Last week I gave a presentation to 350 people on emerging technology trends. Discussion topics included mobile devices, self-driving cars, the Internet of Things and what arguably could be the most disruptive technology of the 21st century – the 3D digital printer. I must have convinced the audience of this view as well, because most of the questions that I received after the presentation were about these new digital printing techniques.
As it turns out many of the audience members were somewhat familiar with the digital manufacturing technology already. This is not surprising given the recent hype around these printers. But where the audience learned about the technology was fascinating to me.
Not one of the people I spoke to had read Chris Anderson’s fabulous book on the topic (Makers). Not one of the people I spoke to had seen the full-page advertisements that are being run in the Wall Street Journal. And only a handful had seen the segments on CNN about how digital printers could be used to manufacture plastic guns. But nearly everyone I spoke to had seen the recent Big Bang Theory episode with the 3D printer.
The use of product placement in popular television shows and movies is certainly nothing new. But in the Big Bang Theory episode there is no was no particular brand name of product promoted. It was simply the concept of 3D printing that was introduced to the audience.
This begs an interesting question about how to spread ideas. Historically, if you wanted to build awareness for an idea the best approach was to publish a book, run advertisements or pitch the media. But perhaps a better alternative for building grass roots momentum for an idea is to feature the concept in the plot of a popular sitcom. Let’s hope this is not the case…