By Cassandra Balentine
Winning isn’t everything, but it can certainly be fun. In wide format print, print service providers (PSPs) have ample chances to show off what they can do, generating interest from peers, vendors, and potential customers. The opportunity comes in the form of industry contests, which are held in a variety of formats and offer various incentives.
Heather Kendle, director of marketing and product management, Inca Digital, notes two primary types of contests, the first are those open to the entire print community, usually through a third-party organization like a trade show host; the second being vendor-sponsored contests held to showcase exceptional work created with the sponsor’s equipment or media. For this article, we focus on vendor-sponsored contests.
In addition to the type of contest, entry submission and judging are other differentiating factors. For example, many contests stem from the Web and social media. These typically entail online voting by peers or involve a carefully selected judging panel. In addition, live contests—such as wrap battles on a trade show floor—represent another outlet for competition.
“Photo contests work well, and they’re quick and easy for the customer. Social media makes it easy to upload, hashtag, and enter. Plus most customers already have photos of their work on their phones,” comments Tiffany Wakimoto, marketing manager, Roland DGA Corporation.
Samantha Bishop-Strand, digital marketing specialist, 3M Commercial Solutions, notes that live contests tend to be more involved. “These contests, based on speed or skill, are a great opportunity to showcase talent and creativity,” she offers.
An obvious advantage to entering a contest is the chance at a grand prize. But, the benefits don’t end there. For example, Rick Moore, GM, Mactac Distributor Products, acknowledges that PSPs enter contests for a variety of other reasons. “From a competitive standpoint, winning offers a sense of pride and accomplishment, but also can help to establish or further the business’ brand capital. PSPs also enter to expand their reach, and some genuinely want to share their unique and interesting projects to assist others in the development of their expertise,” he says.
Kendle suggests that if a competition winner is a proactive marketer, they can leverage an award to attract more business. “We’ve seen award winners doing just that, producing their own press releases and promotional materials for their customer bases,” she notes, adding that the ability to boast to their prospects and customers that their work is recognized as some of the best in the world is a primary advantage.
Bishop-Strand says that while prizes are nice, the real value is exposure. Hosting vendors and the businesses that enter these contests publicize them outside of the industry. “Because of this, it’s a great way to reach people that may be considering a wrap for their business or personal vehicles, or who many not even know wrapping is an option,” she explains.
Contests provide an opportunity for PSPs to see what others in the industry are working on. “New trends and never-before-seen uses of the films often stem from competitive nature. To be the best, installers have to be creative and on the forefront of industry trends,” states Abby Gibbs, channel programs manager, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Despite the benefits, some PSPs are hesitant to put themselves out there.
“I think some of the main reasons why a PSP would not enter a contest would be lack of visibility or knowledge of the contest, lack of time, and most importantly, not wanting to share intellectual material that they do not have license for, or avoiding providing clear visibility to the competition regarding their client portfolio,” says Moore.
While Kendle doesn’t see any reason not to enter a competition, she admits that it could be that a shop is afraid that their customers would get upset if the entry doesn’t win. “On the other hand, a customer should be flattered that the PSP is proud of the work they have done on their behalf,” she points out.
“It might also be intimidating for some to feel like they’re being compared to industry veterans and compete against some well-known names,” says Bishop-Strand.
Gibbs agrees, suggesting that because of the creative nature of the community, designers and installers are sometimes reluctant to share a new look they created. In addition to putting their work out in the open, they are afraid it leaves them vulnerable to client poaching.
Depending on contest rules, the time and resources that need to be dedicated to entering is another factor. Entry requirements for many contestants include using a specific film and submitting specific photos. “It can be time consuming for a busy shop to stop production to take the right shots and upload them to the website,” admits Bishop-Strand.
Moore points out that although no assurances can quiet some of these concerns, the fear of creating competition should be alleviated by the benefits of winning. “The publicity, free advertising, and credibility outweigh the risk of losing the client to competition—if anything it strengthens the partnership,” he adds.
Additionally, working together and sharing experiences makes for a stronger industry. “The graphic and wrap communities grow together and the potential is still unrealized,” says Gibbs. “These contests help the industry thrive by giving it more exposure, which is good for everyone involved.”
