Creator Stories Episode 4: Jeff Kauffman, Jr.

The relation between brands, marketers and Crypto.

This article is a transcript of a live interview conducted by Jenil. If you want to attend our next Creator Stories episode, join our Discord and follow us on Twitter. We hope you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as we did! 😉

You can find Jeff on Twitter and Substack. We also highly recommend you to join and follow the Jump community.

Hey Jeff, we're excited to have you here for this 4th episode of the Creator Stories. Could you introduce yourself to our audience that might not know you and talk further about your background and what led you to build the Jump community?

Sure, thanks for having me. Back in 2005, it was the start of social media as we know them today. I was in college at the time, and I started skydiving. I decided to create a skydive page on MySpace. That has been my very entry point into becoming more interested in emerging digital channels, how to tell brand stories and social media in general.

That first experience led me to work at the largest independent advertising agency in the US, where we did about 1 billion in annual billings every year for the last 25 years. If you've eaten at Chick-fil-A, you might know the Chick-fil-A cows. Well, our agency came up with that. I've also worked on Fruit of the loom and have led socials for a long time for GameStop. I built a nice social media practice from the ground up at that agency.

I saw from 2005 to 2021, when I went full-time into Web3, the entire rise of Web2 social. A lot of the sentiment around freeing creators and cutting out the middleman that exists in Web3, that's the same sentiment that we had in 2005 for social. 

But what happened was we swapped out a bunch of old gatekeepers, meaning legacy media platforms like ABC, Fox News, the New York Times, or the Wall Street journal for new gatekeepers in the form of Google, Facebook, Amazon etc.. And these gatekeepers are worse than the previous ones ahah. 

As someone who works on behalf of brands and is constantly trying to figure out strategies for them, I became incredibly frustrated with the work and the handcuffs that Facebook and YouTube had put on us.

In the end, I think brands are enterprise versions of creators. There's a big need to help creators and artists and anybody that's building community and creating value, and we need to solve those problems, but brands are struggling with that as well.

Fun fact about brands and Facebook advertising. One hundred advertisers drive 80% of Facebook's revenue. These are mega fortune 500 companies like P&G or Coca-Cola, and believe me, they do not like what they have to do. They don't like renting their audiences. They don't like the game Facebook is playing with their billions of dollars and squeezing them for every penny.

These major brands are feeling the same pain as individual creators, and I felt that very strongly over the last three years. 2020 was the year that I was massively fed up with everything that I was doing in Web2 and just felt like I had to either leave this industry entirely or figuring out a way not to have handcuffs.

That's when I came across the concept of Social Tokens. It was in early 2020, which I believe was a few months after the term had started to gain some momentum. I then joined the second cohort of Seed Club and created the Jump Community.

Jump is a community focused on educating agencies and brands on what Web3 is and creating a community around that. The core insight that led to Jump was that I made a trends presentation about Web3, and started sharing it with brilliant strategists, creatives, and senior people in my network. This was the fall of 2020, so almost a year ago, and everyone had the same response. They were like, "Wow, this future looks incredible, I think you're onto something, but Jeff, I have no idea where to start."

Then the CEO of Sprinkler, a $3.5 billion company, told me something that helped me lean into the idea that Jump was the first good project for me to launch. He said, "Jeff, you're right, this is the future, but I think you're ten years too early."

I believe that sentiment mainly was from brands and agencies. They weren't quite ready for it. So I thought that if we could just create a tokenized community of agency peoples, marketers from Fortune 500, brands and marketers from Web3 startups, that might move this trend along even faster. The idea was to create a community and have people learn by experiencing the tokens and experiencing what that's like.

Instead of building products and services and selling them directly to agencies, I thought it would be more beneficial to build a community, use a Social Token, and let people experience it.

That's awesome. It's interesting to see that Facebook and social media apps were initially quite useful until it all became about propaganda. It ruined the entire experience. Things are entirely different on Web3 because no one is locked on a platform. How do you communicate that with people? How do you show people the potential of Web3? 

Running an advertising agency is a very tough business. It's gratifying when you're doing it right because it's so fun working on these creative campaigns, but it's also challenging and cutthroat. Agencies are constantly in need of edge, information, and technology advantage. The challenge for them is keeping up with how fast things are changing.

