Take It Outside...Current Trends in Out-of-Home Signage, Part III
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Take It Outside...Current Trends in Out-of-Home Signage, Part III

In this section, we will look at the potential of expanding your business into vehicle wraps.

By Johnny Duncan

So far, we’ve discussed the various opportunities in Outdoor signage (Part I), including standard billboards, tri-faced signs, neon, fiber optics and LED signs. In Part II, we examined the prospects available with the current trends in Street Furniture. In this section, we will look at the potential of expanding your business into vehicle wraps.

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  • With so many options in the Outdoor segment of the sign industry, many sign professionals are turning to offering other products and services to diversify their market penetration and to keep up with customer demand and the competition. One sure segment that has plenty of business potential is vinyl vehicle wraps.

    Outdoor wraps don’t have to be just for cars though. Motorcycles, boats, buses and airplanes can also be included in your new venture.

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    Vinyl wraps require careful handling and it should be noted that effective design is achieved through simplicity, clarity, crispness, and balance. The material must fit the vehicle's contours and retain its good looks for a long time. Customers expect it to retain shape and color for years, unless they can afford to have vinyl frequently removed and then reapplied.

    Warranty work can be very costly for wraps, so be sure to do it right the first time. Thicker or laminated vinyls can make wraps easier to install initially, but they may increase the probability of early separation along contours and cut edges. They don't handle strain as well as high-performance, 2-mil cast vinyl with a permanent adhesive. The effective removal of a wrap depends on your skill, supplies and equipment, and the type of film you're using. Within two years of application some removable films can still be maneuvered. After two years, it's more difficult to remove, especially in warmer climates.

    Vehicle wraps are one of the gems in the industry that can still provide good margins for your shop. It will likely continue to grow in popularity with improved production, printing methods and expanding uses. By focusing on the customer’s needs, giving attention to the message's effectiveness, film selection, surface preparation and proper application, vinyl wraps allows you to offer more to your customers as well as offer profitable diversification for your business.

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    Products used for vehicle wrapping are continually improving and new ones are coming to market all the time. Some of the better known and most used include the MACtac JT5529, which is an ultra-conformable pressure sensitive film that can be used on compound curves; the IMAGin JT5915SP, which is a perforated see-through mesh used for window covering; Avery’s MPI 1005 EZ and 3M’s Comply Performance Series 180C.

    Since most of these products are tested and “re-invented” based on product performance, customer feedback and costs, it is best to contact your favorite supplier to determine the latest and greatest on the market.

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    As with any new venture, there are bound to be some challenges and obstacles to overcome, but like any other segment of the sign trade, perfection comes with experience. One challenge you will face is trying to wrap over compound shapes. Vehicles with many curves such as Corvettes or VW Beatles have caused the most headaches for those professionals doing vehicle wraps. Also troublesome are “crow’s feet” or wrinkles that are left behind after applying the film around a corner or curve.

    After some experience, you will learn little secrets like heating the film first and letting it cool. This relaxes the film and makes it easier to install and helps to eliminate wrinkles and aids the application of the film over curves.

    Another area to watch out for is the application over windows. Special film is required fore this type of application to allow the driver and occupants to see out of the window. Not only is special care required for the application on windows, but extra attention needs to be placed on making sure that the pattern or image on the film is continuous from the body of the vehicle to the application of the film over the windows.

    Finally, special care (an acquired skill) is needed when it comes to cutting the vinyl and removing vinyl wraps. Some professionals cut the vinyl before it is applied to the vehicle while others wait until after it is applied. Detailed trimming is required around the doors, lights and other typical vehicle obstructions. Some professionals find that it is too dangerous, not to mention expensive, to risk cutting the vehicle so they will make the vinyl cuts before applying it to the car. Others find it easier and faster to gently and carefully trim the film while on the vehicle. For those just starting out, it is better to take your time experimenting with both systems.

    When removing the film, most experts agree that a heat gun or light tree work best. If a quality vinyl was used on the vehicle, removal should not be excessively difficult. Those films that have been on a long time or vinyl of lesser quality will prove to be more difficult to remove. But don’t think that vinyl removal will be a cake walk either!

    Business potential
    Although there are several complex tasks and avenues to the application of vehicle wraps, the benefits of this segment of the outdoor market seem to outweigh them. There will always be a learning curve when venturing into new markets, but the curve for vehicle wraps is a relatively short one compared to some segments in the sign trade.

    If you are considering getting into this segment of the industry or are interested in diversifying your business, do your homework. Here is a quick checklist to help you to get ready for vehicle wrapping:

    1.) Make sure that you know everything that you will need to set your shop up for vinyl wraps. Do you have the necessary machinery? Are you and/or your employees skilled at applying vehicle graphics?

    2.) Find some shops that have successfully ventured into this field and ask them for advice. Most sign professionals are willing to share information because they are confident enough in their work to not fear you as competition.

    3.) Consider the advertising you will have to do to attract your customers to this form of signage. Once they know what you can do for them, they will buy from you, but you will first have to educate them. Create information packets to let them know that vehicle wraps attract people’s attention. Gather the latest statistics of vehicles that travel in your area and sell your customers on the fact that “moving billboards” will be seen over and over again. Educate your customers to the fact that vehicle wraps are noticeable and they even look better from a distance. Let them know that vehicle wraps make great "brochures," as long as viewers have sufficient time to review an offering's benefits.

    The cost to begin vehicle wraps should not hamper your venture. Assuming that you don’t already own one, you may want to have an outdoor durable printer to start, unless you plan to initially sub-out your printing. You can speak to a representative from Gerber, Roland, Océ, VuTek, Mutoh, Mimaki or Summa to determine where you want to start. After that initial expense, the rest of the equipment you will need, you probably already have: squeegees, digital camera, razor knives, heat gun and some stock images (which you can accumulate over time).

    Now you are on your way to increasing business traffic from the Outdoor market through vehicle wrapping. Remember to always be on the look out for new opportunities for increasing business. Check back again for Part IV to learn how to branch out to more of the Outdoor segment of the sign trade.

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