For over ten years, Tempe, AZ’s bluemedia owned one digital printer to create golf tee signs. "We did those signs for three years," chuckles Jared Smith, president, bluemedia. "Over the next seven years, we purchased bigger machines."
Today, the company boasts an Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex, HP’s Turbojet 8300, an HP Designjet 10000s, an HP 5000, and five Mimaki USA, Inc. JV3s. They offer a range of graphics, both indoor and out, transit and stationary.
Ramping up from golf tees to building wraps was, as Smith admits, a bit daunting. "When a golf tee sign fails—no problem. If a wrap fails, you have a big problem." Larger liabilities are intimidating. However once bluemedia got going, "we realized that it’s not that complicated," explains Smith.
Building wraps are profitable. The company grew by 200 percent over the past two years. They blossomed from 17 to 52 employees and from a 7,000 square foot facility to 27,000 square feet. Last year bluemedia won the American Marketing Association Award for best outdoor campaign creative.
What is their secret? "There is a big void in our industry when it comes to customer service. We try to make this as customer-friendly a business as possible," says Smith. "A typical print shop waits for the business to come through the door with a CD and a check. We don’t sit in our office chairs but go down to customers with a camera, a tape measure, and ideas."
Additionally, the company’s success is a result of securing key partnerships, with NASCAR, the NBA, and the MLB. As Smith tells it, building wraps are integral to generating buzz and promoting bluemedia’s services. "They position us as experts in our field," Smith explains.
Wrapping Up to Date
The company recently completed a wrap for a building adjacent to the US Airways Center, home of the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise. The building, which is owned by the team, featured a painted mural for ten years. "Now we have the technology to bring it up to date," Smith recounts. The company was tasked with promoting the Suns’ 2007/2008 season.
One of the keys to a successful wrap is determining how long it will be displayed—as opposed to how long the owner thinks it will hang for. "Sometimes a customer informs you that a wrap will only hang for a few weeks, and it’s up for much longer." When it starts to fail, Smith shares, they think it’s a reflection on your work. Fortunately, the Suns wrap includes the season’s dates, ensuring that the franchise will remove the wrap in a timely fashion.
bluemedia takes ownership of the design phase. "The customer creates their design and sends it to us in a PDF with all the design elements included, and then we recreate the final file ourselves using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator," he adds. Initially, a client will be leery of such approach, "then they call us and tell us that their computer’s crashing because it can’t handle the file." Bluemedia RIPs final files through ONYX Graphics Inc.’s ProductionHouse.
The Suns wrap was printed on 15 ten-foot wide vertical panels on Mehler nine-ounce mesh vinyl using the HP Scitex. Production took roughly nine hours. The company heat welded and reinforced the seams using a Leister floor welder and welded the edges using a Weldmaster T100.
The final piece sized in at 30 feet tall by 150 feet wide—a total of 4,500 square feet. It was installed by ABI of Phoenix in eight hours.
"Eventually, the buildings that aren’t wrapped will be the ones that stand out. You’ve seen the science fiction movies, there are ads on everything," he jokes.
With bluemedia’s customer-centric attitude it seems that they will be one of the sign shops aiding in the dominance of building wraps.