What if roads could talk to buses? Can buildings be made with tape? Or what if homes helped around the house? It's these types of questions that 3M hopes will help spark curiosity, drive problem solving and ignite wonder in consumers.
"Wonder," the name and thematic crux of 3M's latest brand campaign, aims to broaden how people think of the manufacturing company that's typically associated with office supplies like Post-it Notes and Scotch Brand tapes. While 3M produces these products, along with household items like Command strips and dish sponges, consumer products make up just 15% of the company's business. The majority of 3M's work is science-based and subtly woven into consumers' daily lives.
In fact, Americans are typically never more than 10 feet away from a 3M product, according to the Minnesota-based company's Chief Marketing Officer Paul Acito.
"Most people don't realize the extent to which 3M appears in their day-to-day life. 3M science is all around us," Acito told Marketing Dive. "On your way to work today, you very likely used or saw a number of things 3M has touched. If you drove a car, if you used a mobile phone, if you saw a road sign or pavement marking or license plate — we were there."
Breaking down 'Wonder'
On May 3, the company debuted four brightly colored digital videos created with agency space150 to illustrate how science and 3M products impact people's lives in unseen or unexpected ways. Each video proposes thought-provoking questions — Can darkness reveal the light? What if ambition had no limit? — to demonstrate how being actively curious can lead to discovery and innovation.
"Discovery, curiosity and culture are very much part of our DNA," Acito said. "There's a palpable level of energy around science at the company in both our employees and our customers."
The shared connection between 3M employees and customers around interest in science was the inspiration behind "Wonder," which will be featured in pre-roll video spots, audio promotions on podcasts and paid social media advertisements.
"We are a company full of curious, passionate problem-solvers that are committed to using our science and that sense of discovery to improve lives," Acito said. "We're using that inspiration to create a shared connection with our audience, who we know are curious people who seek out discovery."
In an effort to position the company as a problem-solving hub for science and technology, "Wonder" targets lifelong learners and natural information-seekers: doctors, nurses, aerospace engineers, safety directors and discovery-driven innovators.
"They're change agents. They're the ones with the ideas," Acito said.
A big misunderstanding
Several years ago, the 3M team hunkered down to study the company's target audience and understand what exactly "makes them tick." Key takeaways related to science and its impact on the world, according to Acito. That led the company to survey more than 14,000 people across the globe in both developed and emerging countries. The survey, released in March as 3M's "State of Science Index," explored how the world views science and innovation — and identified some data points that appear to contradict one another.
"More than 87% of people are fascinated by science... Yet, nearly 40% said life wouldn't be very different if science didn't exist."
Chief marketing officer, 3M
"More than 87% of people are fascinated by science, and 92% want their kids to know more about the topic. Yet, nearly 40% said life wouldn't be very different if science didn't exist," Acito said.
Clearly, there was some sort of cognitive dissonance among consumers and their ideas about science.
For many, the subject of science is simply inaccessible, as more than one-third of survey respondents said it intimidates them, and 36% said "only geniuses" can have a career in the space. The campaign, according Acito, aims to make science — and 3M — more approachable and human.
These insights drove the campaign's creative elements and guided the company's selection of wonder as the campaign handle, which Acito said captures precisely what 3M's target audience is looking for.
"'Wonder' shows our scale of thinking rather than our scale of product with the idea than 3M is a science-powered solutions provider, because science is just science until you do something with it," Acito said.