3D Printing: The 3rd Dimension of Mobile Marketing

In the past couple of years, no other technology has raised more expectations about the future and the way that it will affect our lives than 3D-printing technology. Tens of articles and posts are published every day on this subject. Most articles present 3D-printing with much excitement while others go as far as to predict that every household will own a 3D-printer.


[tweetable]Despite the hype, 3D-printing today is far from a household technology[/tweetable], mostly used by non-professionals for fun, entertainment and utility. Yet there is hardly any talk on how 3D printing can pave the way to consume content in a physical, tactile way and therefore become an unprecedented marketing tool.

Tangible marketing

Marketing until today has been predominantly 2D through graphics sound/music and motion/animation. With 3D printing, marketing can become three dimensional and change how brands interact with consumers in so many imaginative ways. [tweetable]With the advent of 3D printing, the marketing message can be felt, held, used; it becomes tangible[/tweetable]. We are no longer constrained to abstract, virtual worlds or bold slogans and tag-lines. When applied to marketing, 3D printing opens up many dimensions of tangible communication and real-life interaction.


From mass-production to mass-customization. Some major brands have already started experimenting by employing 3D printing for communication purposes by uploading products’ 3D files and by allowing customers to alter them and print them. Is this enough? Most likely not. Why not think of something more radical, why not surprise people and introduce a touch of exclusivity?

Ok, picture a hotel by the beach (tempting summer destination) that hired a product/fashion designer to create unique, imaginative 3D-printable flip-flops (something like these maybe?) that could be 3D-printed per room booking based on customer’s colour preference, foot size and carry their name. What a great unique give-away gift that can be not only utilitarian, but also stylish, and collectable . Sounds too far fetched? The technology is already here!

Games & Gamification

[tweetable]3D-printing technology adds a physical and tactile substance to ideas and experiences[/tweetable]. How could this technology be relevant to mobile marketing?

Or how about tying 3D printing to the most popular app category: gaming. As mobile games are intangible, transforming part of them into a physical object can greatly enhance the game experience for players. Picture a gamer who wins an award as then complete a new level and can 3D-print their trophy, medal in plastic or even metal. The gamer’s trophy could adorn a shelf, double a jewellery, or form a smartphone accessory that could make it a huge business in Asia. Or how about 3D printable candy to be to be eaten, shared with friends in Candy Crash, with the associated bragging rights, of course.

The gamification of advertising and 3D-printing would has endless opportunities for online or mobile marketing where the audience would have to play a game in order to access to the 3D files of the trophy or award.


3D-printing machines are in a sense small production factories available inside homes, or even public spaces if they take the form of vending machines, they could be found in any public space. This means that the production and delivery venues can be potentially anywhere target customers live, work, travel and socialize.

For example, the insurance company DVV/Les came up with an interesting application of 3D-printing by offering the Keysave,a service which 3D scans your keys and should you lose them, you download and print the 3D-file of your key. A smart promotional activity, close to the core business of the insurance company that widens its appeal to a wider audience.

Or a more humorous and high-tech idea. Suppose that someone finds themselves in a noisy environment (dogs barking, cars horning, or kids crying), An app like AutoShazam could detect the high noise levels and a suggestion of a 3D-printable set of earplugs on pops-up on the screen of your smartphone, so that you can print them off and take a break (a mobile KitKat moment maybe?). Further ideas could be born by employing technologies such as ibeacon, or sensors.


What’s possible can be far wider than the limits of one’s core businesses. Imagine that you book a flight ticket only to receive a confirmation e-mail or e-ticket. But what if the flight company would allow you to create and then 3D print a custom luggage tag themed after your holiday? Or what if after booking online your hotel room for your much-awaited vacation, to have the ability to instantly 3D-print your QR coded key-card; the very same card that you will be using in few days’ time to enter your room. In both cases, a part of your future experience is already in your hands.

3D Maker Ecosystems

So, who can realize these ideas? The development of three-dimensional products is a whole new world for the digital marketing and advertising agencies. What is needed is 3D maker ecosystems, or 2-sided marketplaces bringing together marketers with 3D makers. Perhaps a cross between Pinshape, a marketplace for selling 3D objects and oDesk, a marketplace where companies hire freelancers to get the job done. Ecosystems connecting marketers with 3D makers would have superior growth economics and the same winner-takes-all effects that we have seen practiced by Android and iOS ecosystems.

Of course, many digital marketing agencies or Brands will opt to make their own 3D printable object libraries working with professional 3D artists or winners of 3D maker competitions. Digital marketing agencies can also partner with banks to make 3D printing available in more places. Just picture this for example. You buy with your credit card a new smartphone. Then your bank, as a nice promotional gift, offers you a series of 3D printable cases you can download and print. But hey, if you do not have a 3D printer, you can go to closest branch where a 3D-printing vending-machine, next to the ATM prints your case.

Putting a brand in your hand

3D-printing technology is a marketing tool for all kinds of brand, be it physical goods, software or services brands. It is a multidimensional tool, simply up to the marketers’ imagination to dream up the right application. Yet, be warned: 3D-printing and real-life tangible objects are two-edged swords. Make a gimmicky object and your brand suddenly looks uninspired and tacky, Come up with something imaginative and relevant to the here and now and you will thrive. That’s what puts your 3D campaign not only in people’s hands but also in their hearts.

