Mashable recently shared a two-minute video on all things you need to know about 3-D printing. It got us thinking: What is this emerging technology really all about, and what are brands doing with it (if anything)?
Well, first and foremost (we'll keep this short), it's part of a process called additive manufacturing, where an object is created, adding material layer by layer. This form of manufacturing lets you create complex parts for only a fraction of the cost and time. You essentially use software to create a blueprint of what you want to print, and send it over to the printer. The printer uses some fancy heating and cooling technology to make your design come to life through layering — going one at a time until your design is complete.
Now 3-D printers are bringing additive manufacturing to homes and businesses. Their applications are crossing industries — from health care, to high-end fashion, to shoes, to construction, to tattoos, to offices and, yes, even to outer space.
But did you know that while the most common material is plastic, 3-D printing food is becoming increasingly popular? Three popular food companies have begun adopting this technology.
At this year's SXSW, Oreo made a big impression by taking real-time marketing to the next level. The company connected Twitter trends with its delicious cookies, and it used vending machines to create 3-D-printed Oreos (that were edible) in a matter of two minutes. It let snackers choose from a dozen varieties, where the flavors offered were dependent on which were trending on Twitter. Oreo promoted its efforts with a witty hashtag: #EatTheTweet.
Hershey's, a brand close to home, teamed up with 3D Systems to develop a 3-D printer that produced chocolate. The chocolate company believes it could be an industry game changer, acting as a new delivery system for its products.
"Whether it's creating a whole new form of candy or developing a new way to produce it, we embrace new technologies, such as 3-D printing, as a way to keep moving our timeless confectionery treats into the future." –William Papa, chief R&D officer at Hershey's
Another Mondelez International brand, belVita Breakfast Biscuits, used this tech at the center of a recent campaign. The brand used integrated tactics to celebrate small "morning wins" by creating personalized virtual and real trophies.
At the beginning of the campaign, consumers who shared their morning win (like avoiding morning traffic) on Twitter with the hashtag #MorningWin were selected to receive a personalized certificate, a virtual 3-D trophy and/or a real trophy, and a video of the trophy being created.
So, what would this tech mean for a brand like M&M's? It would mean taking the next logical step from personalized M&M's — developing truly personalized and on-demand flavors, shapes and creations.
There may be some initial reluctance by consumers, as they're not 100 percent comfortable with technology creating their food or other materials. But, for those consumers who enjoy adventures, it's exciting and new. Plus, if you can grab their attention and break through the clutter in an innovative manner, who's to say they won't try out your printed creation?
Clearly, this is emerging modern media technology that allows for incredible opportunities for your brand to engage with and surprise/delight your customers in an inventive fashion. The future for brands and consumers is limitless. Think: Easy Bake for this decade.
If you're a brand, are you swayed to include this technology in your manufacturing process? If you're a consumer, are you willing to give this technology a try, or will you need to see more trusted applications from others?
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