When I was first talking about this and trying to bring people into the community, people were just like, "I don't need another thing on my plate." But things are already changing. Budweiser purchased the domain name "Beer.eth", VISA bought an NFT, Arizona Ice Tea bought a Bored Ape. Just to put that in perspective, it took 12 years for a publicly traded company to purchase some Bitcoins after mainstream awareness. It took only eight months for a publicly-traded brand to buy an NFT after mainstream awareness. 

There are many different implications there, but I think it shows how fast this adoption curve is.

I think it all comes down to education, knowledge, and network advantage. These sorts of announcements are bringing people into the Web3 community, but I don't think that's what keeps them in there. I think it's the fundamentals of Web3 that keep them into the space, but you can only learn that by experiencing it. That's why communities are so important.

That's what we do all day in advertising and marketing. A great campaign is when you meet people where they are and when you understand what they need. You then show them the cool stories and the cool Techs. 

I agree, I think a primary component of Web3 is building intimacy and getting closer to people because right now, we're apart because of COVID, but we all need to belong to a tribe. Thriving communities tend to be helpful but are ultimately about sharing risks and economic value. When working with brands, what is the one thing that you've noticed they'd be interested in doing? What is the one trend that brings brands into adopting tokens? Do you think they'll launch their own tokens? How do you see that happening?

That's a good question. I think brands will launch their own tokens and NFTs, but I think that'll take a while, especially for Fortune 1000 brands. The reason why is because of the SEC securities and the risk of having a Social Token. But I think we're going to see billion-dollar brands native to Web3 launch their own coins and become brands themselves.

I guess in the short term, big brands are going to do what we see right now, buy NFTs for existing communities because it's less scary from a security standpoint. 

Fortune 1000 brands will first try to enter into communities. Big brands like Arizona ice tea already understood that. They can't just show up to the party. They have to be invited in and think very carefully about who they align with and how they grow together. There has to be a strong values alignment. 

These partnerships to communities are much more like Nike and Jordan, between brands and athletes, but instead of an athlete, it's an entire community. We could imagine a community massively passionate about environmental issues partnering with Patagonia, for example. I can almost guarantee that this community would love Patagonia to help support them financially and through their own media platform. 

There's more than ever crucial for brands to develop their brand and product in a way that Web3 communities will invite them in. Otherwise, those brands are going to be outsiders.

Super interesting. I wanted to talk with you about the brands like UFC or Disney that did experiments with Tokens. Do you think these brands tend to be more risk-averse and figure out partnerships instead of simply jumping into it? Do you think brands will jump into it, or will it be more made of small experiments and collaborations?

The risk mostly sits at the individual level. It's usually a bunch of people within these big brands that think about the risks. The major decision-makers are typically 50 - 60 years old guys with a mortgage, so they tend to have a "follower" mentality. 

However, when those brands are taking risks, it can have huge upsides. They can get insane PR value from it. The PR value VISA and Arizona Ice Tea got just by buying NFTs and announcing it publicly was more than they spent on the NFT assets themselves. So it'll be interesting to see where these brands go from there, but I think some individuals will step out and take risks within these organizations. So I would say it's less about the brand taking the risk but more about someone inside of one of these brands taking risks.

That's what the industry is waiting for. It's waiting for that one brand with this small group of people that are a little bit less risk-averse and willing to try something new. 

I must say I'm pretty excited about this future with what we saw in the past couple of weeks with big brands. It's something that I didn't think we would see until 2023.

Yes, it's a very exciting future. Maybe we can now dive deeper into the Jump community itself. I know you are working around showing to your community what it looks like to have a token and the use cases. Could you talk to me about the specific mission or values around what Jump is? What is the angle of it? What are some initial use cases you're thinking of? Maybe we can ask Brandon (Jump's core contributor) to come on stage and answer this question?

Hey everyone, I'm Brandon, thanks for having me. I would say at Jump we have five core values:

  1. We want to use token economics and Web3 fundamentals to build our community.

  2. We want to educate people around Web3.

  3. We want to build a strong network.

  4. We want to explore creative best practices for telling stories and building brands in Web3.

  5. We want to fund projects in the ecosystem. 

Our goal is to educate the next generation of Adtech and MarTech, and do it in a way that aligns with creating good relationships between brands and consumers, and we've created three teams to bring that to life: Newsfeed, Research, and Events. 

