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April 2013

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3D Promotionals - The Birth of a New Advertising Channel

by Glen Emerson Morris
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It's not often that an entirely new advertising channel evolves, but that's exactly what the combination of 3D printing services and online open source communities has provided the advertising industry with. For want of something better, call it “3D promotional giveaways.” The core selling point for this new advertising channel is very simple and it should appeal to every advertiser; someone else pays for it.

Simply put, a 3D promotional giveaways campaign consists of coming up with a file of some kind of promotional object - a keychain, can opener, etc. - that includes the advertiser's logo, and making that 3D file available online to lots of people. The premise is that the customer will print the object at their expense, and then use the item in public, providing free advertising and raising the visibility of the advertiser with the public.

While 3D promotional giveaways have been possible for years, in practice most consumers either didn't have a 3D printer, or couldn't afford the services of a business that did. That's changed completely. High resolution 3D printers are selling for under $3,000 now, and affordable 3D printing services are springing up online and in most major markets. Gartner is predicting that enterprise class printers will be priced under $2,000 by 2016. The 3D printing revolution isn't just beginning anymore. It's fully underway. It's time to start planning on how to integrate 3D printing into your advertising campaigns now.

For that matter, it's not too early to start actually doing 3D promotional giveaways now. We decided to do one as a proof of concept, and it worked. Our test project had the goal of creating a promotion for the Colorado Business Marketing Association. The plan was to create a small inexpensive promotional item, in this case a keychain with the letters Colorado BMA, and to make it available to members of the CBMA. To make a point, we set the budget at zero.

I went to the Website and found a free keychain file that allowed customization of several parameters, including the initials that were to appear on it. I explain the process in detail later in another article, but there's not much to it. I had a CBMA keychain posted for free downloading and printing on two sites in less than half an hour, and most of that time was waiting for the file to be posted and the high res graphic image created. The entire customization process took less than five minutes, counting registering. Now anyone interested can print the keychain on demand in a variety of material from plastic to silver from two online 3D printing services, or download the file and print it out on their home 3D printer.

There are probably a number of advertisers who would find an immediate demand for 3D objects carrying their logo, especially in the beer, sports and car industries, if they were to make people aware of them. In the future, advertisers may spend fortunes on designing super appealing 3D promotional items for their customers. The design budget can be high since manufacturing and distribution costs will be paid by someone else.

Given the current cost of 3D printing, some businesses may even find it economical to replace their online promotional store with a 3D marketplace. Instead of having to stock inventory, process orders and shipped promotional the order is sent to an online 3D printing service that handles the creation and shipping of the promotional item.

3D promotional objects could also be used as part of an incentive plan. With a little imagination, and integration with the company's databases, a rewards system could be created that allowed customers to print certain objects if they met certain requirements. Consider a keychain for BMW cars based on the number of consecutive times the customer had owned a BMW. As a prestige issue, flashing a BMW keychain in public is a good way to show you own a BMW when you don't happen to be near it, but having a solid silver keychain clearly indicating it's your fifth consecutive BMW would take coolness to a whole new level.

One of the marketing tactics of the online 3D printing services has been to provide a place for people to post files of 3D objects they have created. Many people post the files as open source. People only pay the actual printing costs, which is how the 3D printing services earns their money. The services might make even more money if they play their cards right.

So far 3D marketplaces have been focused on encouraging development items that were either some kind of art or some kind of utility, like an iPhone case. These were seen as the items most likely to get people to pay the marketplace to print and ship the object to them. However, if the online printing services with marketplaces were to try to develop the 3D promotional aspect, they might find major payoffs, especially once advertisers start mentioning 3D promotional items and where to get them printed in their advertising. The free publicity could be worth millions, and it wouldn't take much work to make it happen.

Currently none of the major 3D marketplaces online has a category named “Logo,” or “Promotional.” If they were to add these categories of objects to their catalogs they would go a long way to launching 3D promotional items as a valid advertising channel.

Within a year or two it will be common for advertising agencies to have a department or team responsible for developing 3D promotional giveaway campaigns. It will be their task to determine an effective 3D object to be given away, to create the CAD file of that object, and to make the file available to customers. In the beginning the promotional objects developed would be the usual items, keychains, coffee mugs, and similar items with both company logo and the customers name. Later, the object could be more complicated. We have a learning curve ahead of this.

A whole new dimension is about to open to advertising. Call it “advertising in the third dimension,” at least that's what my new monthly column will call it. We're facing changes as radical as the Internet, but also changes likely to happen in far less time. 3D printing is about to change everything. Stay tuned. Things are really going to get interesting.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law.
He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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