The Next Big Branding Boom: 3D Printing Technology

Advancements in technology spawn new marketing practices. The positive outcomes of these innovative marketing practices, in turn, inspire further advancements in technology. This symbiotic, mutually beneficial cycle is constantly shaping and re-shaping the world we live in. Moreover, it facilitates a growing intimacy between brands and their consumers and enhances their ability to engage in a productive and long-lasting conversation. In that vein, we predict that the emergence of 3D printing technology is set to trigger a new wave of marketing practices while fundamentally disrupting how the production economy currently operates.

What Does The Market Look Like?

“Every home within 10 years—probably less than that—will have its own 3D printer, just as many homes now have a 2D or laser printer,” claims Andy Bird, Chairman of Walt Disney International. While this statement may seem like a bit of a stretch, the global demand for 3D printers is set to rise 20% annually and is estimated to hit $5 billion by 2017 (RnR Market Research). The American market will be responsible for the lion’s share of the total demand (a significant 47%), however, the European market will not be far behind.

Who’s using 3D Printing Tech?

The 3D printing technology is still not a mass phenomenon given its high cost (a 3D printer will set you back roughly $1500-$3000). Thus, it is primarily “makers”, industrial producers and brands that populate the market. However, this is likely to change in the near future. Staples already sells 3D printers in stores, and hardware-manufacturing giants like HP are gearing up to enter the market. As competition rises, patents expire, and the promise of 3D printing catches on, one can expect unit prices to decline.

1. “Makers”: USA Today reported that over 135 million Americans (57% of the adult population) are makers. Makers or people who “employ their creative skills in craft activities, such as making clothing, jewelry, baked goods, or works of craft or art,” contribute roughly $29 billion to the national economy. While these artisanal creators don’t necessarily own or use 3D printing technology themselves, they indirectly generate much of the demand for it in the market. For instance, companies like Shapeways allow users to design a product online, select the materials they would like to use in its production, receive a price-quote and hit submit. Shapeways then brings the product to life using 3D printing tech and ships it out to the designer.

2. Industrial Producers: 3D printing technology has immense potential in the product development realm: “I can go and talk to our industrial design team now, we can sketch some ideas, by tomorrow they’ll have 3D CAD drawings done of those ideas. The following day, we’ll have a physical form that’s printed off a 3D printer and then the next day we can turn that from a model into an edible product,” said Cadbury’s Adam Harris. GE and Rolls-Royce also recently claimed that they would use 3D tech for jet-engine repairs. In fact, a report by RnR Market Research claimed that the aerospace and healthcare industries would be the primary driving forces behind the rising demand for 3D printing tech over the next three years.

3. Brands: Technology is constantly forging new ways for brands to communicate with their consumers. Brands like Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, Disney and Motorola have already employed 3D printing tech into their campaigns and enjoyed tremendous results.

Why Should Your Brand Take the Leap?

As the number of social platforms and means of communication multiply, it has become apparent that the brands that win big, are the brands that stay current; whether that means jumping on Snapchat, embracing experiential marketing, or making predictions about the future of advertising on low-sharing platforms like WhatsApp. Being an early adopter not only positions you as an innovator and the “cool kid” in the market, but it also gives your brand a chance to stand out from the pack and define the market from the get-go. Jump on early and you’ll be doing your brand a favor today and your marketing team a huge solid in the future.

1. Tactile Brand Engagement: From purely print and image-based advertising, to the advent of TV, the Internet, social media and online video, brands are constantly trying to create a more immersive consumer experience. Consumers once passively flipped through ads in a magazine; today, they can play a branded game, watch and share a video or tweet at their favorite designer. But what if they could do more? Tactile engagement could very well be the next step in forging connections between brands and consumers.

Watch how Intel collaborated with Vice to leave it’s consumers with a lasting (branded) memory.

Next, check out how Barnardo’s, a UK-based charity for the homeless, brought its moving story to life using 3D tech.

2. Innovation: Innovation is equal parts ideation and collaboration. 3D printing empowers the first few stages of the design process. It brings sketches, ideas and other nebulous creative thoughts to life. Plus, the “production outsourcing” trend (as illustrated by companies like Shapeways) allows for people to innovate without having to contend with actually producing merchandise.

3. Creating a Better Consumer Experience

-Creative collaboration

3D printing technology has drawn the consumer into the creative process. This leads to the creation of a product that is more in tune with the consumer’s needs and desires and provides brands with a source of market data.

Volkswagen’s “Polo Principle Campaign”

Motorola’s MAKEwithMOTO campaign was another great use of this concept. Motorola sent a van full of 3D printing technology and other cool toys and tools around the country and hosted a series of “make-a-thons” in order to promote its customizable Moto X cellular device. Check out the MAKEwithMOTO YouTube channel here.

Personalization

The trend of personalizing the consumer experience has long been in play. Whether it’s targeted ads or a Coke bottle with your name on it, the importance of the individual and his/her particular preferences has grown in importance. Personalization allows consumers to embrace your brand, while stamping it with their touch, making their relationship to the product and association with the brand that much more profound.

Watch how Coca-Cola added an exciting twist to its campaign by using 3D printing technology to augment its online video and social app based campaign.

User convenience

If you’ve ever lost one earring of a set, you know how important duplicates can be. Check out how DVV used 3D printing to make its users’ lives infinitely easier.

4. Sustainability: 3D printing technology not only speeds up production time and lowers cost, but it also has the potential to completely reimagine the norms of commercial interaction. Imagine a world where H&M wasn’t filled with racks of clothes, but instead had digital displays of its latest designs projected onto its walls and 3D printers scattered across the shop floor. Shoppers could walk up to the screen, select a design, color, size etc. and hit print. It would spell the end of speculative production, surplus stock, transportation costs and more.

But let’s return to reality for a minute. Production techniques like selective laser sintering (SLS) are already in practice. What this technique does is create complete products by using a laser to fuse particles together as opposed to creating products from breaking down raw materials. Simply put, if you were to produce a table today, you’d start with a massive chunk of wood and break it down, shape it, sand it etc. until you have your finished product. If you were to use SLS tech, you would be fusing the raw material together in specified amounts to create a solid product. Although this technology is largely being used for low volume production, it could certainly evolve as time wears on and the need for sustainable business practices becomes impossible to ignore.

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