Ground Attack

In today’s world, there are so many ways to reach consumers it can be confusing and overwhelming. A company can have its ads on television, in magazines, or on the Web. There are POPs, POSs, billboards, etc.—you name it, they have it. Wherever a consumer turns, it seems they are being smacked in the face with an advertisement. If only there was a less “in your face” approach to reach a consumer.

Floor graphics answer that call. Be it a logo on the floor of an airport, ads on the stairs in an office building, or a big piggy bank on the floor of a discount store, advertisers are finding new ways to reach customers. Recent technological advances have made floor graphics less expensive, longer lasting, and easier to clean—factors that are very important in a down economy.


Bringing Floor Graphics HOM

This is an exciting time to be in the floor graphics business, according to Mike Chevalier, new business development manager at Spencer, MA-based FLEXcon. Retailers and brand owners are focusing on shopper experience within the store to support the critical first moment of truth initiatives.

“Advances in floor image base materials and overlaminates are providing retailers and brands the opportunity to connect with customers using various products in a unique way,” said Chevalier. “For example, a brand can use a clear floor graphic advertising material to generate creative graphics, allowing the floor to be part of the image.”

To create a rugged indoor graphic, Dock 86, a furniture store, incorporated Flexcon’s standard floor graphic base product (FLEXmark V 400 F White Opaque A-109 90#) with the company’s FLEXmark OV 2500 Safari overlaminate. The 25-mil Safari film created the outdoor look for an interior graphic. “This floor graphic helped the retail match the store environment and the checkout desk that was branded with FLEXcon films as well,” said Chevalier.

“This was a project different than our normal retail environment,” said Jerry Underwood, executive director of marketing, HOM Furniture Brands, Coon Rapids, MN. HOM Furniture Brands is the parent company of Dock 86. “We wanted to present a low cost, low overhead appearance to the public to set up the expectation that low price was more important than an expensive store build out.” Using floor graphics and counter graphics allowed HOM Furniture Brands to brand the Dock 86 showroom, giving it a more comfortable feeling while having a bit of fun. The results are a casual presentation that has proven to be disarming to the customer.

“The customers have responded very positively, not because they understand the product, but because they can walk over a big piggy bank, or a graphic manhole cover, or on top of a crate,” said Underwood. “The customer definitely understands they are in a different kind of environment.”

Chevalier said carpet graphics is another expanding market. Not many brand owners and retailers are aware of this technology and how it allows them to brand low pile carpeted spaces. The 25-mil Safari overlaminate prevents the denting of the graphic from high heel shoes.

The last and most significant technological advancement, according to Chevalier, has come in the use of a thin gauged film technology to cover large surface areas in-store to create a branded zone or aisle.

“The FLEXmark floorart 6605 and 6600 printable graphic system has been used to cover large spaces (900-1,500 square feet) in-store,” he said. “This system allows the retailer to use his traditional floor wax to seal the graphic to the floor and maintain the same surface coating for the consumer to walk on.”

Chevalier thinks the future is bright for graphic advertising for the indoor floors market, as retailers look to enhance the shopping experience while the consumer shops. “Brand owners and retailers will be working more closely than ever before to create branded zones with unique materials and printing,” he said. “Retailers will also be focusing more on branding themselves and their private brands in the future. This is a great opportunity for the printing world.”

Chevalier believes graphic advertising for indoor floors will match other graphic themes and visual images, just like the Dock 86 store. “The indoor floor graphic will not only stand alone, but also be part of an integrated message in-store; the branded zone,” he said. “The standard 2x3-foot static graphic at your feet will always be with us; however the sizes, images, and materials will continue to evolve to meet the unique needs of the individual retailer and brand owner.”


Floor Graphics Take Flight

Recent technology has been a boon for the floor graphics market. For starters, the cost of producing floor graphics has decreased dramatically due to technological advancements, according to Janet S. Featherston, president, Sign-Ups and Banners Corporation, Houston, TX. “We can use solvent and eco-solvent inkjet printers to develop cost effective floor graphics that are highly customizable,” she said. “There have also been many improvements in the actual application of the floor graphics, preventing scuff marks or other damage to the floor.”

