Last weekend, some 95,000 people attended the three-year old Makers Faire in San Mateo, CA. This week about 1,000 are attending Rapid 2011 in Minneapolis, a show that has been around since the 1990s. Both are about making stuff with additive manufacturing technology.
Attendance has been fairly steady at the Rapid shows, which is for engineers, and explosive in the 3-D printing area for start-up entrepreneurs and hobbyists.
And the powers-that-be in the additive manufacturing industry want to change that.
They have formed an ad hoc group called the Additive Manufacturing Branding Initiative to explore ways to dramatically grow their industry by raising awareness beyond engineers.
The 12 charter members putting up cash to support the effort are 3D Systems, CONCEPT Laser, DSM Somos, EOS, envisonTEC, Evonik Degussa, Materialise, Objet Geometries, Realizer, Stratasys, Voxeljet Technology and Z Corp.
They hired a European branding firm, called true.agency, to make some recommendations, the first of which were presented at a CEO Summit today, which I was invited to attend as an observer.
Not surprisingly, an active discussion broke out, showing widespread disagreement among members of the group about the target audience and the key message.
As I listened, I recalled the major branding effort by the American plastics industry that resulted in the simple message: “Plastic Makes it Possible”. There were a handful of ads showing plastic applications in medicine, food preservation, sports and elsewhere. It was a huge success.
I think the big simple message of additive manufacturing is the ability to very quickly allow creation of custom products. Themes could be “Instant Personal Manufacturing” or “Make It Now”.
The idea, according to one of the participants in today’s meeting, is to reach decision makers in the food chain above working stiffs.
See, they didn’t need an expensive branding consultant after all.