Can 3D printing transform the digital marketing landscape?

A “second industrial revolution”?

In an article in the New Scientist, Hod Lipson wrote that the rise of 3D printing meant we were “smack bang in the middle of a second industrial revolution” and this technology “is about to transform every single aspect of our lives.”

Imagine a future where surgeons can custom design prosthetic limbs or you could print out a new laptop, roll it up and stick it in your bag. Where designers can imagine and then create planes, buildings, cars or even the perfect pair of shoes, at the touch of a button. The developments in 3D printing technology mean even the most outlandish science fiction fantasies could soon become an everyday reality.

How will additive manufacturing impact brands?

3D printing, or additive manufacturing as it is also known, has been around since the 1980s. Today, the excitement in the digital marketing arena lies in imagining the impact this technology could have on brands in the future.

The worldwide delivery company UPS recently confirmed it is to offer customers the chance to use a 3D printer on site in their stores, making the service more accessible and affordable to start-ups and curious consumers. Clothing brands such as Nike and Levis already offer the choice of design options to personalise trainers and jeans, so 3D printing takes it to the next level in terms of speed and accessibility. As an example, Nokia recently published the 3D designs for its Lumia 820 model so that owners of these phones can create their own cases and then use a 3D printer to create them. Brands and consumers can increase their interaction and spark smart new ideas into being more quickly.

So, what should a digital marketer consider when thinking about how to harness the potential of 3D printing as part of their marketing strategy?

1. Customisation and engagement
The potential of 3D printing means every single object can be unique in a way that traditionally manufactured products cannot. This allows consumers to customize and personalize their ideas, and a good digital marketing strategy should showcase the benefits of this option to potential customers.

2. Cost and speed
While one of the challenges for companies and innovators is developing the effectiveness of 3D printing in order to mass market consumer products, in the future the technology could see a much faster lead time between designers’ ideas becoming reality and becoming available for sale. This will cut out the months of development time and reduce costs, meaning brands can more effectively integrate online with offline marketing and bridge the gap with consumers in order to communicate on a more personal and immediate level.

3. Direct Mail
Forget free pens or shampoo samples, imagine if you could send a direct mail piece produced with 3D printing, which would give your customers the opportunity to see before what they could potentially design before they bought it? It could revolutionise and revitalise direct mail as we know it.

This is just the beginning of the 3D printing revolution and the playing field is wide open to discover how brands, technology and creativity can join together. Are you ready?