About Alexandros Stasinopoulos

Alexandros is a multidisciplinary award-wining Design Manager with experience at the intersections of Design and Innovation Management. Currently, as Creative Director at the international Design & Innovation Consultancy Pilotfish B.V. in Taiwan, he is responsible for transforming visions and strategies to tangible products and services. Prior to this, he designed for Taiwanese companies as well as taught Design at Shih Chien University.
Alexandros holds a BA in Design from AKTO (Greece), a MA in Design from Domus Academy (Italy) and a Msc in Strategic & Product Design from TU Delft (The Netherlands).
For more information you can visit : www.ale.gr

The kingmakers of the Internet of Things

[Communities of developers play a key role in shaping the future of Internet of Things. For the first time we have the data to understand who those IoT developers are, where to find them and how to reach them.]


It’s clear now that developers and makers are the true kingmakers of IoT. In the home, Google’s Nest is opening up its API, Apple has HomeKit and Samsung bought developer-focused startup SmartThings. Every wearable and their auntie has an API, and they are now joined by meta-APIs that aggregate data, spearheaded by Apple HealthKit and Google Fit. Recent new car SDKs include Dash’s Chassis API, Carvoyant’s and Vinli’s. ARM and Intel have both released new developer tools. Relayr got $2.3M in funding to build an Internet of Things app ecosystem, among other things. Popular developer tool Eclipse got in the game with an open IoT stack for Java.

When 17% of respondents in our survey of 10,000 developers said that they are involved in M2M or IoT, we were really excited. Communities of developers play a key role in shaping the future of Internet of Things. For the first time we have the data to understand who those IoT developers are, where to find them and how to reach them.

Let’s look at a few tip on how all those programs can reach out to developers.

How many are they?

First of all, people running IoT developer programs have millions of developers to work with. [tweetable]VisionMobile estimates the number of IoT developers at 3.2 million individuals[/tweetable]. One in eight of those are focused on IoT as their primary target, prioritising it over smartphones, tablets and other screens.

In fact, [tweetable]IoT and M2M attract 36% more developers than Smart TVs, set-top boxes, game consoles and e-readers combined![/tweetable] This is even more impressive when considering that IoT is in the early stages of market development, while game consoles and set-top boxes have dominated the living room for decades.

70% of IoT developers work in small teams, most of them in startups of under 50 people. Small, agile teams dominate the search for the next killer app. That should come as no surprise: it takes a lot of flexibility to venture out in the complete unknown. Indeed, a whopping 14% of IoT developers is unsure of whether they’ll serve enterprises or consumers.

Where are they?

IoT developers are everywhere – from Silicon Valley to Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur, from small towns to mega-cities. There is no single area that dominates IoT innovation in terms of developer population. This is good news for entrepreneurs all over the world. You don’t need to be in the right spot, because there isn’t any.

It is no surprise to see [tweetable]startup clusters in Silicon Valley and New York light up for the Internet of Things[/tweetable]. There are many developers in Europe too (most of them in Western Europe), but they are scattered and seem slow to move from mobile to IoT compared to other regions.

A key cluster can be found in Canada, particularly in Toronto. There seems to be a “Blackberry fallout” – a prime source for highly experienced hardware people. Like in Canada, Finland seems to know a “Nokia fallout” and is positioning itself as an electronics innovation center.

[tweetable]4 out of 10 IoT developers live in Asia[/tweetable] (a significantly bigger proportion than in mobile). The outsourcing and manufacturing center of the world seems to be fertile ground for IoT innovation. The leaders are India and China. In India, Bangalore and Mumbai lead the dance. In China we see clusters around the major coastal centers, but also the inner cities are surprisingly well represented. The outsourcing and manufacturing hubs offer fertile ground for IoT innovation.

How can they be reached?

In the survey we also asked developers where they get their information. When breaking down the data for IoT developers, some surprises emerge. Hackathons, for example, are often one of the first initiatives that a developer program adopts to attract developers. But [tweetable]only one in five developers uses hackathons to get info[/tweetable]; their reach is fairly limited. While publications in the tech media is a good way to get brand awareness, only 1 in 3 developers that have IoT as their primary target will look there for information.

So where do they look? As usual, [tweetable]community support is the most popular source of information (over 50% of developers)[/tweetable]. This said, online forums and tutorials are underdeveloped relative to mobile, as the IoT developer space is still in an early stage.

[tweetable]Committed IoT developers seek information, not discovery.[/tweetable] Workshops are a key outreach channel. In contrast, for those involved in IoT as a side project, conferences and other events are a good way to find out what’s going on. Is this for me?

Just the beginning

This is just the beginning. First, because we’re in the early days of IoT developer platforms. Even as we have millions of developers who are actively experimenting with IoT and at the same time a lot of IoT developer programs popping up, we have yet to see the emergence of a major platform similar to Android and iOS in mobile.

It’s also the beginning for VisionMobile’s research on IoT developers. Our 8th Developer Economics survey (launching next week) will give significant attention to IoT developers. What would you ask to thousands of IoT developers? Find more information here if you want to join the Developer Economics research in this space.