As for trends in the industry, Featherston is seeing more colorful lifestyle graphics being used. “This type of floor graphic really presents one more way to place your product literally in front of your customers,” she explained. “We recommend using sturdy, slip-resistant materials for the floor graphics to ensure your promotion’s longevity and customer safety.”

Sign-Ups and Banners recently had the opportunity to develop floor graphics for Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport in celebration of 40 years in flight. The company created very bright, colorful graphics that ranged in size from 4x4 feet to 8x8 feet, and were implemented throughout the airport. “These graphics really stand out and definitely capture a sense of celebration,” said Featherston.

Featherston expects more businesses to use floor graphics in high traffic areas to influence customer purchases. “There is a measurable increase in consumer responses when floor graphics are implemented,” she said. “Plus, we can create floor graphics in any size, shape, and color.”


Adhesion is the Key

Dave Peterson, director of sales and trade development, Vomela Specialty Company, St. Paul, MN, believes the greatest technological advances in the floor graphics market would fall into the adhesives category.

“Within the visual merchandising realm, cost is always a critical factor,” said Peterson. “Our ability to print long-lasting graphics for indoor applications, which are easily applied and removed without the need for professional installers and without damage to original surfaces and at a reasonable cost, has been critical to the resurgence in interest in floor graphics.”

Peterson feels the availability of cost effective, easily applied and removed floor graphics has many retailers looking to their suppliers to provide co-op dollars to fund various floor media campaigns.

“Using the floor to augment other in-store messaging, and even tying in floor graphic messaging with traffic flow, can provide for sound payback as measured by off the shelf, through the register movements,” said Peterson. “These days, more and more consumers are looking at their feet...iPhone or Blackberry in hand...wherever they go...why not try to catch their attention with eye-popping graphics on the floor?”

A current Vomela client operates more than 250 stores and leverages co-op dollars from key product suppliers to arrange up to 30 34x34-inch floor graphics for each store. These graphic sets are designed to last in the retail environment for six months, but generally are rotated out every three to four months. The opportunity was awarded to Vomela due to its ability to fabricate a high-resolution graphic that “popped” visually, and which could be installed by store personnel.

“The client was concerned about durability through all types of weather and floor cleaning operations, while ensuring the product’s ability to resist cracking or peeling during its time in store,” said Peterson. “A hassle free, long lasting graphic that reflected favorably on their store brand as well as the products they featured and sold to valued consumers.”

As the need to appeal to regional and niche demographics continues to escalate, Peterson said the need for unique, targeted messaging will also. “This will cause complexity in appropriately allocating dollars to print and OOH advertising to support brand owner needs,” he said. “In the brick and mortar realm—walls, floors, windows and doors will become increasing prime real estate to communicate to consumers, both current and targeted.”


Making it Stick

Michael Hidden, corporate graphic manager at Chicago, IL-based Freeman is impressed with the advances in the strength of both removable and more aggressive adhesives. “We can apply the aggressive adhesive to concrete sidewalks and they last for the length of the [trade] show,” he said. “We use the removable on the convention center floor and have no worries of leaving residue behind. We can use the product on stairs, on the escalator runners, and on the carpet without harming the convention center structure at all.” Freeman recently did some stair graphics for Chicago Dental.

Hidden is also excited about the advances in carpet printing, noting that a hot trend for carpets is using the show logo for aisle numbers at trade shows. “We print the aisle number right on the carpet with the show logo,” he reported.

Since Ultraflex came out with a thinner pile carpet with a thin rubber backing in a 16-foot width, Freeman has been producing 16-foot logos for show booths. “It’s easier to print on, dries a lot faster, and it doesn’t put as much wear and tear on the machines as the older, heavy, thicker carpet,” said Hidden. He says the future for carpet graphics is UV printing technology. “You get a better color gamut and do not have to worry about the drying issue.”

Another thing to keep your eye on, according to Hidden, are floor stickers. “I think the small stickers that are being used today will keep on getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “We are already doing 20-foot circles for shows.” Beyond that, Hidden can only imagine what the future holds for floor graphics, perhaps heat or touch sensor floor graphics. “When you step on them, the panel lights up or it leaves a hot print of your shoe,” he said. “I guess only time will tell.”


Steven Shaw is a freelance writer/editor and the former editor of The Commercial Image and Studio Photography. His work has appeared in magazines such as Industrial Photography, PTN, Printing News and Kitchen & Bath Design News.