Marketing 3D for the Home Market -Gaining Acceptance in a Skeptical Market

TV Remote Control
A remote control in hand. Shallow depth of field, with focus on the remote.


NOTE: See new post “Marketing 3D, VR, AR, and Other Advanced Graphics for the Home Entertainment Market

With all of the advances in 3D technologies for display and content creation over the past year, I felt it was time to repost a paper that I wrote over a year ago. We must keep in mind that even though quality content and affordable 3D display technologies is important, marketing can be key to the success for 3D in the home. Little has change in the demand for 3D products for the home; however, with the advances in 3D technologies and an installed base of 4k televisions with 3D capabilities along with an increased interest in VR, opportunity is still knocking.

Originally posted 14 November 2014 …


The 3D home market appears to be stuck in the early adopter stage and is going to take the most work of any of 3D market segments to gain acceptance. The success of 3D depends on the public, content providers, the display providers, the transport media for the content, and improvement of the public’s perception as more than just another fad. All must come together precisely for the acceptance of 3D as the de facto standard in home viewing.

This paper covers the current state of the market, a definition of the right marketing techniques, positioning 3D in the right light, overcoming public perceptions, and overcoming negative press. Each 3D product area has different challenges and opportunities for success. This paper discusses the development of a marketing strategy for a successful acceptance of 3D in the home market. The most success can be gained if a group of professionals representing hardware, broadcast, other media transport, and content providers come together under a single group to fine tune and implement an overall marketing campaign.

Home Market Defined

The 3D home market is stuck in a vicious cycle. People are not buying 3D televisions (or at least not buying for the 3D capabilities) because they either don’t know about the technology or they have little to no access to 3D content. They do not have access to 3D content because broadcasters and other transport media are not willing to put the money into such a small market. This brings us back to the end users.

Stubbornly pushing 3D into the market will prove to be extremely difficult if not impossible. The best method develops an interest in 3D that would result in a market pull as opposed to a market push. Our job is to convince the public to accept 3D as a new technology that provides a better user experience than the older 2D or flat technology. The market pull technique will provide the proof necessary to convince broadcasters and other media transport suppliers that there is a market available and money to be made. This will avoid the halfhearted attempts of the past which failed miserably. Additionally, the market pull technique will also provide the incentive for manufacturers and developers to invest in the right hardware and content to maintain the target market interest.

3D Displays Available

When it comes to choosing a 3D television set, the public has many choices from glasses (passive or active) to autostereoscopic sets. Today most 3D capable televisions require glasses. Autostereoscopic (better known as glasses-free) televisions provide an alternative for those who are adverse to wearing glasses while watching their favorite shows.

3D TV Sales Projected vs. Actual (Data Source: CNET 2010 for Projected Data and 2012 Digital Trends for Actual Data)

While many of the autostereoscopic displays of the past have lacked clarity and brightness, the introduction of 4k televisions and eye tracking technology provides a viable glasses-free solution for the home. Both Vizio and Sharp have announced autostereoscopic versions for Q4 2014. Additionally, Sharp showcased their 85 inch 8k autostereoscopic TV and Sony has also announced an 8K autostereoscopic television.

In the end, glasses or no glasses will always have a different set of advantages and disadvantages and will not be a barrier to public acceptance of 3D in the home market. The end user can choose the right technology that fits their desired viewing experience.

For the home viewing of television shows, sports, and movies, the main driver for content will continue to be the availability and functionality of television sets. However, for convenience, more and more viewers will also depend on other means of watching their favorite events such as tablets and smart phones.

Figure 2

70% of 3D TV owners are satisfied with the 3D TV capabilities.

The figure on the right shows the expected growth in 3D television sales in comparison to the actual 3D television sales. Starting in 2011, 3D television sales started to slide. However, on a positive note, higher end 4k televisions contain 3D capability. According to a 2011 TVBEurope article, almost half of all UK households will have 3D capable television within 3 years. A more recent article in IPTV News dated September 2013, states that by 2017 3D TVs will reach 58% of all TVs sold around the world. In 2012 18% of televisions sold were 3D capable. In Europe, the number of 3D capable televisions was far higher with the US trailing behind.

On a negative note, 3D is not the main selling point for these televisions. The TVBEurope article says that the surge in 3D capable televisions is attributed to the “unwitting customer.” The key here is to market the 3D feature, educate the consumer as to the 3D experience in the home, and make 3D one of the key sellable features by increasing demand for 3D. This is not a mistake for the television manufacturers to future proof their high end televisions with 3D capability. However, it would be a mistake for 3D content providers to not take advantage of this teachable moment and to not take advantage of a ready-made installed base to drive the right types of quality content for an increased home market demand.

