Open meets Marketing
3D printers are unleashing the creativity of millions of people around the globe. Driven by an easy access to knowledge and affordable machines, more and more makers are using these advantages to bring their ideas to life and produce individual solutions.
At … and dos Santos we wanted to understand if there is a way to unleash this creativity for marketing. Can this be a possible new resource for product ideas? Or a way to better understand what consumers really need? Is there even a chance to find relevant content for communications here?
We set up a workbench meeting at the betahaus Berlin and together with Thomas Borrmann (Marketing Director CE Germany, Samsung), Gregor Gründgens (Brand Director, Vodafone), Ronen Kadushin (the inventor and thought leader of the Open Design thinking), Harald Melwisch (VP Marketing DACH, Unilever) we discussed principles, opportunities, challenges and risks of connecting or ignoring this movement for marketing.
This is the summary of this meeting.
The Third Industrial Revolution
The maker scene is a new subculture. A subculture
- representing a technologybased extension of the Do-It- Yourself movement,
- offering an opportunity for affordable customized products fulfilling quite “individual” needs,
- creating great content for a society craving for experiences and self-expression as well as
- answering the people’s need for better and fairer products.
Their projects span from the use of electronic innovations, robotics, 3-D printing, metalworking, woodworking, traditional to crafts in general. They create new and unique applications of technologies and drive invention and prototyping. Even though most of the production happens locally the content is shared and (often) developed globally. This interaction and knowledge transfer are mediated through networked technologies and stored into digital archives: Websites and social media tools form a pivotal source for sharing information and ideas.
The makers’ character is somehow linked to the origin of corporate organizations, too. Not so long ago e.g. the Vodafone founders were walking around London testing the mobile signal and figuring out the best solution themselves Gregor Gründgens Brand Director, Vodafone
The Makers’ World
Their world has its own media (e.g. Make:), own venues (physical and virtual like Indiegogo, FAB LAB, TechShop, knowable, etc.) and own brands (like Linux, MakerBot, Arduino). One of the most popular places is the FAB LAB – Fabrication Laboratories. The first FAB LAB was founded in the US back in 2001 and today there are more than 300 worldwide, empowering individuals to create products and smarter devices for themselves. It has become a place which is self-managed by a community of makers and likeminded. They get together, share ideas and skills to realize their projects. Lately we have seen more and more brands starting to build bonds with makers and involve them on their marketing projects. For example Levi’s is working together with people like Alice Saunders (a young designer from Boston creating World War II duffel bags) to drive authenticity for their brand. Or General Electric collaborating quite intensively with the maker platform Quirky to create co-branded, app-enabled gadgets for their “smart home” collection and set up competitions to gain new and stronger ideas for products as important as Jet engine brackets. And even retailers like The Home Depot and Best Buy are trying to benefit from and unlock new revenue streams based on makers’ products.Source: „Which Big Brands Are Courting the Maker Movement, and Why“ ADWEEK, March 17th 2014
The Makers’ Vision
The makers philosophy offers a shift in production, from hierarchal to networked creation using the advantage of the modern, data driven economy. A culture based on an open source philosophy. What drives makers is for example
- the creation of a “global brain” of knowledge and resources – a global university (or multiversity)
- production in the light of exclusivity and independence (not just sustainability)
- re-industrializing cities from the bottom-up
- encouraging participatory activism in our society
Consumers can take an active role in the production process or just benefit from the shared information.
How will corporate change their approach to the fact that users can reproduce their products? Thomas Borrmann Marketing Director CE Germany, Samsung
A new world …
Entering this new world we understand that there are certain principles that need to be kept in mind whenever trying to collaborate with the makers. These are the key ones driving these people and their work, worth to be remembered.
Most of the projects are driven by a zest for breaking the conventions of mass production, finding new, more efficient, more effective or just sustainable ways to produce products and solutions for a modern life-style. A way to make best use of technology in a social way.
Rarely projects happen without a specific cause. They can stretch from heart-warming motives like „saving the bees“ or „producing affordable prothesis and implants for kids“ to supporting people’s daily tasks like „watering your plants“.
And all the interactions happen on eye-level, driven by the tasks “only”.
Everything makers do comes with a certain level of accessibility and openness towards others. This may be other makers or just other citizens.
Do and Share
Whatever you create and produce with them will need to be accessible for others, too. Even though sharing happens under the light of – new – rights management tools like CC (creative commons) or GNU (General Public License).
