Autodesk has been a leader in design and engineering software for decades, so they’ve been closely watching the evolution of 3D printing technology – and with good reason. Today’s 3D printers are a means to design and prototype a wide range of objects and potential products. But tomorrow’s 3D printers? This is where things get really exciting – the 3D printers of tomorrow just might “print” entire buildings, or life-saving medications sent from the lab to the location of an outbreak.
MakerBot Industries is another dynamic organization that has played a huge role in the emerging and evolving 3D printing industry. Their MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer offers unparalleled print quality at its price point, allowing small businesses and hobbyists a means by which to get set up with 3D printing.
A partnership between Autodesk and MakerBot is a natural match. By pairing a MakerBot with Autodesk’s 123D line of software, 3D printing has become accessible to a vast market of potential users. And this is a good thing – as more and more people join the 3D printing revolution prices will fall, encouraging even greater use. As the market grows, we’ll begin to get a better idea of just how much 3D printing may affect our lives in the future.
In order to promote their 123D software and the MakerBot Replicator 2 hardware, Autodesk and MakerBot began offering promotional discounts when a customer combined their purchase of a MakerBot unit with premium 123D membership.
Autodesk approached CommonGround Creative, asking us to conceive, design and develop an advertising campaign that would increase awareness and generate interest in this offer. They knew that they wanted to post rich media ads on various partner websites, and they also wanted a responsive email to send to potential clients. All of these would take users to a landing page for the promotional offer.
In working with Autodesk, we determined that the ads would be aimed at two general types of potential customers. The first group would be those already familiar with Autodesk’s products and 3D printing. This group included existing Autodesk customers and users who might already utilize the 123D software in designing 3D objects but didn’t own a 3D printer themselves. The second group was defined as potential customers who might be vaguely familiar with 3D printing, but wouldn’t necessarily know all of the features and benefits of a MakerBot or the 123D software.
Having identified these two groups, Autodesk asked CommonGround to design and develop assets that would inform, excite and engage the target audience.
From project launch our design and development team recognized the primary challenges to creating a successful campaign.
First, the offer was moderately complex. When signing up for 123D Premium, customers could choose one of six possible discounts on MakerBot hardware depending on initial investment and commitment period. Some of these options resulted in a MakerBot unit shipping immediately to the customer, where others provided a voucher for later purchase. Autodesk had very specific requirements on how an ad could speak about these options. So our first challenge would be finding the right message.
The second major challenge was one of size. We knew that a successful ad would need to inform and engage, but it would need to do so in a very small digital space using final assets that were relatively tiny files.
Having identified these challenges, we sent the project to our brand management desk to work on the message and campaign theme.
Finding the right message for this campaign was essential, and our initial brainstorming sessions centered on exploring how we could evoke enough of an emotional response to encourage clicking on the ad.
In order to accomplish this, we knew that we needed to utilize the ad in order to being establishing a sense of potential ownership for the viewer. In other words, we wanted them to begin imagining owning a MakerBot and considering how that would make them feel.
If you’ve ever spoken to anyone who 3D prints for work or fun, you probably have a sense that people really, really love this technology. There’s just something about it – creating something on a virtual page and then sending it to this amazing little machine to watch it slowly come into being. People who 3D print love showing off their work and they love coming up with new designs.
This gave us our first message – that combining the power of 123D software with a MakerBot doesn’t just give you another tech tool, but rather something that you can truly enjoy, something that will really enrich your life. In advertising terms, this was conveyed through the simple message of Autodesk 123D + MakerBot = Love.
For our second group, we wanted to convey the same general idea, that of a life-enriching avocation, but we wanted to be a little more specific. These potential customers were familiar with 3D printing and MakerBot, and probably knew a bit about the 123D software. They already knew how cool it would be to own a MakerBot, so we wanted to go a step further and get them thinking about how they’d use their own 3D printer.
Building on the emotional content of our first message, we developed “what will you make?” as the message for the secondary ads, challenging the viewer to begin employing their own creativity and envisioning owning their own MakerBot. In order to get them started, the ad would showcase some of the featured creations of other 123D Premium users.
As previously mentioned, these ads presented some significant design challenges. We wanted to show off the MakerBot and some 3D printed objects, for which we hoped to use high-quality photography. But we also recognized that the final deliverables needed to adhere to a very small file size.
For the “love” concept, our creative director hit upon an inspired idea that was both informative and attention grabbing. The ad begins with Autodesk 123D + MakerBot, an equal sign fading in below. This equal sign then pushes the logos up and off screen, growing to become a stylized MakerBot printing plate. A MakerBot print head comes in from the left, rapidly creating a 3D heart. We then transition to our message: Save big and get a MakerBot with 123D Premium. The 3D printed heart slides in front of a pulsing MaketBot unit.
For the “what will you make?” concept, our design team started with a high-quality photo of the MakerBot, knowing that the target audience for this ad would know what they were looking at. In order to be a little more attention-getting, our lead designer added a purple pulsing glow behind the unit. The ad asks what the viewer would make with their own unit, and then rotates through three actual 3D printed creations that were provided to us by actual 123D Premium users. We land on a similar closing screen with our final message: 123D Premium. Your MakerBot. Your Creations. Big Savings. High quality imagery of a MakerBot and 123D creature accompany the closing message.
Our designers also created a takeover design that would accompany the ad on some sites. The design for this element of the campaign incorporated 123D designed and MakerBot printed creatures climbing up the browser sidebar along with additional photography of the MakerBot unit itself.
In their final drafts, the designs for the campaign materials looked great, played off existing Autodesk and MakerBot branding and incorporated several elements that would help increase that all-important click-through rate. We moved the campaign to our development team, where some of the truly daunting challenges lay.
Size was the primary challenge on this project from the outset. The client had agreements with several partner sites where the ads would be featured, and the established specs required very small file sizes on the final deliverables. Given this, the simplest solution would have been to create a static ad without motion, but our development team felt that they’d be able to work around the file size limitations.
Another challenge faced by our development team was that the client had been shown several rough comps created in HTML5, and they really liked the fluidity, capabilities and features of this option over Flash. Unfortunately, they already had agreements in place on specific sites that limited us to Flash.
Xander headed the development on this campaign, working through several drafts in order to get the file sizes as small as possible while retaining the high-quality, visually stunning look we were going for. He also worked with the client in determining what it was that they liked best about the HTML5 comps, and then created several work-arounds in Flash that gave the ads these same features, specifically the purple pulsing glow behind the MakerBots, something that the client really loved.
It was a lot of work, but in the end the development team worked up deliverables that stayed 100% within the vision of the design team while meeting the moderately severe size limitations dictated by the project.
MakerBot and Autodesk 123D are great products that will continue to grow and flourish as 3D printing becomes cheaper and more advanced. This campaign was a great way to introduce a wide variety of potential customers to both MakerBot and 123D, as well as the partnership between the two companies.
At CommonGround, we were thrilled to offer our branding, design and development services in creating a marketing campaign that was innovative, effective and fun. We look forward to seeing where Autodesk and MakerBot take these exciting products next.