How 3D Printing Could Revolutionize Marketing
According to Time Magazine, the annual revenue of additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, is expected to reach $21 billion by 2020. It’s no surprise how 3D printing offers such a mass – and lucrative – appeal. Not only does the technology allow greater time and cost efficiency and design freedom, the rise of the 3D printer also provides marketers with a unique way to strategize.
What is a 3D printer? A 3D printer is a machine that can make everything from ceramic cups and chocolate cakes to functional human hearts. A typical 3D printer works similarly to that of an inkjet laser printer and builds up a figure, one layer at a time, working from the bottom up. In order to build up the object, the printer deposits layers of molten plastic or powder that it fuses together with adhesive or ultraviolet light. In terms of marketing, several global brands, such as Coca-Cola and Volkswagen, have already utilized 3D printing technology to their advantage.
In an Israeli campaign advertising their new miniature bottles, Coca-Cola allowed consumers to create miniature versions of themselves in a mobile app. In addition to allowing consumers to create their own mini-me, they had to care for their creations in the app similar to how they would a Tamagotchi (an extremely popular toy from the 1990s). Finally, select individuals were brought to Coca-Cola’s factory where they 3D printed their digital creations from the app.
On a larger scale, Volkswagen allowed Danish consumers to design their dream versions of the Volkswagen Polo on the car manufacturer’s website. Forty of the best ideas were 3D printed and displayed at a Copenhagen exhibition. The design of the grand prizewinner was turned into a real car that the winner was allowed to take home and drive for two months. Both campaigns demonstrate the brands’ abilities to drive online traffic and generate buzz through experimentation with digital technology.
Another interesting way brands may potentially utilize 3D printing is through the recreation of old creative and marketing materials. If a brand wants to display its legacy at a conference or exhibition, 3D printing allows old materials, as well as current creative, to be recreated and displayed in an innovative manner. Additionally, companies may also use 3D printing to manufacture product prototypes to present to their clients.
With all these advances, the 3D printing industry faces challenges. First, while the use of the machines may prove economically efficient to manufacturers in the long run, the initial cost of 3D printing equipment poses a financial burden. Second, 3D printing comes with a steep learning curve. There are currently not enough professional individuals with the knowledge to design on the software that accompanies 3D printing machines or operate the machines themselves. In addition to the cost of the machinery, manufacturing companies will also have to invest time and money to turn their engineers into 3D printing experts. However, some universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are circumventing this obstacle by offering 3D printing labs that provide their engineering students hands-on training.
While 3D printing has a ways to go before it becomes a widespread industry staple, companies such as Coca-Cola and Volkswagen have already proved how budding technologies can be the key for brands to revamp their marketing strategy. In the realms of marketing and technology, the sky is quite truly the limit.