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A Consumer Story

Vehicle Wraps Promote Business and Express Personality

By Melissa Donovan

Wrapped cars, boats, trains, and buses entice viewers to purchase a product or order a service. Commercial wraps are popular for a number of reasons. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of viewers a day see these advertisements. Vehicle wraps executed properly will increase your bottom line, especially when done in bulk as fleet wraps.

Consumer wraps are also popular. Many are familiar with this type of application in marinas, where people wrap their boats for personal expression. Although not as popular as a commercial wrap, consumer wraps are a growing niche. Print service providers (PSPs) hope to attract consumers to their shops not only for car wraps, but motorcycles, bike helmets, and electronic devices to express passions, affiliations, and more.

Personal Offerings
At first, PSPs may balk at the idea of offering consumer wraps, wrapping a vehicle for a non-repeat customer is less than lucrative. However, “if you start looking at the numbers, the shear potential is astounding. If we successfully create a way to make consumer wraps more cost-effective for PSPs, the return is there, because everyone owns a car,” says Jason Amidon, product marketing supervisor, 3M Graphics Market Center.

There is profit potential, and consumer wraps are educational. “Next to profit, PSPs also gain experience and knowledge. Custom, personal vehicle wraps are often completed on unique vehicles and these projects really boost portfolios and marketing platforms,” shares Jason Yard, marketing application specialist, MACtac Graphic Products.

“These vehicles are often wrapped for car shows and other forms of exhibition. Pictures and testimonials from these jobs are excellent ways for a PSP to market their ability to produce high-quality, custom work,” adds Ritchie Daize, international digital sales manager, Arlon, Inc.

Although consumer wraps do not promote corporate services or products, they can promote a PSP. “Personal wraps give me as much, if not more, advertising on the street because customers drive and talk about the wrap with everyone they know. Whereas a commercial wrap is driven from job to job, when the driver gets off work the truck or van goes to the shop and they go home,” explains Chris Dix, owner/designer/installer, Port City Wraps (PCW).

PCW, in business for only a year, is based in Charleston, SC. Dix says previous employers pushed completed projects out the door so fast he had no time to put any effort into them. “I couldn’t deal with that, I need time to make what I am doing absolutely perfect and the only way to do that was to do it on my own. When I started PCW I wanted to give the consumer a wrap that was equal or better to a paint job for the same price or better,” explains Dix.

Dix uses MACtac IMAGin B-free Pro and RAYZor laminate on all of his wrapping jobs. For one project, he used MACtac media and a Roland DGA Corporation SOLJET PRO SP-540 eco-solvent printer on a 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Originally purchased “far from pretty,” the owner did minor bodywork to the car prior to the wrap. Dix wrapped it in an Egyptian-themed design with pyramids and scarabs. A picture of a friend who passed away was also included. According to Dix, “ it honestly doesn’t get any more personal than this car.”

One of the most complex, detailed, and time consuming wraps Dix experienced involved a motorcycle. The customer wanted the graphic to include an American flag with an eagle’s head. The entire bike was wrapped, including the seat and frame. According to Dix, one of the hardest elements was matching the eagle image up perfectly on both sides of the bike tank without having to seam. They also wrapped the helmet to match the bike.

Accommodating Consumers
Many PSPs have moved slowly, if at all, into consumer wraps. “Shops with a steady stream of commercial customers tend to be less motivated to expand into the personal market, however, just about all of them have done personal vehicle wraps as favors to friends and family,” admits David Grant, VP of marketing, Oracal USA.

As long as they are paying jobs, most PSPs will agree to tackle a consumer wrap, according to Molly Waters, strategic sales support manager, Avery Graphics.

Arlon’s Daize stresses that PSPs need to have patient art directors on staff to support the custom wrap niche.

Customers that use a shop for commercial purposes may look to a PSP for personal projects if they are satisfied with past work. This is when having experienced installers and designers on staff is an added bonus. Hightech Signs, based in Victorville, CA started offering vehicle wraps in 1999, seven years after the inception of the business. Originally the shop outsourced the installation portion of vehicle wrap services, but in 2005 an experienced installer was hired for in-house work.

Hightech Signs uses Avery MPI 1005 Easy Apply RS with DOL 1060 laminate for all wraps. Generally the graphics are printed on a solvent printer from Mutoh America, Inc. The shop created a personal wrap for a repeat customer, one who had their first graphic done for a horse trailer back in 1999. The wife, whose husband passed away, wanted to dedicate the wrap in memory of their life together, comments Dick Freeborg, president and Alison Johnson, VP, Hightech Signs.

The customer, Robin O’Dell, shares her experience. “I articulated a concept of my feelings, due to the death of my husband. What I envisioned and felt, my passion, my thoughts, these are expressions that cannot be seen. The graphic on the truck is my vision. The work done was excellent and executed in a timely manner.”

The truck, a GMC Sierra pickup, was wrapped in Avery MPI 1005 Easy Apply RS with DOL 1060 laminate and printed on a Mutoh solvent printer.

To Each His Own
A consumer wrap is not limited by brand colors or logos. Designs vary according to the customer. “Designs for personal wraps are limited only by the owner’s and designer’s imaginations,” explains Grant.

“The type of wrap depends on the individual’s personal taste as well as budget. Like graphics, the car is an extension of personality,” says Waters.