On the plus side, a 2012 study from Parks Associates showed that approximately 70% of 3D TV owners were either satisfied or very satisfied with the 3D capabilities of their televisions. Although this is a small study, this study can be used to plan future and larger studies as to the interests of the current 3D television buying public.

Lack of Content Access a Problem


Desire for More 3D TV Content

According to Digital Trends November 2011 article, the 3D home market lacks content. According to an article in 3Dvision-blog dated February 27, 2010, there were a variety of television channels expected including Sky Channel 3D in the UK, DirectTV, ESPN 3D, Canal+ 3D in France, 3D Pictures in France, and Discovery 3D. I also saw announcements for 3D channels for BBC.In 2013 with ESPN and BBC dropping their 3D channels, consumers have fewer choices in 3D television. According to an Associated Press article in USA Today dated September 2012, Byran Burns of ESPN stated “that we were ahead of the curve further than we thought we were.” As reported by Al Caudullo of after returning from China 3D Expo 2013, China has already committed to an aggressive plan for 3D TV with 10 independent 3D channels. He later reported that this plan was scaled back considerably and that the sale of 3D content to this market also slowed considerably with the bulk of content purchased in the 4k 2D format. The scale back of China’s aggressive plan for 3D television channels was later confirmed by Jim Chabin of the International 3D and Advanced Graphics Society with China’s main interest in 3D for the Theatrical market.

The 2012 study from Parks Associates showed that current owners of 3D televisions in US broadband households want more3D content. At the top of their list are movies, TV programs, video games and sports. Current interests of the early adopters of 3D television viewing are important. These interests can be used to expand the demand into the general public. The biggest problem in providing content is the broadcasters and investors. They currently do not see the payout necessary for an investment in this technology.

Until the broadcast industry sees the payout of offering 3D television, 3D content providers can use Blu-ray, video on demand (VOD), and internet based content. The broadcast industry will not take a chance on 3D until they see enough demand for 3D content. The Blu-ray 3D market has shown growth over the past couple of years with quite a few 3D titles available. According to a 2012 article in Good3DTV, the growth in 3D sales and 3D Blu-ray players was having an impact on overall 3D TV sales growth. The acceptance of 3D television will happen sooner in some parts of the world than others.

According to Ryan Nakashima of the Associated Press in the February 2012 USA Today article, “Avatar was supposed to change everything” and “enthusiastic television executives expected the movie to spur 3D’s transition to American living rooms.” This plan seems to me to be unrealistic expecting a single movie to change buying behavior, especially without any significant demand for 3D in the home and also with only 115,000 American homes “tuned into 3D channels at any one time,” as reported by Nakashima. Joel Peck, S3D – HD-4K Producer and Director at artHouse3D points out, one great movie every 3 years “is not going to do it.” Great 3D made for television content has to be gotten out in front of the general public as soon as possible.

Joel Peck points out for home 3d to succeed “there needs to be great 3D made for TV content but investors won’t invest in the content until the market is already successful.” There is a “catch 22 since the market needs great content but content won’t be funded until the investors see a successful market.” Investors want to see great 3D content in order to invest in great 3D content. However, without investors, content providers are limited in the funds (commonly their own funds) necessary to produce great content. He goes on to state that “bad or even mediocre content is this industry’s worst enemy” and “good, or better yet, great content” is this industry’s greatest friend.

The Home Gaming Market

In the gaming market, there are very few game choices. Nintendo’s 3DS leads the handheld market. After the 3DS’s first year and as reported by Engadget in March of 2012, approximately 4.5 million devices were sold which surpassed its sales figures of the previous DS models. In its first year over 100 3D games were released. For large format gaming consoles, both Xbox and PS3 have 3D capabilities. According to 3D Tested, there are currently over 122 games available for the PS3, and Xbox has only 46 games currently available. When visiting a local store, I found only a few PS3 3D titles and no Xbox titles available in 3D. Additionally, there are quite a few 3D capable PC games.

