Vehicle Graphics: Think Before You Wrap
Thinking about installing vehicle graphics or refreshing an old design? Here’s some advice from the pros: Keep it simple, work with marketing, and plan ahead.
March 2012, Work Truck – Feature
by Lauren Fletcher – Also by this author
Also considered “driving billboards,” vehicle graphics help identify a fleet’s vehicles, build on a company’s brand, and can even increase the resale value of a company’s fleet.
However, there are several factors to consider before determining whether vehicle graphics are right for a fleet. Once the decision is made, the process has only just begun.
Branding the Fleet
Before graphics are installed, a fleet must first determine if it wants them in the first place. Reviewing the value of potential graphics and fleet vehicle types can help identify the best options for the fleet before proceeding.
“Fleet managers considering vehicles must see a value in what those graphics will do as a benefit to the company that they represent,” said Trace George, CEO and president of VSP Graphics.
Also, remember one key to vehicle graphics is that the vehicles become “moving” billboards.
“Keep it simple,” recommended Jim Soppelsa, president of Sun Art Decals, Inc. “When a vehicle is on the move, your message needs to be understood quickly. Also, keep in mind how long you plan to keep the vehicle in a fleet. You may need a removable material versus a five- or a 12-year material. There are many adhesives for different applications.”
Be sure to maintain the company’s brand and use wording that management and/or marketing approves of, to ensure a standard within the whole fleet.
“Many fleet managers responsible for the graphic layout hire a sign person to design and install them. Some mindsets are to just put logos and copy wherever there may be space available on the vehicle surface,” George noted. “Fleet managers should only be responsible for making sure whatever is installed on a vehicle benefits their fleet in surface protection and that proper steps are taken to ensure warranties of installation and eventual removals.”
Fleet branding can be very beneficial for many reasons to the company that values it; however, before a plan is begun to implement fleet graphics, a fleet manager should contact a material manufacturer to specify the materials that would best fit his or her project plan.
“3M, MACtac, Arlon, Avery, and Oracal are the best-known fleet graphic manufacturers available to contact through their websites,” George noted. “A local sign shop may not be the right direction for information, as many sign shops only carry one or two types of material to keep inventory costs down. Many sign shops are not gauged to offer proper fleet graphics because they may only use short-term materials or may not follow proper printing/overlaminating standards for specified fleet needs.”
Fleet vehicles are never one size, one shape, or one brand.
“Keep in mind the variety of vehicle types and body styles. While it may seem like you’ll only be in one or two types of vehicles right now, who is to say what you’ll be in five years from now?” asked Jamie Knakmuhs, senior graphics designer for National Fleet Graphics, LLC. “Try not to cater your graphics too specifically to the details of the vehicle body, but rather let them work across a wider variety.”
When considering full or partial wraps, Knakmuhs also recommended keeping in mind such items as door handles, that will weather faster, or bumpers, which will increase the cost.
“Full vehicle wraps will help increase the resale value of your fleet vehicles,” according to Knakmuhs. “By being covered in a quality vinyl, the paint will be protected and you can avoid any paint fading, minor scratches, or ghosting that may occur with contour cut spot graphics.”
Vehicle Graphics Do’s, Don’ts, and Advice
Vehicle graphics are a way to advertise a business or create an identity for fleet vehicles. To explore the “do’s and don’ts” of vehicle graphics, and gather advice for fleets, Work Truck spoke with Scott Morrison, director of operations/logistics of SkinzWraps, Inc.; Steve Whitaker, vice president of sales of Signature Graphics, Inc.; and Trace George, president/CEO of VSP Marketing Graphics Group. Graphic examples are displayed throughout this article.
Vehicle Graphic Do’s
What steps should be taken in determining graphics to place on fleet vehicles and which vendors to select? Here are some helpful ideas.
Use an experienced vehicle graphics designer to create the original version of the image and text and have an experienced vehicle graphic professional measure the vehicle.
Consider and communicate durability requirements.
Review the graphics provider’s financial strength and developmental support tools.
Request references and/or the design company’s portfolio. Because a local sign company can make signs doesn’t necessarily mean it can produce vehicle wraps, lettering, etc., for fleets.
Understand the value-added resources available from a supplier.
Use a certified graphic company to design and install fleet graphics.
Prepare an image that works appropriately with the vehicle.
According to George of VSP, many companies invest in products and services for their fleet display needs and often find they are left “holding the bag” when a problem exists.
Certified material companies follow industry standards. Every certified company must follow strict guidelines in material usage and proper installation methods, and are tested with stringent techniques.
“When a fleet desires graphic marketing, etc., it is a good idea to shop for certified graphic companies, as they have a strong backing from each product manufacturer. When a non-certified graphic company is used, it is likely a warranty issue would not be honored by the manufacturer, based on that company not using proper standard installation methods,” said George.
Vehicle Graphic Don’ts
Mistakes involving vehicle graphics can be costly. From the time and money it takes to fix a mistake to how a company is viewed, avoiding costly vehicle graphic mistakes should be a priority.
Mistakes that can and should be avoided include:
Do not base a decision exclusively on price. Numerous variables influence durability and may or may not influence the ultimate price.
Do not work with a company that doesn’t understand your fleet specifications. “It’s critical that your supplier understands your actual vehicles and how the design executes on your fleet,” said Whitaker of Signature Graphics.
Don’t choose a company that doesn’t understand your business requirements or doesn’t invest the time and energy to know exactly what is expected from your brand campaign over the life of the program.
Vehicle Graphics: Think Before You Wrap