In the minds of top 3M Co. executives, not enough people know that the company makes liquid coolants in which sensitive computer servers are immersed.
Fewer still associate 3M with the glass and ceramic bubbles used in cars and paints or its Bluetooth-enabled stethoscopes, reflective road signs or the brightening films used in TVs, cellphones and laptops.
To the man on the street, 3M is synonymous with Scotch tape and Post-it notes.
The 3M executives hope that’s about to change.
The Maplewood-based conglomerate has hired creative firm BBDO in New York to launch a new ad campaign that emphasizes its smartphone, passport, library and filtration technologies, among other products that are seen every day but not readily identified with the $32 billion manufacturer.
The campaign — which features the new 3M tagline “3M Science. Applied to Life” — launches online Friday. It also will be featured prominently at South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film and interactive-technology festivals, which begin this weekend in Austin, Texas.
3M officials declined to disclose the campaign’s cost but said the new branding and tagline will emphasize how 3M’s science “impacts the world around us.” The campaign is designed to educate existing and future customers about the breadth of 3M’s scientific offerings and research, officials said.
If successful, the new ad campaign will help consumers and corporations think differently about 3M and “generate a new conversation that challenges traditional perceptions of the 3M brand,” said Jesse Singh, 3M senior vice president of sales and marketing.
He added that the new “3M Science” branding will be used by all five of 3M’s major businesses — industrial, health care, safety/graphics, consumer and electronics/energy. The online ads will target select customer groups on websites and search engines they frequently use. The ads also will be used on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, Singh said, adding that “this platform is the next step to advance 3M’s business strategy.”
The rollout has been in the planning stages for months.
3M CEO Inge Thulin told analysts during a presentation last week that 3M’s science-based formulas and products are “what 3M is all about. We’re about technologies. We’re about innovation. And we are helping out customers in their technology conversions. We are a science-based, project-based company and we know how to drive out cost.”
As more corporations learn of 3M’s broad reach, Thulin expects sales to grow 3 to 6 percent this year. 3M is also beefing up its research and development spending from 5.6 percent of sales to 6 percent, or $1.9 billion, by 2017. That should deepen 3M’s bench of new products and technology offerings.
“We are investing in the right opportunities,” Thulin said. “Research and development is the heartbeat of 3M, so it’s important for us to continue to invest in innovation and in business transformation.”
At SXSW, 3M is partnering with MTV and has hired the DJ Tokimonsta to perform. She will incorporate her music with live sound samples of her heartbeat, which will be captured with 3M’s Littmann electronic stethoscope.
3M is building a “LifeLab” tent for the festival that was designed by New York-based Softlab. The 3M LifeLab, open Friday through Sunday, will feature a 3M photo booth, seamstresses and 3M scientists that will perform demonstrations, workshops and hands-on experiments.
To help festival goers “see” its reflective brightening films, 3M is going to apply the technology in low tech ways. It has hired two seamstresses to stitch the shiny material into designs that will be attached to attendees’ clothing, wallets or purses.
3M will have a“Dazzle Photo booth” in which festival goers can take pictures. Visually creative backgrounds will projected into the backgrounds using 3M’s advanced optical films.
It’s the kind of unexpected reach that 3M officials are celebrating.
Thulin, who became CEO 3 years ago, told analysts that it’s important “to clarify the purpose of 3M and what we do and what we have done over 100 years in terms of advancing, enhancing and improving [what] we do through technologies, product and innovation.”