What the Heck is an NFT?


From Elon Musk to Eric Andre, Reese Witherspoon to the Crazy Frog, and just about every other public figure in-between, everyone has been talking about NFTs. At a glance, they look like funky little pictures that people are paying lots of money for, but is there more to it?

If you’re confused about what NFTs are or why they’re such a hot topic, you’re not alone.

Google search trends for “NFTs” from August 1, 2021, to February 15, 2022.

NFTs exploded onto the online scene toward the end of 2021, reaching peak popularity (so far) in late January 2022. However, does anyone really understand what they are? Every question answered raises more questions, and these weird little pictures and GIFs are much more complicated than they appear.

Since NFTs are such a tricky (and at times, controversial) topic to understand, instead of going super in-depth and analyzing these internet doohickeys in long-form, we’re going to break down the basics with a simple question-and-answer format. So, without further ado…

What the heck is an NFT?

NFT stands for “non-fungible token.”


Nope, it doesn’t have anything to do with mushrooms (fungus joke, anyone?). Non-fungible basically means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else that has the same value. They’re sort of like one-of-a-kind trading cards, except they exist only virtually.

Okay, that makes sense. Kind of. How do they work?

This is where it gets tricky. Most NFTs are part of something called the Ethereum blockchain (don’t worry, we’re going to come back to this). The blockchain basically supports the NFTs and stores the extra information that makes them non-fungible.

Wait… Ethereum? Blockchain?

happy new year greeting card
Ethereum is a digital cryptocurrency, like the well-known Bitcoin.

Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin. Cryptocurrencies are essentially digital money that’s based on a network distributed across a huge number of computers. That network of computers is based on blockchain technology, which is a decentralized, digitally distributed ledger enforced by the network. Yes, my head is spinning too.

Okay, I think I get it. So, why are NFTs so popular?

SNL’s NFT explainer.

Well, partly because they’re fancy and new. But a lot of the excitement surrounding NFTs has to do with the potential for the fine art world. Many people think that NFTs could be the future of fine art collecting, except with digital copies of the art.

So, not to be a stinker, but what’s stopping people from just right-clicking and downloading the NFTs?

Nothing. You can copy a digital file as many times as you want, including NFTs. The difference, according to NFT aficionados, is that when you right-click and download, you don’t get the token part that makes it non-fungible. You may have the picture, but you don’t have ownership of it. It’s sort of like buying a print of Van Gogh’s Starry Night on Amazon. You might have the print, but only one person can have the original.

What’s the point of all of it?

NFTs can be worth lots of money.
Source: nftgenerator.io

Wow, pretty existential question there but the real point is money. Internet money, specifically. They’re a way for artists to sell their work, collectors to collect the work, and cryptocurrency nuts to play the crypto game… all for digital currencies.

What does this have to do with promotional products?

Well, NFTs are majorly popular in the marketing world right now. Plenty of major brands have dipped their toes into the NFT game, and it’s only a matter of time before the frenzy trickles down from the million- and billion-dollar companies and your customers are calling you, asking if you can help them make promotional NFTs. You’ll be glad you read this blog then!

So, there you have it: the basics of NFTs. Now you’re ready to venture out into the great wide web and tackle the world of cryptocurrencies, blockchains, and non-fungible tokens!

Read more about what’s hot in marketing right now on the #SAGEBlog.

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(Marketing Coordinator)

Caitlin is a Marketing Coordinator at SAGE. When she's not writing, she enjoys baking and spending time with her beagle puppy, Piper.

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