The Digital Download: Futuristic Trends from SMMW22

Melissa Ross
Digital Content Producer

The Digital Download: Futuristic Trends from SMMW22

At Geile/Leon, we meet every Wednesday to discuss different trends in marketing, communications and all aspects of business. It’s fun and always insightful to find new perspectives, explore new technology and identify changes in different industries. Sure, we have a good time doing it, but it helps us focus on how we can capitalize on different trends and technology to help our clients evolve and stay at the forefront of their markets.

This is why, at Social Media Marketing World 2022, there were a few technology-driven trends and ideas that really captured my attention. These were futuristic trends. Not fully formed or even fully understood, but trends that held great potential for marketing. Early adopters may still be learning how to harness this potential, but #SMMW22 made it clear that these are trends that every marketer should watch closely.

 Web 3.0

Throughout the conference, Web 3.0 was always part of the conversation. Especially during keynote speeches. It’s the latest (and if you asked anyone there, the greatest) technology to leverage machine learning, AI and blockchain to achieve real-world human communication. Not only will it let every individual access their own data, but they will also be compensated for their content and time spent on the web.

So what does that mean and how did we get there?

Let’s start at the beginning with Web 1.0, which we saw as the static web. It was the birthplace of the website. No algorithms or real-time engagement. Basic, centralized and simple.

That evolved to where we are now: Web 2.0, the social web. It’s highly centralized by companies like Meta (Facebook and all its other platforms), Twitter, Google, banks and more who make money on interaction-based usage of their platforms.

The next evolutionary step will be Web 3.0 (aka web3), a decentralized internet that empowers every single user and places great importance on free speech. Every person who uses web3 can monetize their own data and maintain their own privacy. It will be faster and more secure with a highly personalized experience.

The Metaverse

One of the most innovative byproducts of web3 is the Metaverse. It’s not fully defined yet, but it will be the successor state to today’s mobile internet. However, it’s too early to fully understand how marketers can utilize it or what it will become. What do we know? It will revolve around virtual experiences in the physical AND virtual world. While web3 focuses on people, places and things, the metaverse is where you will experience the future of the internet.

The metaverse shouldn’t be confused with Facebook’s Meta, but it’s also no surprise that Mark Zuckerberg most likely chose that name to link itself to this new idea. The metaverse is a network of 3D worlds that you navigate as an avatar. It is focused on social connection, enabled by AI, blockchain, NFTs, AR, VR and gaming. While it’s a virtual world, your interactions will be very real, and users will be working, shopping, socializing and playing together.

Matthew Ball, an influential venture capitalist who has written about the Metaverse extensively, believes that just as smartphones revolutionized tech, the economy, and society itself, the Metaverse will do the same.


Non-fungible tokens, AKA NFTs, are scarce digital assets that represent real-world objects like art, music, videos, etc. They cost real-life money and each have unique identifying codes. They are also unique investments – the ultimate collector’s item that some believe will change investing forever.

The $174 million that has been spent on NFTs (according to Forbes Advisor) gives evidence to that prediction. But why spend millions on a digital asset when you could easily view or download the image or video that copies it for free online? The NFT’s unique identifying code is proof that you own it…and all the digital bragging rights that go along with it.

We’ve seen big brands like McDonald’s, NBA, Taco Bell, Gucci and Nike (just to name a few) utilizing these digital collectibles to build connections and engagement with their fanbase. Not only can this build brand loyalty, but now the NFT owner is truly invested in the brand’s success because it can only help their investment. And keep in mind that NFTs don’t require shipping or storage overhead, plus there’s no worry about product defects.

Bottom line: people are essentially buying the brand itself instead of the products that brand produces.

Web 3.0, the metaverse and NFTs are all in their infancy stages, so Geile/Leon isn’t necessarily adopting them into digital strategies. However, it would be unwise for us to not continue to watch how they unfold in the marketplace to see what impact they may have on the digital world.