Creativity in and Creativity out
This can be best described as a way of accessing creativity like new resources for fresh ideas for a project which in return result in a source of creativity for other people’s projects outside of your area of influence, too. Corporate organizations need to ask themselves, what they will be able to give as a “creative” or “supportive” element into such a process, in order to build a genuine relationship with makers.
But it is not just about sharing results. Frequently sharing is a great opportunity to find likeminded people who are willing to support your project, too. Another characteristic and an outcome of this open culture.
So which are the chances for marketing? Can we use it to better harvest the essence of our products and brands? Not just replacing old with new ones, but making them even more powerful? Despite that there is a tendency that some industries might find it easier to collaborate with makers (e. g. technology versus food), aren’t there bigger opportunities for harvesting the brand promise e.g. by asking makers to digitalize the brand essence? Like NIKE has done with the fuel band? And is it about production of physical products only? Or can creativity turn into data, information, content for us, too?
These are some of the areas we detected, where makers could help corporate organizations:
- “What would you make with my product?”
- “Reducing test costs”
- “Accessing a global university”
- “Connecting to the thinker scene”
- “Continuously improving ideas”
- “Defining new usage situations by giving makers the opportunity to do something new with existing products”
- “Staying closer to people’s needs”
- “Staying close to the (r)evolution network”
Brand equity & communication content
“Creating real stories behind products”
The biggest risk we discussed was less connected to the collaboration with makers in first place, but to what happen if we don’t do. We worried most the chance that retail will use the opportunities to resource ideas and creating new products directly, causing a market share loss for brands and corporations.
Risks not collaborating
- “Will retail play a roll?”
- “Could retail take over …”
- “Is retail going to be the biggest threat?”
One of the core challenges we discussed was about how to align the processes on the corporates’ and the makers’ side best. We see a need for setting up ground rules and answer the following questions, before launching a first project.
- “Can, and if yes, how can we secure confidentiality on projects in the light of the sharing & knowledge culture, the networked development and the makers’ vision in general?”
- “How can we secure quality best?”
- “How do we handle makers’ freedom and independency versus the need of R&D always wanting to control the development processes?”
- “How can we eliminate the mistrust on both sides?”
- “Can we capture ideas to be commercialized directly?”
- “How does a new rights management look like?”
- “What can corporate organizations offer makers to collaborate (besides money)?”
- “What would the maker scene want from the industry?”
Corporate sometimes kills innovation. Harald Melwisch VP Marketing DACH , Unilever
Taking the first steps …
Even though there are certain risks and challenges to manage as well as the underlying lack of trust between the corporate and the maker worlds today, we have a desire to connect, explore and experiment in this new world. It feels a bit like the situation in marketing we had ten, fifteen years ago: A certain reluctance towards the digital world, before we made it an integral part of our marketing activities.
There are lots of opportunities to explore in the fields of research, product development and even branding, and we rather worry others being able to use these advantages (like retailers) than the quality and rights risks which may arise from a collaboration.
How do we change CEOs’ point of view on traditional marketing and the fresh approach needed for the makers’ scene? Thomas Borrmann Marketing Director CE Germany, Samsung
Especially the opportunity to digitalize any business and industry is still keeping us busy after the workbench meeting. It’s about new opportunities we might find here, by taking the blueprints of our brands, products and services or just a basic utility, extracting the core benefit from it and turning this into real new benefits for our target groups. For example the core benefit of a hotel is not the building but the offer of a place to sleep. Digitalized and reassembled it can be Airbnb.
It is worth thinking about the consequences even for the food- and hygiene-industries today, even though these might be the late adopters of the 3D technology. The chance to develop and amplify additional benefits and services feels like a great and much more logical consequence and necessity for these businesses (Will we „just“ sell Knorr Fixe or the blueprint for a dinner in the future?).
We briefly talked about first ideas around how a possible start could look like, too. For example we talked about offering makers access to resources (products) and information (like access to knowledge – big data) in return for ideas. And we even imagined the establishment of FAB LABs within corporate organizations (like Vodafone Campus). All great ideas worth to be taken to the next level.
And finally we discussed that it needs a new approach and appreciation on the corporate side. A concept around how to collaborate with makers in order to make best use of their wealth of expertise. Instead of working them into the existing processes we need to find a moderator, who mediates between the two worlds and translates the different needs.The Workbench Meeting Series is an exclusive think tank by … and dos Santos, where today’s creative avant-garde and corporate leaders meet to discuss visions and solutions for a contemporary marketing.