3M’s Discovering Transformations Media Day

3M shared industry insights and product demonstrations at their Minneapolis-area campus.

“If you ask ‘why?’ five times, you’ll start to get some really compelling answers,” said Kirsi Dahl, 3M Commercial Solutions Division marketing communications manager. 3M’s Discovering Transformations Media Day, hosted at 3M’s headquarters outside St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2, revisited this philosophy during panel discussions, campus tours (including a photo op outside of 3M’s newly wrapped 220 building), and hands-on product demonstrations. Why do customers prefer sustainable options over traditional media? Why are people turning to YouTube to learn new skills, like vehicle wrapping? Why are so many PSPs now offering one-off, customized prints? Why might shops be hesitant to embrace digital technology and automation?

3M asked their graphics customers these questions and more, compiling a list of “megatrends” in the industry: 

  • Customer experience. According to Peter Elliott, global lead, Connect, 3M Commercial Solutions Division, 85 to 90 percent of businesses say customer experience is a major driver, but consumers report only 10 percent actually succeed in providing a great customer experience.
  • Sustainability. Gen Z, the oldest of whom are now entering the workforce, is keenly focused on the impact of brands, both corporately and environmentally, Elliott added.
  • Safety/security. With the unprecedented rise in mass shootings in the US, buildings ranging from schools and banks to small businesses and offices are turning to graphics providers for window films designed to deter entry. Additionally, reflective films are becoming more popular as a safety mechanism for applications such as airport carts and patrol cars.
  • The fourth industrial revolution. The printing industry is becoming more focused on connectivity: the internet of things, digital technology, and enhanced productivity. As of now, “there’s very little digital technology being used in our industry. We’re behind compared to others in the B2C space,” said Elliott.

Big Picture asked a panel consisting of 3M Commercial Solutions Division specialists Tammi Johnson, business development manager; Mike Sherman, global application engineering manager; and Aaron Mills, digital marketing manager, about other trends in the wide-format realm specifically. Their answers? 

  • “Refresh and reuse.” Brands used to want signage to last as long possible, but now there’s a shift to updating graphics more often so brands stay relevant and continue evolving.
  • Accepting alternatives. Customers are more accepting of nontraditional alternatives that offer cost savings, like “wood” printed tiles instead of actual wooden flooring.
  • “Hyper-matte.” Graphics with an extra-matte finish are in demand due to benefits like fingerprint and scuff resistance.
  • Uniqueness. Customization is in. Why buy that print from Target that everyone has in their living room when you could get a personalized wall mural?
  • Education. PSPs’ small business clients often need help from their print provider when it comes to branding know-how; don’t be afraid to be that source of knowledge. And shops new to the market can benefit from turning to industry-recognized installer programs and workshops instead of relying solely on YouTube tutorials. To many manufacturers’ chagrin, “Everybody is using YouTube,” said Sherman, which isn’t necessarily bad – unless the videos demonstrate incorrect methods. It’s always a good idea to supplement “DIY” education with industry-led programs, workshops, and webinars.

For live updates from industry conferences and shows around the world, follow Editor-in-Chief Adrienne Palmer and Big Picture magazine on Twitter.


(All photos courtesy of 3M)

Companies mentioned within this article