Opinion | St. Louis needs to build a new brand. Here’s what it should say.

Tim Leon
President/Brand Strategist

Opinion | St. Louis needs to build a new brand. Here’s what it should say.

This article is featured in the current issue of the St. Louis Business Journal printed on April 1st, 2022.

I recently received an email from the St. Louis Business Journal inviting me to fill out a survey regarding how St. Louis is perceived in the business community, the challenges of the region, and possible solutions for addressing those challenges.

 As I was filling out the survey, It got me thinking about one solution that is near and dear to me and my profession. And that is how do we consistently and effectively brand our city going forward? When you think of St. Louis, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Some will say the Gateway Arch, others will say the River City or Budweiser beer. Some, especially those who don’t live in our region, might say crime. 

Our brand as a city is all over the map.

Outsiders like travel writers and historians still refer to us as the Gateway to the West. We, too, continue to use that moniker, which refers to the era 175 years ago when steamboats chugged westward up the Missouri River delivering people and supplies to support our nation’s westward expansion. Some argue that Kansas City was the true Gateway to the West, as it was the last civilized stop-off before pioneers ventured west. I’ll leave that argument to historians.

But I think we can agree that “Gateway to the West” is NOT a key message for how we wish to be known today. In an economy in which global trade and next-day delivery have blurred the lines of geography and bring the world to us at the click of a mouse or tap on a smart phone, this slogan doesn’t resonate any longer. Our “brand” as a city could use a refresh. I think it’s fair to say that today we are building toward being the Gateway to the World.

The formation of Greater St. Louis Inc., over a year ago provides a platform to bring forth a unified economic development effort to attract business. In their own words they state: “Greater St. Louis Inc. brings together business and civic leaders to create jobs, expand inclusive economic growth and improve St. Louis’ global competitiveness.”  Hard to disagree with that statement and we see a global theme being echoed with another organization: St. Louis Regional Freightway. Front and center on their website is the line: “The St. Louis Region — One Location. Global Access.” This translates to the fact that St. Louis is highly accessible to all world markets from the middle of the United States. That’s a pretty good place to be!

In addition to attracting business, we need to retain our highly talented workforce and future workforce. Consider what’s happening in the St. Louis region: for a number of reasons, we continue to lose millennial and Gen Z talent to similar-sized Midwest markets like Nashville, Indianapolis and Kansas City.

If St. Louis was a corporation losing customers, a university losing students, or a non-profit losing donors, management would search out the reasons for the losses and address them. They would then work hard to communicate improvements to their stakeholders in order to win them back.

Our city is no different. We have our challenges and we’re working to address them. We also have so many important assets we can showcase: We’re at the confluence of two rivers used for recreation and shipping. We’re a major hub for transportation, tech, defense, agriculture, plant science, medical research, and startups. We have the National Geospatial Agency, NorthSide Regeneration, Cortex, the Federal Reserve, numerous corporate headquarters and heck, even a strong micro-brewery scene. We’re building protected bike paths, renovating beautiful historic buildings, and juxtaposing new contemporary designs between those buildings, all of which urban planners say are highly desirable features.

If we want to attract businesses and talent to St. Louis and retain the younger generation in our region, we need to communicate what we’re doing and why we’re relevant. And we need to do it consistently over every platform and every economic development and tourism entity. Universities, corporations, retailers and nonprofits can help support this branding by including it as part of their marketing presence.

A brand refresh is in order, one that proclaims who we are – with boldness and self-confidence. One that reflects why St. Louis is a great place to live and work. And for those new to St. Louis, let’s blur the lines of city and county to deliver a unified message. We seem to believe St. Louis city and county are different as they operate under separate governmental authority. To the outside world, we are viewed as St. Louis. Period. I know this is a conversation for another day, but we have one brand: St. Louis.  Let’s proclaim our pride in who we are and what we offer the world. Let’s not stay stuck in the past. Let’s live in the here and now and brand St. Louis as the forward-thinking city that we are today.