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Is your brand 3D printable?


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Science Fiction Technology

3D printing technology has been turning heads in virtually all industries and sectors over the last couple of years with much chatter about it’s incredible potential and the role is already playing as a disruptor of the traditional manufacturing marketplace. Naturally, the tech has also got branding and marketing heads sitting up at attention, with some major players already making headway in using 3D printing to spread the image of their brands.

In case you missed out on the tech talk, 3D printing or additive manufacturing is the process of converting 3D computer models into solid objects, typically by laying down a particular material successively until the object is completely generated.

There are multiple printing processes presently available on the market, however the most popular of those are FDM which deals with high pressure, high temperature material extrusion and SLA which involves lasers and a tank of liquid resin. If all this sounds like something out of Star Trek, that’s because it totally is. They called it a Replicator but same difference basically!

Now 3D printing has actually been around since the 80’s. However, it’s only in the last decade that the tech has been refined and revamped to make it smaller, faster and more accessible to the masses. The reason everyone is up in a fuss about it is that it doesn’t waste material compared to traditional manufacturing methods and because designs are translated from computer to printer directly, the level of detail is truly astounding.

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But what does all this mean for the branding and marketing sector?

Branding with a 3D Printer

We’ll get to some cool examples of how brands have jumped into the hot seat to pilot this technology with their logos emblazoned proudly on the side in a second, but just imagine for a moment that you have the capability to generate objects at your absolute whim and fancy, what would you make to really grab people’s attention? Limited solely by your imagination and with the present and growing availability of materials ranging from plastics, ceramics, metals and even chocolate (that’s right, chocolate!) a plethora of possibilities becomes attainable.

Here’s what some of the bigwigs have done with the technology:

Coca-Cola launched an awesome campaign to tie in to their social media outreach program in Israel promoting their line of Coca-Cola Mini bottles. People were invited to create miniature 3D models of themselves using Coke’s own simplified mobile design application and winners were invited to their custom-made 3D printing lab where they were scanned using 360° scanning software and then had miniature models of themselves printed out using 3D printers.

Tapping into the phone cases craze, mobile bigwig Nokia released the design resources online for users to 3D print their own cases either using home desktop printers or by going to a local 3D printing store and getting it done there. To celebrate the initiative Nokia then topped it off by 3D printing their logo in chocolate and dubbed it #Chokia for a bit of added cheekiness.

World entertainment favorites Disney tapped into the customizability of the tech by offering their very own in-house 3D printing studio via the online Disney Store and their first available line of fully customizable models are none other than figures from the beloved Star Wars universe. Simply choose a model like R2-D2, select your preferred finishes and base name and submit your order to be printed and shipped directly to you.

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To commemorate the release of the third Hobbit movie, the Desolation of Smaug, Microsoft and Warner Bros created an interactive advertising campaign that offered the 3D printing blueprints for The Key of Erabor which allowed audiences to download and 3D print the key to the sheer delight of hardcore fans.

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Changing the Dynamics of Branding

As with all other tech developments that have come before, brands that take advantage of them will be ahead of the curve and will be remembered for making creative use of groundbreaking new technology. What this does is it lends towards fostering a closer relationship between brands and consumers, which is a win for everyone.

There have been some segments of the economic pundit community that have suggested that 3D printing is just a trendy fad that will fade out in due course, however we believe that this simply isn’t the case. Additive manufacturing is set to change the game in terms of how companies can get their image out and really make an impact on the consumer psyche by offering tangible objects which represent their vision and core values. As with the example of Coca-Cola, 3D printing design competitions also present a new way of creatively engaging consumers that has not been available on other platforms before now.

Moreover, industry predictions claim that the technology will permeate households in the future in the same way paper printing has done. As such, brands that offer up 3D printing solutions will be in the “download and print from home” category, able to offer for instance funky designed 3D printed mugs from brand X and move right into the homes of printer owners. The key here will be offering designs that people will be intrigued by and that will improve their daily living experience.

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Getting back to our earlier question though, just what are the marketing potentials of this type of technology? Well, a car company might design a traffic cone in the shape of their most widely loved car model and sell that to shopping malls to use at designated pedestrian areas. A japanese restaurant might print silverware with the aesthetic of various seafood like salmon and octopus for customers to enjoy their meals with. A mobile phone company could serve 3D printed chocolates modelled after their latest edition device to street walkers. The possibilities, as with all the best tools, are limited only by the creative ingenuity of those that wield them.

Yes, 3D printing is still very much maturing as a technology with issues like speed and printer costs needing to be improved upon, but its vast potential as a mechanism for companies to solidify their brand image in new and exciting ways shouldn’t be overlooked. Just as the digital wave ushered in a new means for brands to capture the imagination of consumers, 3D printing looks to engage the modern consumer by appealing to their interest in “touch-and-feel” tangible objects that impress by way of creative design.

How would your company use 3D printing technology to help get people talking about your brand? Do you think the technology is a worthwhile marketing investment?
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