Public Perception a Major Obstacle

Public Perception a Challenge for both Content and Display Providers

According to a 2012 CNET article, which quoted a Nielsen study, 57 percent did not want to wear 3D glasses and 90% felt that watching 3D would interfere with other tasks they perform while watching TV. These studies are useful in showing the public’s current perceptions; however, they are flawed since the vast majority of people have not experienced 3D on the small screen. Additional studies are needed to gauge the public acceptance based on the public’s experience. I will cover this in more detail in the “Overcoming Perceptions” section. Until that time, perception is today’s reality. Negative public perceptions can be reduced if not altogether eliminated through the right combination of the products, public education, and managing expectations.


Many also believe that watching 3D for extended periods can cause eye fatigue, headaches, and even harm the viewer’s eye sight. I have also seen press reports that state that many are stereoscopically impaired. Depending on the report, these numbers range from 10 to 20 percent. Much of these claims have little basis in fact. Much of the problems with eye fatigue, headaches, and other discomforts can be corrected with the proper use of the 3D effects. These effects should not be discounted. Proper research with experts in the Ophthalmological field can help either discount the claims or help us make corrections to the 3D products and content. This would help 3D reach the widest possible audience with little to no adverse effects. Additionally, for those who suffer from headaches, the amount of 3D can be adjusted at the television for the best possible comfort.

Applying the Right Marketing Techniques

Note that we are not going to state that 3D is replacing 2D. It is another choice or enhancement to the viewing experience.

The home market is a complex market and includes: televisions, gaming, phones and cameras. We are not going to be able to develop a wholesale marketing plan to instantaneously move the 3D products from early adopter to the mainstream. This is going to take a targeted approach. I would use hints from the book “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore by focusing on one customer group at a time and using that group as the starting point for marketing to the next group. With each group, the content must be finely crafted for the correct 3D experience and the messaging finally crafted for the right user perception.

To start this approach, the right target or niche must be selected with the greatest chance for success: a segment with higher disposable income that is more likely to accept a new technology. Once acceptance is obtained in this market, find a closely related segment and build on this success. As this builds, you will find that your reach will start getting larger and larger. This technique creates a bandwagon effect in which enough momentum builds for 3D to move into the mainstream. To select the right market segments, it is going to take a group analyzing the entire market numbers to have the best chance of being right. Start out by looking at an analysis of who is currently buying the 3D sets for the purpose of 3D and who is not. Also look at an analysis of who is currently buying 3D content and the type of content being purchased. Ask the question: Can we build onto the current market?

With each of the target markets, we must target the end consumer with a demand generation program.

Positioning 3D


Start with one segment and let each success build onto the next target.

In order to properly position 3D in the market, we must first understand one key point that will surely meet with resistance: The target market does not need 3D. Yes I said it. In fact no visual market needs 3D: not professional computers, not scientific, not digital signage. In fact, no one needs ultra-high definition, no one needs high definition, no one needs color, and no one needs sound. We need to get away from thinking about the product and start thinking about the customer’s true needs. A marketing professor once told me that a drill manufacturer’s customers don’t need a better drill, they need a hole. So our target market does not need a 3D display, they need a different or better viewing experience. 3D adds another tool to aid in the target users viewing experience. It must be an improvement to the current viewing experience and must aid in the telling of your story and not take it over. This cannot be said enough times: The advantage to presenting in 3D is that it adds to the viewer’s experience.

In analyzing the target market, we will start with the product positioning. Product positioning is the statement that identifies and defines the product brand. For 3D products, we are obviously not going with the “me too” approach. We are going to differentiate the 3D experience from the 2D experience. In order to capture all of the attributes of a positioning statement, I always start with the following outline:

  • For (target customer – not market. We need to make our position personal.)
  • Who (statement of need or opportunity) – This would be something like, “who needs a better viewing experience” or “who needs connection or immersion into the story.”
  • The (product or service name)
  • is a (product category or market segment – 3D display, 3D content)
  • that (statement of key benefit – a compelling reason to buy – a compelling reason to change the status quo),
  • Unlike (primary competitive product or alternative – 2D alternative),
  • our product (statement of primary differentiation – in other words, what does the target customer get from the 3D product that they do not get from 2D).

This will form the basis for the messaging and value proposition. This messaging and value proposition will then be consistently used for all advertising, media, PR, social media, web sites, and social media. Note that we are not going to state that 3D is replacing 2D. It is another choice or enhancement to the viewing experience.

