value from it. It is therefore this empowerment that we are looking for: this passage from “Client” to “User” to “Member”, from “the one who spends” to “the one who invests” with a possibility of liquidity, or even investment. It is a question of optimising the relationship, the value, the service, shifting the role and interaction towards something bottom-up or at least circular.
Does this mean that the notion of Consumer Relationship Management as traditionally understood is over?
This is what we are trying to do, to profoundly transform this relationship, so that it is no longer based on data collection, on access to third-party data from Facebook, Google or others, but rather on the distribution of a token and on interaction with the person who has it. This is why we deeply believe that tomorrow’s relationship will be “Direct to Consumer”, “Brand to Member”and no longer “Brand to Consumer/User”with nobody in between. Arianee embodies this direct and perpetual link between the brand and the person who owns the token.
The main thing about our platform is to create the token of course and to distribute it. It’s not easy, it doesn’t speak to everyone, so we have to find a use case to explain to brands and make them understand the added value of web3 and our solutions; we have to support brands, give them the customer relations tools to animate this link (How do I segment my wallets? How do I send messages to them? How to create environments in which people can enter according to what they own? ).
If we refer to Adam Maslow and his pyramid of needs, there is this same idea of recognising the customer “at his true value” with, at the top, groups of customers who would be given the opportunity to have certain very particular experiences, what do you think?
I often use the image of Maslow’s pyramid to describe the fact that in this Internet of value, it’s a bit like having a digital purse with all our items inside (our NFTs which define what we’ve earned and what we own) and the problem is that this digital purse has the same flaws as the real purse, i.e. if you lose it, you can’t ask Mark Zuckerberg to give you one back. So in reality, the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid is security. If we follow the metaphor, people will have to learn not to leave their handbag anywhere or even not to let people put their hands in it. But here their purse is their wallet. So at the top of Maslow’s pyramid there are some fantastic things, and at the bottom, the base, it’s just don’t lose your wallet.
Finally, this Maslow pyramid, which can be expressed at the level of luxury by its possession of accessible luxury products up to super yachts, could be translated into the metaverse.
Several thoughts on this. If the metaverse operates in the same way as the classical society, i.e. just distributing the same things to the same people, there is no point.
The people who build metaverses (for example, The Sandboxwith whom Arianee has partnered), do so to allow content creators to own their content and therefore to democratise the possibility that a game creator or an avatar creator has a market, that he has liquidity and that finally the game belongs to the person who creates it and not only to the person who comes to spend the most. I think that’s the real logic, that’s what’s interesting about web3: it’s the fact that everyone owns a piece of the thing you create. If the metaverse is only about getting rich somewhere else and coming here to spend it, then the concept has gone the wrong way. Then the yacht itself, it’s a yacht because it floats on water, it has a physical property, why would we bother with yachts in a digital environment where there is no gravity?
What do you bring to luxury houses?
Our contribution is on two levels.
The first is immediate, i.e. providing them with a technology that enables them to create innovative uses for community engagement, customer relations, i.e. innovation in the uses supported by a new technology, which is web 3. To create new actions that will enable my community to be better engaged, perhaps to generate different revenues, to better reward, and also to achieve experiential business objectives by enabling the community to benefit from experiences that complement their products.
. The second level is to free them from the digital grip they are in today, i.e. to allow them to build their decentralised CRM, based on tokens or wallets and not on databases or followers. This second element is more difficult, and more time consuming. Today, there is so much money being spent to reach consumers online that before things move massively, we will still need to have made a few more achievements.
So could all luxury goods eventually have their own NFT?
All products could and will, I believe, have their NFT.
In some cases, the NFT will be used as an enhancement to the product experience, i.e. it will have no purpose other than to accompany the product. Then there will be NFTs that represent experiences with brands or with things we like or do: I went to a game, I went to a concert, I went to a pop-up store opening, I participated in a donation campaign for a brand that supports a cause, I supported an artist or I contributed to a collective work. All these experiences can be tokenised and form a new graph of interest for brands.
In my phone I have my wallet, inside there are my tokens and in reality they represent the person I am and that I want to show digitally.
and you what does your wallet look like ?
I must be close to a hundred NFTs. Tomorrow we will have a lot of NFTs that will be well organized and categorized. Some will be used in a virtual gallery where they will be displayed, others will not be visible and will just be used to connect us with the subjects we are interested in or to allow us to access certain things.
Can you tell us about your collaborations with luxury brands?
Our collaboration with the watch brand IWC led to the creation of an NFT membership allowing its owners to live specific, enriched experiences. With Printemps, we created a system where customers who made a purchase on the Printemps virtual store won a rare work of art in NFT format, produced in 30 copies. At Breitling, with whom we have been working for several years, all objects are now accompanied by an NFT. For AZ Factory, the house founded by Alber Elbaz, we imagined an experience where the connected t-shirts are accompanied by one of his drawings encapsulated in an NFT.
Do you think that luxury brands are increasingly looking for demand and advice on this subject?
de fournir aux marques la bonne technologie. There is no shortage of advice, because today anyone can become an expert on the subject. Every 5 minutes, there is a new expert who comes through their doors with a Meta Agency, a Meta Consulting Firm, a Meta Startup, web3 this, web3 that… Today, the challenge for brands is already to sort through the continuous flow of information and, above all, to choose the right technology. Arianee’s job is first and foremost to provide brands with the right technology.
What can be done to democratise the concept of NFT, which is still a bit vague?
It takes time, use cases, which is what we did with Leader Price where users collected NFTs while shopping with super powers that gave them either advantages or the possibility to enter a game on the metaverse.
We are also discussing with major retail players to make this digital object part of everyday life and to start to see the submerged part of this iceberg emerge, of which all we see today is exuberance, speculation and irrationality. We are convinced that this is a tool that will profoundly transform customer relations. For the moment, we don’t see all that.
You’ve done a very nice fundraising recently, tell us about it.
We were approached by Tiger Global, who believed in us and brought about this connection that was not originally planned. With hindsight, we thank them because it’s true that the period has been a little tense for some time. This fundraising will allow us to further improve our product, to make it more accessible so that brands can democratise this technology.
By “tense” do you mean the current declines in the crypto currency and NFT market or just a decline in projects?
This tension is the consequence of a massive fall in all financial markets caused by a mixture of inflation, rising rates, uncertainty in China and Ukraine. This global context has caused the market and technology stocks to plunge, which has had an impact on the crypto-currency market, which is no longer unconnected to all this but rather correlated to the evolution of tech.
All of this has created an environment where it’s going to be a little bit harder to get funded, so we’re very happy to have closed this round of funding at the right time.
In a race for innovation that is very resource-intensive, we need talent, people who are hard to convince, who are expensive because they are good… To be able to do what we have to do, we need to be well equipped. So we are delighted to have had the confidence of Tiger at that time, but also of all the funds that were already supporting us before: Bpifrance, ISAI, Cygni Labs and Noia Capital.
Interview by Sébastien Girard, President of Icon-Icon and Saskia Blanc.