3D Printing Worries for Marketers – How Can You Protect Your Own Intellectual Property?

The premise that all things are conceivably digital content could be a powerful planning and development tool for marketers. If every product is ultimately intellectual property (a secret recipe or unique configuration of rare parts), how do you not just promote but protect it? If the product underlying your brand promise no longer exists in physical space, but literally pops into existence when consumers create it, what are you promising, exactly? As every aspect of the consumer purchase equation changes and/or shifts, doesn’t it affect your definition of what the “brand” is with which they’re engaging? Will 3D printing branding be a part of your brand?

The brands that survive this evolution will both embrace the steps along the way (like homemade packaging), and enable its advancement, perhaps even promoting it as a benefit to consumers. The rationale for considering such activities now is simple: Look what happened to the industries impacted by the last wave of digitization. Nothing is the same, and many categories are still struggling to define not only what their brands stand for, but how they can make money. Wasn’t it a lot more obvious to them that text could be created for free online, or music reduced to sharable binary bits? Even with that explicit warning, lots of brands were slow to respond, if not wholly unable to do so.

The time when your consumers use replicators like those on Star Trek may be in the future but, like most sci-fi, its not really fantasy as much as future fact imagined in the present. You need to come to terms with it.