Developing Unified Messaging

Keep in mind that unlike the early marketing days, we as marketers are not in control of our messaging. The target audience is in charge. We need to talk with them and not at them. In fact, we should recognize that our target customers can produce more messages than we could ever create. We should engage in a campaign that not only creates a compelling story, but also creates a dialogue with the end users. This will spark this relatively untapped tool with messages that invoke their passions. Additionally, be ready to change at any given moment. If we properly open up a dialog with our campaigns, we will learn as much from our target customers as they will from our campaign.

The strategy required for the different 3D markets must go beyond seizing the target users’ attention with constant messaging, but this strategy must also sustain their attention. In order to sustain this attention, we need a complete understanding of the target market’s needs importance, interests, emotional appeal, badge value, and risks or worries. The biggest mistake that can be made here is to either trivialize or ignore any of these points.

Keep in mind this is not a competition between 3D and 2D or even between two opposing new technologies such as 3D and 4k. In fact, as Fabien Remblier points out in his November 2013 article “Make 3D Love, Not 4K War,” “4k opposition does not exist, …, because 3D and 4K are two totally different things.” He continues by pointing out “where 3D brings a new experience for the Viewer, 4K is finally only an improvement of HD.” He also points out that with both 3D and 4k combined we “need to instead look at the prospects that their combination makes for professionals and ultimately for the spectators.”

The right approach can speed the acceptance of 3D as the preferred viewing experience.

Overcoming Perceptions

Public perception is the largest hurdle. According to a 2012 CNET article, which quoted a Nielsen study, 57 percent did not want to wear 3D glasses and 90% felt that watching 3D would interfere with other tasks they perform while watching TV. Negative public perceptions can be reduced if not altogether eliminated through the right combination of the products, public education, and managing expectations.

Most of the public perception is not based on actual experience. It is based on what they heard in the press or what they anticipate. I recently spoke with a real technical friend who I consider very intelligent. When I brought up 3D television for the home, he immediately snapped back: “I am not wearing those darn glasses.” This is the same person that years ago had the same opinion of 3D movies. He currently goes to and enjoys 3D movies in the theater.

A method is needed to gauge the actual acceptance versus perceived acceptance. Additional marketing research is required to find out the reasons for these perceptions. Additionally, focus groups in different geographic areas using different 3D technologies and content can be very useful to identify what is real and what is perceived. Once we have an understanding of what is real and what is perceived, an education program targeted to your market must follow. Use press coverage, social media, roadshows, and public events. Place 3D on the smaller screen in front of the public in as many venues targeting the general public as possible. Also let the public know that the 3D is there, or even better, start out with teasers before it is there to peak public curiosity. Use every possible opportunity to get the word out to the public. By the way, using 3D professional groups only educates 3D professionals. We want to educate the public. We need to get the public used to viewing 3D on the smaller screen and understand how the increased viewing experience adds to the enjoyment of the story.

Start this process with your initial target market. Your target market may be willing to accept glasses or even the current state of autostereoscopic displays. This may give more time for the advancement of the technology as we move forward from the initial target markets to the next.


Keep in mind the work it took in the early adoption of HDTV in 1989. Very few users were equipped with HD and there was very little content available. When I was purchasing my first HDTV, I was advised to not spend the money on HD. Times have changed. (By the way, I did not listen. I am pretty stubborn.) The key is going to be educating the public on 3D, creating a market acceptance and a market demand.

Sustaining the Target Users’ Attention

The strategy required for the different 3D markets must go beyond seizing the target users’ attention with constant messaging, and must also sustain their attention. In order to sustain this attention, we need a complete understanding of the target market’s needs importance, interests, emotional appeal, badge value, and risks or worries. The biggest mistake that can be made here is to either trivialize or ignore any of these points. Let’s make use of the current marketing content channels such as blogs, social media, and standard media. Only this time, let’s stop convincing each other. Let’s target these channels toward our defined target market.


The perfect storm is approaching and it is the perfect time to take advantage of the technology and content coming together. The right approach can speed the acceptance of 3D as the preferred viewing experience. An industry-wide and unified demand generation program, with unified messaging, is needed. Even though the name “3D” now represents gimmicky , faddish, uncomfortable, and goofy glasses, a unified program can redefine “3D” as part of the story and an improved viewing experience with many useful applications wherever visual information is displayed.

Get the word out with a demand generation program. The old opinion that we have all fallen for “3D is so cool, everyone will be drawn to it” does not work. There is much too much bad press and negative perceptions for that to ever work.

I recently saw a saying posted on LinkedIn that can become the industry mantra: “I love the smell of possibility in the morning.” (source unknown)


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