According to Martin Kugler, corporate communications manager, Hexis USA LLC, in this fast growing market, wraps are an excellent alternative to spray painting a car. In his experience, popular designs include a lot of matte finish colors such as black, olive green, and apricot; and patterns such as fabric, blue jeans, and stone.

Personalized designs include support for loved ones in the military, rustic wilderness scenes, allegiances, ideals, race scenes, camouflage, skulls, flames, and metal effects like carbon fiber and diamond plate.

Carbon fiber and matte black wrapping of luxury cars is very popular in Europe. Rolf Brauer, president, Auto Haut Mode, a division of Eurografik, brought the fad to Canada. Brauer, with over 20 years of experience in the aviation industry, started the business four years ago by offering decaling jobs ranging from helicopters to party supply vans.

As the company evolved, “we noticed a trend of unique car customization in Europe and thought of offering the service to customers in Vancouver, BC,” he adds. Auto Haut Mode, which translates to Car Skin Fashion, is a unique service offered to clients looking for an exclusive feel to their vehicle that sets them apart from the crowd, according to Brauer.

Brauer has witnessed a $1.2 million Bugatti Veyron to a BMW X5 totally wrapped or “murdered” in matte black. “Murdered is the trend in which a vehicle is completely blacked out. The paint is wrapped in matte black finish. The grills, trim, and wheels are also changed to black. But, if the customer wishes to revert back to its original state, it can be done with relative ease,” he explains.

Eurografik uses Oracal Series 970RA Wrapping Cast in matte black to murder most of his client’s cars. They recently worked on a completely white 2008 BMW X5 4.8—creating an entire matte black finish. To achieve a flawless product exterior trim, logos, tail and headlights, and handles were removed.

“Our client was ecstatic. It was exactly how he imagined it. The project was enjoyable since we transformed this vehicle completely,” says Brauer.

No Boundaries
Vehicle wrapping is attractive to both males and females of all ages. “Younger vehicle owners are likely to personalize their street machines with a vehicle wrap much the way they would with a powerful stereo system. Middle-aged vehicle owners use personal wraps to make public statements. Older personal vehicle wrap customers are wrapping RVs,” observes Daize.

The majority of customers are younger. Oracal’s Grant says this is because they are more open to new technologies. “The most common age group to have their personal vehicle wrapped is from 16 to 25 years old. This group seems to have the most interest in creativity,” adds MACtac’s Yard.

“Wraps are typically bought from male business owners and that’s why sometimes you will see flames or tribal type designs on some of the wrap,” explains Ron Shaw, owner, Digital Designs.

Based in Dubuque, IA, Shaw likens Digital Designs to an advertising agency with no TV or radio-type advertising. The shop began 11 years ago in his basement, then moved to a rented 900 square foot building, which soon expanded to a total of 3,000 square feet. At press time Digital Designs was in the process of a 2,000 square foot addition that will eventually be a showroom and new wrap facility.

Digital Designs uses Arlon DPF 6000X media on Roland SOLJET PRO III XJ-740 and 540 printers. Shaw created one consumer wrap for a marina owner. The customer was initially concerned that wrapping his GMC truck might affect his business and personal life. After convincing the customer that it would only generate positive response, Shaw came up with a graphic of people boating on a river. The entire application process took 12 to 15 hours with ten hours of additional design time.

“The customer drove off and called me later saying everyone was starting at him and I just let him know the wrap was working. Since then he has gotten use to the stares,” comments Shaw.

Do It Yourself
Consumer vehicle wraps are often partial applications and some are simpler decals that a consumer can apply and remove at their own discretion. Offering do-it-yourself decals can position the shop to move in phases with the customer, from a custom temporary decal, to a partial, and then a full wrap.

“This is a new customer most sign shops never had. When they do the decal that is the first step into it. Our hope is this will bring the customers right back into the sign shops for partial and full wraps,” comments 3M’s Amidon.

One 3M customer utilizing this technique is Skinit. Consumer services for the San Diego, CA–based company, in business since 2004, include custom skins for personal electronic devices including cell phones, MP3 players, gaming devices; custom wall skins; and custom tailgate packs for vehicles.

Tailgate packs are available for both professional and college football teams found across the U.S. Customers receive a variety of decals for the vehicle, which they can apply and remove themselves on both the vehicle body and windows. “One major trend is the need to express support for favorite sports teams. The solution is applicable for all ages and genders, it allows anybody to truly express themselves as they design their personal vehicle wrap,” explains Willem DeVries, client program manager, Skinit.

All Tailgate packs are made from 3M Controltac vinyl. Three different variations are available—small, 49x25 inches; medium, 49x55 inches; and large, 49x105 inches. Skinit also offers customizable tailgate packs, which show support for local club, recreational, high school, and other community teams.

“The market trend for vehicle personalization is growing, many consumers want to add a personal touch to their vehicle to express their support for their family, favorite sports team, or express an accomplishment,” adds DeVries.

Consumer Driven
The novelty of personalization is something that most consumers are attracted to. It seems only logical this would extend to vehicles. “In 12 months consumer wraps will be quite common,” foresees Tim Boxeth, marketing manager, vehicle and watercraft wrap markets, 3M. “The awareness will be there.”

Vendors continue to build this awareness by marketing friendly products targeted toward the consumer vehicle wrap market. As more PSPs realize the potential income, vehicles of every shape and size will sport a refreshing design expressing the user’s personality. Soon, it may be a lot easier to find your vehicle in a sea of others.

Nov2009, Digital Output

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