For example, Newsfeed is to keep people up to date. It's a place to learn and make sure that marketers understand and know that Budweiser just did this thing, for example. We want them to talk to their brand about Budweiser buying "Beer.eth". We want them to bring that on a conversation and say, "Hey, we got to talk about this." We're using token rewards for people that contribute to the Newsfeed to incentivize them to share links, research papers, analyses, and essays.

Collaboration is a key component in Web3. Jeff, how are you building a community and not just an audience? Is it open to all, or is it more complicated? How do you, onboard new members?

Marketers are naturally curious people, and they probably hear these conversations start to spark up. They see the trends happening on Twitter, and, with Jump, we're trying to guide them through the experience so that they can understand it better. 

We have implemented this multi-step process where we try first to take people through our newsletter. It's a great front door into this space because marketers love staying on top of the latest trends, and it's easy for them to forward it to their colleagues and within their agency. The second thing we've implemented is that whenever they come into the Discord, we have a Townhall area open for anyone. 

Jeff is finalizing some mechanics to get people into the general Townhall to funnel them into different sub-groups in our Discord. When people begin to join, participate and contribute meaningfully to one of our sub-groups (Research, Newsfeed, or Events), they begin to earn tokens.

That's awesome. I love it. I guess a follow-up to that would be, how do you think about separating speculation from participation? How are you thinking about incentivizing better participation? Are you worried that speculation might overcome what you're doing?

Yeah, that's top of mind for sure. We try to keep speculators out of the community thanks to our onboarding process. It has several approval steps, and we have our own version of proof of work. It starts with signing up on our website. Then there's a form that you have to fill out and provide some information about yourself. That causes some drop-off, but we need to understand who our users are.

Once you've signed up, you've been approved, and you've entered the general Townhall channel, you're starting to engage and share helpful links that will open up the doors to additional opportunities.

We also have a signup form, only available to those approved already. That signup form is the port of entry to join one of the three teams. When you're part of one of the teams, you start to earn Tokens. The only way to earn tokens is to contribute and bring something valuable to those teams.

So I would say we mainly focus on those three teams' value rather than the token price. We believe that if we're creating a ton of value there, the community members themselves won't be annoyed by speculators.

That makes a lot of sense. Some of the best communities that I've seen have a relatively high barrier to entry. They build a unique culture and keep relatively high barriers of entry that make it seem like contributors have to earn their spot in the community. Let's move on to a question that we ask everyone coming on Creator Stories. If you had infinite resources and could do everything you want, what would the ideal Creator Economy look like for you? What would you change?

If I could do what I want, I would ensure that brands live with as few intermediaries as possible. And if there are middlemen, because I don't think intermediaries are necessarily bad and I think they can act as partners, I would make sure that those middlemen do not take an overly excessive amount of the value. 

Because what happens right now is that brands are like paying costly rent to that middleman to advertise. But in that sort of economy, they neglect their product and end up neglecting the customer.

If we're able to get to this state where we reduce this rent-seeking behavior and start to redirect some of these funds, and we're talking about billions of dollars, back into the product itself and serving the customer's needs, we'll get better brands. As customers, we can get better relationships with brands. We can get better services and better products too. 

To conclude this interview, Brandon, I would like to ask you, what was the tipping point for you for moving into Web3 and joining Jeff to build Jump? What made you take the risk? 

Well, the moment came when I could start seeing communities getting an actual value and benefits for participating in investing. I felt like actual ownership. I've been in crypto for a decade, talking about Bitcoin, talking about theories, and being a big evangelist for the technology, all while working in an agency job.

My biggest problem had always been that I didn't know how people would use this in their everyday lives. So back in February, it finally clicked to me, and I started to understand economics a little bit more, and Jeff and I eventually both quit around the same time to go full-time into it. 

What's so inspiring about it is this Renaissance around art, culture, and economics. That gives everyone a chance to participate from the beginning, and it's changing lives. I think the world's going to look completely different in five years, thanks to this technology. And I couldn't just sit on the sidelines and tinker with it anymore. I had to jump all the way in and build. 

I love it. Thank you both for this insightful conversation, have a nice day.

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