Attempting to influence drivers with eye-catching visuals and marketing messages is no new concept. After all, roadside signs and billboards have been used as promotional tools since the introduction of the automobile. Today, however, more and more businesses are using the bodies of cars, vans and trucks as the advertising medium. Companies all across the nation -- from small, independently-owned operations to Fortune 500 corporations -- are maximizing consumer awareness and interest by covering their vehicles with colorful, attention-grabbing graphics.
Increased popularity and demand has turned vehicle wrapping itself into a sizeable business. The most comprehensive research conducted to date (a study by Mountain View, Calif.-based analysis and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan) estimated that the industry generated $220 to $250 million at the retail level. The same study also projected 10 percent year-over-year vehicle wrap market growth over the next several years. This kind of growth shows that vehicle wrapping is gaining widespread acceptance as a form of advertising. Businesses are recognizing that that people are spending more time in their cars than ever before, and that vehicle wraps offer a logical, effective and affordable way to reach large numbers of prospective customers.
Clearly, wrapping vehicles has become one of the hottest forms of outdoor advertising. Businesses that specialize in wraps are springing up all across the country and a large number of existing automotive aftermarket and sign shops are adding this service to their current offerings. Jobs these operations take on range from applying graphics to an individual car to wrapping large commercial fleets of vehicles. The success of a wrap shop like Louisville, Ky.-based Digital EFX Wraps is indicative of where this industry is heading. Co-owner Matt Richart notes that while the market has become more competitive, his business has grown substantially each year since starting up in 2004.
"Digital EFX Wraps began as a two-man operation, working out of a 1,800 square-foot work space," said Richart. "Now, we have seven employees, and we'll be moving into a new 6,400 square-foot facility in August. Our annual sales have also increased steadily. Since 2010, we've experienced year-over-year increases of 13.5 percent and 17.5 percent, respectively, and thus far into 2013, sales are up more than 19 percent compared to the same time in 2012."
Richart is quick to point out that technological advancements have played a major role in his company's growth and success.
"Large-formatdigital printing equipment has made it easier than ever to transform almost anything on four wheels into an effective advertising vehicle -- literally," he explained. "We're not just talking about basic vinyl lettering and phone numbers on the side of a realtor's car. Vehicle wraps have evolved into a true art form, thanks in part to the state-of-the-art large format printers and software now available. Considerable expertise is still required, but these innovations have made it relatively simple to create stunning wraps with incredible color, detail and special effects."
The creative designs and unique colors that specialists like Digital EFX use to produce their wraps definitely help turn heads. And, for businesses trying to attract more customers, "stop and stare" graphics like that translate into valuable exposure. Data compiled by the OAAA (Outdoor Advertising Assn. of America) and Driving Revenues, a Washington D.C.-based advertising firm, indicates that wrapping a vehicle or multiple vehicles to promote a business makes a lot of sense from an ROI perspective. The study shows that one vehicle wrap can generate between 30,000 to 70,000 impressions daily, and that fleet vehicle advertising can boost name recognition 15 times greater than any other advertising media.
"It's easy to see why commercial vehicle wraps represent the fastest-growing segment of the outdoor advertising industry," noted Richart. "Unlike static signs and billboards, a vehicle wrap offers mobility -- you can place your vehicle ad anywhere you want it to be, at any time. There are also significant advantages over other types of advertising, like TV and radio. Those types of messages can be turned off, whereas a vehicle wrap ad is out there working for you 24/7. Even when a wrapped car is parked or stuck in traffic, it's capturing attention and sparking interest."
Richart, who also leads periodic "Born to Wrap" vehicle wrap instructional workshops for digital printing leader Roland DGA Corp., uses several advanced 54" and 64" Roland large-format printers and printer/cutters to handle his company's ever-growing workload. "These machines are nothing short of amazing," said Richart. "The image quality is outstanding, they allow for the incorporation of unique Eco-Sol MAX metallic inks into our wraps, and the fast print speeds enable us to keep up with customer demand."
Before this kind of equipment became available, graphics had to be hand-painted onto cars. Today, everything is digital. After a wrap is designed using software programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, state-of-the-art large-format inkjet printers output the graphics in vivid color onto vinyl panels, which are then laminated and applied to the vehicle to form the wrap.
"One of the great things about vehicle wraps is they're not permanent," noted Richart. "High quality laminated wraps are durable -- they typically last about 3 to 4 years depending upon conditions -- but unlike paint, they can be easily removed at any time."
While commercial vehicle wraps won't completely replace other forms of outdoor advertising such as signs and billboards, they can definitely play an important part in any company's integrated marketing strategy. And, judging from the continuous growth in industry revenue year over year, it appears that businesses of all types and sizes are discovering the promotional power of wrap. That means the future looks bright for specialty shops like Digital EFX Wraps.