4 Ways Brands Can Prepare for 3D Printing

In Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Featured on App, Technology by Kevin Kelly


3dprinting, http://www.flickr.com/photos/creative_tools/8694848379/sizes/l/in/photostream/, customer experience, 3D printing, customer engagement strategy, technologies, technology


3D printing may radicalize customer experience, customer engagement, and brand loyalty.

My phone case broke last night. The Verizon store is closed and I would have to wait a couple of days until Amazon can ship me a new one. Except, awesome that Nokia just sent me a zip file of a phone case and I just print out the new case from my 3D printer. Or I could just design my own and print it out.

So none of this happened but it looks more and more like this is the future for consumers and brands alike. The big question here is what happens if the consumers are suddenly manufacturers? What does the supply and buy chain look like? Most importantly, is 3D printing a fantastic marketing opportunity or an impending copyright war à la Napster vs. the music industry?

But Napster got it right—take a look at the music industry now and think about where all the CD and record stores went. I think brands need to prepare for 3D printing as companies like Brooklyn's MakerBot seek to bring 3D printers at affordable prices to consumer as quickly as possible. So here are four ways brands should anticipate 3D printing.

1. Don't fight it too much. If you start suing every consumer that prints a product that you think is copyright infringement it's just going to make your brand look bad in the long run. In the short run it may help but preventive approaches may serve your brand better.

2. So, work with consumers by empowering their creativity. Imagine: you test products in households by sending out exclusive designs and have the few lucky printers use social media to turn it into a trend. You could send designs to consumers that allow them to solve some kind of physical game that yields a discount code. Customer experience just got physical, digitally.

3. Start working with 3D designers and forward thinking ad agencies that are already working on these issues. Getting ahead of the curve, in my humble opinion, may prevent the consumers from just outright copying your product. Also, consider setting your product apart from a run-of-the-mill generic 3D design.

4. Use it for good. 3D printing provides an enormous frontier for educational purposes and environmental sustainability by cutting out the middle men and using compostable plastics. These are two great ways for a brand to become a 3D printing leader and get consumers excited about the possibilities.

I think the physical world is about to reclaim the digital one. Or rather, 3D printing might just print the bridge between the two.

[PHOTO: CreativeTools]