While prizes may not be the only reason for businesses to enter a contest, Kendle notes that is often a significant incentive on the part of the sponsoring organization to attract more entries.
Wrapping to Win
Shadow Graphix, a 14-employee shop based in Indianapolis, IN, provides a variety of design and printing services within its 7,000 square foot facility. The company won 3M’s Wrap to Win contest, held between November 2014 and March 2015.
Keith Wethington, production manager, Shadow Graphix, is excited to talk about his role in the contest. He was heavily involved in the creation of the winning entry, a challenging ice cream truck wrap that helped transform business for the client. The customer came to the shop from Fort Wayne, IN, about a two hour drive. The truck was in rough shape and needed a lot of work to get to what Wethington describes as “wrap ready.” The team was up to the challenge, and after hearing about the 3M contest, decided this job would be an ideal representation of its capabilities.
Since the truck was brought to Shadow Graphix during the business owner’s slow season, it had time to chip away at it and really make it show ready. The wrap was meaningful, as the client was turned away by two of its local shops and really appreciated the commitment from Shadow Graphix. “Wrapping vehicles is always a neat experience, but when you touch someone that had a bad experience, it makes it special,” comments Wethington.
In addition to meeting customer expectations, the wrap was completed with the 3M Wrap to Win contest in mind. Entries had to be wrapped using 3M Envision Print Wrap Films and 3M Envision Wrap Overlaminates, media the shop was familiar with at the time of the contest, but hadn’t worked with too much at the time.
The contest was twofold, including a mix of public, online voting as well as a panel of judges. Once Shadow Graphix made it to the semi-finals, it flew to Las Vegas, NV for the announcement, which took place during the 2015 ISA Expo. Wethington, as well as shop owner, Daren Merkle, and the client, made the trip to Las Vegas.
“It was one of best things I was ever part of,” says Wethington of the contest. “Besides the national exposure, it was great meeting some of the other contestants and establishing a relationship with them,” he adds. The team was also able to interact with elite wrappers from around the world.
Since the contest, the shop was inducted into Masters of Branding, an installer-driven community. “Winning the contest supported our position in the industry and what Daren built,” shares Wethington.
Hard Work Pays Off
In addition to business drivers, vendor-sponsored contests offer great prizes. The chance to win a trip to Walt Disney World through the Avery Dennison Summer of Magic Giveaway caught the eye of Shareef Khan, founder, SS Customs, Luxury and Exotic Vehicle Enhancement Studio.
Based in Redwood City, CA, the six-employee shop provides vehicle enhancement services to the automotive aftermarket industry. The second-generation vinyl wrap studio was established in 2005 and is situated in a 3,000 square foot facility.
Khan says the idea to enter the contest sparked when promotions popped up on his social media feeds in early Summer 2015. “Like many business owners, I don’t have a lot of free time. I work late hours and unfortunately my family doesn’t get as much time with me as I feel they should. I have a two-and-a-half year old son and when I saw the contest, I immediately thought of him,” says Khan.
The Summer of Magic Giveaway encouraged PSPs to upload a photo of their family, children, or pets helping in their shop. The public voted for the best picture over a span of eight weeks.
For the entry, Khan selected a project for Pagani, an automobile manufacturer. “We were asked to create a design for one of its North American cars, specifically the naked carbon Huayra. It was one of the coolest projects we did that year,” he explains.
The photo submitted was a picture of Khan’s son inside of the car. Khan says that to help get the job done in time, his wife and son came by on some of the late nights. During one visit his son sat in the car and gave a thumbs up—his first thumbs up ever. Khan snapped a photo and used it to enter the contest.
He says participating in the contest was both fun and nerve wracking. “We wanted to win for the sake of our son, but we were battling some fierce competition, including some of our good friends in the industry.”
Overall, Khan shares that contests are all in good fun and he’d be happy to enter another. “Who doesn’t like a good contest, especially when it involves a product you trust and use every day—and when the prize involves Disney World!” he exclaims.
Eye on the Prize
PSPs often get buried in managing the day to day. Contests provide an opportunity to step back and take pride in accomplishments. Entering a friendly competition helps to bring out the best in a community, providing peer networking opportunities as well as showcasing the latest capabilities of today’s technologies.
Jan2016, Digital Output