How Coke, VW, Nokia and Others Use 3D Printing in Marketing

The technology gives advertising a whole new shape, from gimmicky to useful

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3D printers may have been considered a novelty just two years ago, but the technology has become increasingly prominent not just in manufacturing -- as a way to actually produce physical products -- but also as a neat marketing tool for brands.

Clients are incorporating 3D printing into their branding efforts in various ways, some fun and gimmicky and some quite useful. For example, on one end of the spectrum we recently saw an effort out of Israel for Coca-Cola that used 3D printing in a contest that created consumer mini-me's. On the other end was a Belgian insurance brand that leveraged the technology to solve one of its customers' most annoying problems. For more on these and other interesting efforts check out our below roundup.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola wanted to introduce its new Mini Bottles in Israel and worked with Gefem Tel-Aviv on this fun 3D printing idea. The brand invited consumers to create tiny, digital versions of themselves in a mobile app, which they then had to tend to carefully, Tamagotchi-style. A select few of those caretakers then won a trip to the Coca-Cola factory, where they were invited to turn their mini-mes into the real thing, via 3D printing.

DVV

Belgian Insurance provider DVV and Happiness Brussels showed how useful it could be to its customers -- particularly the forgetful ones. The company introduced a service called "Key Save," rolling out next month, which allows customers to scan their keys and save the data on a secure server. Whenever they lose their keys, they can take their data to a 3D printer and create a new one. It's a boon not just to customers, but to the insurance company as well, since the companies lose money yearly on replacing homeowners' locks.

Before Coca-Cola's mini-me promotion, we saw agency and tech companies experiment with similar efforts, like BlaBlabLab's OOH installation that allowed Madrid tourists to take home a very special souvenir--tiny action figures of themselves. Omote 3D, a 3D printing photo booth in Tokyo, was created out of Japaense agency Party, Rhizomatics and Engine Film.

MUJI and ANA

Tokyo-based Party later applied the idea Muji to Go, a contest for Muji and ANA Airlines. The campaign invited shoppers to get themselves 3D scanned at Muji locations all over the world. The winners were then invited to reunite with themselves, albeit the mini-versions, at a mysterious destination on the other side of the world.

Ebay

Over the years Ebay has evolved from fanboy auction site to a full-blown e-tailer of all kinds of goods--now, including those of the 3D printed sort. The company recently launched an iOS app, eBay Exact, which allows those who don't own 3D printers to buy custom objects from 3D companies like Sculpteo, MakerBot and Hot Pop Factory. The items range from basic- like iPhone cases -- to luxe, like $350 metal rings.

Nokia

Speaking of 3D-printed phone cases, mobile phone manufacturer Nokia has also embraced the technology and in January made available a 3D printing kit so its customers could print out customized covers for the Lumia 820. The kit is part of the Nokia 3D Printing Community Project, what Nokia Community & Developer Marketing Manager John Kneeland described on the Nokia blog as the "spiritual successor to the great granddaddy of customizable phones, the Nokia 5110 and its rainbow collection of removable faceplates."

Barnardos

Who knew 3D printing could be so emotional? U.K. homeless charity organization Barnardos and BBH London used the technology to remind families, during Christmas time, just how lucky they were to have a roof over their heads. The "Home for Xmas" campaign encouraged people to donate to Barnardos. Every day, the organization picked one of the donor's homes and 3D printed a miniature version of it to place inside a highly personalized snow globe.

Volkswagen

Last April, Volkswagen Polo and DDB Copenhagen turned consumers into car designers. "The Polo Principle" campaign invited people to take control, via a website, of the automaker's 3D printer -- the one used to create the original Polo model -- to design their own versions of their car. Forty of the most creative ideas were 3D printed and exhibited in Copenhagen the following May, after which the designers took their creations home. Even better, the big winner was turned into a real-life Polo.