Sometimes bad weather and cancelled travel plans work to your advantage.
I could not make my way to Las Vegas for last week’s Consumer Electronic Show because of the debilitating cold throughout most of the country. Well, debilitating for the airlines anyway.
The change gave me three days without planned meetings – and the time to watch news conferences and presentations, as well as to read press releases, news stories and blogs – about what was happening with 3D printing at CES.
With that came clarity: Consumer 3D printing has moved beyond needing technology evangelists to market itself.
Technology evangelism was necessary in the beginning, absolutely. And there is nothing wrong with the unbridled enthusiasm that evangelists brought and continue to bring to the market. As Bre Pettis said in a Headline News interview, “It’s actually really helpful to think about the wild ideas, because from that, interesting things can arise.”
Yet in the five years since MakerBot was the first and only 3D printer manufacturer to participate, the number of 3D print exhibiters grew to roughly 30. Even 2013 Gartner Cool Vendor Regenovo, the Chinese manufacturer that sells a bioprinter (hardly a consumer item), was at CES.
At some point, technology evangelism loses its effectiveness as the primary tool for driving consumer awareness, curiosity and sales. The 3D printing market has reached that point.
Consumer 3D printer manufacturers, as well as the related software providers and online file repositories, must accelerate this transition. They must shift from messaging that says “This does cool stuff, you’ve just got to buy one” to coupling the “Wow!” factor still present in 3D printing with consumer evangelists who will advocate for them.
Retailers, too, play an important role in this transition. Selfridges is a great example – not only does it have a department in its store selling MakieLab’s wonderful 3D printed dolls but they also demonstrate how the printers work to the Dads and Moms who brought their children to the store – and is useful at home. The result is two generations of consumer evangelists.