Create something personal and unique for your next corporate event, family reunion, or trade show with 3D print promotional products. The union of 3D printing and promotional products has always seems obvious to us, but the promotional product industry hasn’t seemed to take notice. We look at what this industry is lacking in terms of a full skill set that is holding it back.
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3D Print Promotional Products Inspiration
We’re going to talk about a blast from our past today, 3D print promotional products. The 3D print part isn’t the blast from the past, the promotional products is. We’ve been married and we’ve been working in the industry and doing things, but we started working together on promotional products as one of the first things we ever worked on together. We actually invested, we filed patents for and designed a product that we didn’t even really understand what the promotional products industry really was before we did this, I think. But thank God we fell into it because it saved the business. It saved our business.
We were going around the dot com boom that was going around in late 90s, and invented a stylus pen for handheld computers. All of a sudden, we fell in and met a rep who introduced us to the promotional products industry. We started printing tens of thousands of pens and logos for all sorts of drug companies. Among many other things.
FedEx Ground, at the time, had a form of a personal digital assistant that they were capturing electronic signatures on. They were buying our pens in bulk with the little dog printed on it. He was cute, really cute. It actually started, and this goes to how long ago it was, when they started calling, inquiring with us about buying the pens, it was still RPS. Roadway Package System. Then they got bought out. In the middle of the deal, they got bought out. Fortunately, the program continued so they kept buying pens from us.
Anyway, it wasn’t really about the pen. We wanted to create a company and be the designers as well as the client. We built a whole company around it. It was part of our earliest experience in business, in general. The promotional products industry is so interesting. There’s so many layers of reps and people who need to make income on it, who need to add value to it. There’s really a great place for adding value at the end of process of things that is happening right now.
Somebody might print on it, engrave in it and do it. They do it right there in dozens, 20, 25 pieces, something like that. Depending on the lot sizes of whatever it is. Minimum quantities are getting relatively low in that kind of promotional products. Things you might have for a very small trade show. Hundred pieces or less. You might buy them for your club.
Because of the way printing costs are coming down and the way you can engrave and do all those things with smaller machines and other things, the cost have come way down and the minimum orders have come way down on those things. But, completely personalized products, completely custom built to order, hasn’t really happened in that industry, but it should.
This was one of the, early on, as we really became aware of and starting to build our skills in desktop 3D printing, we realized the promotional products industry has to be aware of this. It’s such a ripe opportunity to use this technology because they’re all about creating things that are unique and personalized. Usually, it’s personalized for an entire company, about them.
If you walk into any trade show, every trade show booth is giving away some tchotchke, one thing or another. We talked about that with Jessica Larimore on Rock Your 3D Print Trade Show Booth in a past episode last month. It’s such an important thing to personalize and leave that brand memory. That’s the whole thing. People are coming to these trade shows and they’re seeing hundreds if not thousands of companies over the time of the trade show. How are you going to stand out in their memory? Having something unique for them to take away is a very good way to do it. That’s really what the whole promotional products industry is about.
In additional to 3D printing giveaways, there’s the whole idea of employee gifts. There’s a premium level of promotional products as well. Like what you get with your 20th anniversary with the company if that even happens anymore, I’m sure it is with some companies. Maybe it’s one year, two years, five years. Meaning, people don’t stay with companies that long. It’s a lot more transient nowadays. There’s still those companies that are based on that.
I think the real thing is that, 3D print promotional products are a missed opportunity right now. Promotional product companies are not taking advantage of this yet. I think it’s because of the structure of that industry. I think part of the problem is that the industry is structured around, when you’re the local promotional products company, the local shop, you have maybe one or two things that you do really well. Maybe you engrave or you silk screen print or you pad print, like we used to do. You have a couple of machines and that’s what you do and you specialized in that.
You’re never the maker of the product itself. You’re just sourcing that out of a big general catalog and buying small lot runs of it because some guy is running it at the big thing. We know that because we sold our patent off to the company who made the big hundred, thousand, million piece runs. Promotional products is the best thing that happened to our business. We went from selling individual onesie twosie pens to people on the internet to selling 5,000, 10,000. Eventually we did sell 250,000 pens in a single order. That was our biggest order. There are companies that do these all day long that sell millions of pens in an order for different applications. It gets very big.
The whole name of the game is, how can you offer value as the promotional products reseller in the US? You’re not manufacturing product. How do you offer value, provide something unique that people aren’t going to get elsewhere or not easily get elsewhere. 3D printing presents a tremendous opportunity for 3D print promotional products.
I think it’s a skill set miss because none of those companies have design skills. They don’t really have designers. They maybe have somebody who can place a logo, change a couple of colors out, has some limited understanding of graphic application. I think it’s much more graphic design than industrial design, for sure. There’s no product design happening. The companies that are providing the product design don’t want to do 3D printing because they’re doing it in the millions of units already. They’ve got high capacity, high volume. It’s just not a priority for them to be doing that.
The market itself isn’t structured to take advantage of 3D printing. I think this is a great industry to disrupt with 3D print promotional products. I think someone could really swoop in and do something disruptive there and create, whether it’s mini kiosks or other ways for this to happen throughout that promotional products market. Ad specialty is another term that’s used very commonly.
There’s an organization called ASI, the Ad Specialty Institute. There are companies that are members of that organization. They’re called ASI Companies. They actually all have access to the same products to sell out of the catalog. They each offer the local value added customizations. They have the regions. That’s one way it’s done.
I could see it being ideal for a company like Voodoo Manufacturing, who we know is a 3D print service bureau in FFF technology, to keep all those printers running all the time. To be actually either getting involved in the promotional products industry themselves or just being outsourced for some big promotional products distributors to make 3D print promotional products or to put together a catalog of items.
I think this is a really big missed opportunity in the market place. I think 3D print promotional products are something that I just wanted to raise attention to and say, “Hey, this is a really cool idea.” It could bring a lot of relevance to your local shop if you’re a local shop owner. It could bring a lot more relevance back if you’re a mom and pop trophy shop or a sports memorabilia or whatever it might be.
I would say even if you’re a student or you’re an educator and you have your high school you teach in and you’re doing 3D printed projects, you could easily create a project combining with creating 3D print promotional products to support the sports teams or to support some other club or something, to raise money. There’s always fundraising going on at these things.
There’s a way to create different kind of products instead of the same old bake sale to try to make some money. If you’ve got access to some 3D printers and some students are interested people that want to explore that, it’d be a great project. You could do mini 3D print promotional products just for your local school.
If anybody out there uses 3D printing to fundraise, we want to know about it. Please send us a message at 3DStartPoint.com via email or send us a message on social media @3DStartPoint. So want to hear about those ideas. We’ll be happy to feature you, your charity or your school on the show if you share your story with us. That’d be fantastic. Get you some pre-exposure.
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