These harsh economic times are taking their toll on many industries. Downsizing, bankruptcy, and businesses shutting down have become everyday news. But while some markets are on the downswing, and others are holding steady, a select few are actually seeing expansion. One of those markets is vehicle wraps.
With fast turnaround times, less expensive equipment, and an economical way to advertise, vehicle wraps are becoming all the rage. Several high-profile executives in the industry recently took time from their busy schedules to shed light on the success of vehicle wraps.
"I have seen a steady increase in the wrap industry for the past five years," says Eric Rosencrantz, CEO, EMR Graphics LLC, "and an even bigger push within the last two years." Randolph, NJ-based EMR Graphics is one of 3M's authorized Scotchprint manufacturers.
"That sets us apart from other graphic manufacturers," Rosencrantz says. "I think it's important to establish yourself as something special, to differentiate yourself from your competition. We pride ourselves on our quality, service, rapid turnaround, and state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. This is what makes our clients keep coming back."
Rosencrantz has been installing vinyl graphics since the mid-80s and says so much has changed since then. "I remember when 3M released their Comply vinyl and that was the game changer," he recalls. "In my experience, using 3M graphic film exclusively in my plant, the films have become easier to handle, less aggressive and almost anybody with some patience and common sense could apply vehicle graphics with a little practice."
Rosencrantz believes one of the biggest reasons there has been such rapid growth in the industry in the past few years is because more "everyday" people understand the process. "I remember back in '03 and '04 people would call and ask how much the paint job cost," he laughs. "I had explained that it was not a paint job I had on my vehicle, but rather a removable 'decal' that could protect their paint and could be removed within a few hours bringing your car back to its original condition. People were always amazed."
With the Internet offering answers to almost every wrap question and a wide array of entry-level printing and finishing equipment becoming available, the mystery is gone and more people understand and, more importantly, want vehicle wraps.
"With the films getting easier to print and apply, less expensive machines producing beautiful graphics, and low-cost (about $35,000) cold laminators available, anyone can start a print shop," says Rosencrantz, "and plenty of people are doing just that."
While many smaller print shops are popping up, EMR is busier than ever and the future looks bright...literally. "We have wrapped everything from trains to boats to huge buildings, even a Lamborghini Murcielago whose owner wanted to change the paint color from silver to metallic orange and that turned out absolutely perfect," says Rosencrantz, adding that many manufacturers of wrap vinyl are now going for that "different" look. "The days of using your standard matte, lustre and gloss lamination on a wrap film is evolving into pearlescent, sparkle, shade shifter, even painted cast wrap vinyl," he says. "I think guys are trying to set themselves apart from others by mixing and matching different looks. Printed film with special lamination, or the use of reflective material on top of wrap lettering, for that true custom look...even reflective window perf has come back into our market after a brief hiatus."
"People are recognizing the value in vehicle wraps more than ever," says Rod Voegele, president of Gator Wraps in Ontario, CA. "They are taking a closer look at their marketing budget and reallocating their money to where it gets the best return, [which is] vehicle graphics."
The key to putting graphics on a vehicle is having the right people, according to Voegele. "There are installers, and there are great installers. You have to have the best on your team to grow your business," he says, adding that great vehicle wraps start with a designer that understands the installation process. "Our designers work hand in hand with our installers to make it easy for them," explains Voegele. "Almost every time we receive graphics from someone that is not in the industry full time, we spend more time fixing the files than if we would have created them ourselves."
Voegele also notices a change in the business. "It used to be more about business in the construction trade that used their vehicle for marketing," he notes. "Now we wrap everything from hair salons, restaurants, and construction to start up companies trying to brand their business." One of his favorite projects was when a woman asked if they could wrap a VW bug to look like a baseball if she bought one for her husband. "Two weeks later she surprised him with the Baseball Bug," he laughs. "The guy is a huge baseball fan and was really excited."
The future in this market is endless, according to Voegele. "There's new talent entering the industry everyday and they're bringing great new ideas to take [this market] to the next level," he says. "A lot of sign shops are getting into vehicle wraps, which is helping raise awareness for the industry and create more excitement."
One of the advantages to using vehicle wraps is that it is much faster than paint. "We can have a whole car wrapped in a day," says Eddie Paul, founder and president of EPI. "If it were paint, it would take a week or more...and the detail is photo perfect." While Paul adds that his company can do touch-ups of damaged areas in a manner of minutes, doing "damage" to cars that may be his future.
Paul says EPI is constantly looking for new applications for vehicle wraps. "We are more into the studio end of things and are finding more areas to use graphics than just making a car look good," he says. "A car can be aged or made to look scratched or shot up without actually doing the real damage." The motion picture industry would surely be interested in this concept as a way to save money rather than destroying actual cars while filming. "While this has not yet happened, it is being considered as a new way to damage a car without really damaging it," observes Paul.
Working in motion pictures is nothing new for EPI. "The best example of our work is probably the Pixar cars that we built," says Paul. "We also are using wraps more in the film area to add more detail to props. We found it to be much faster than any other way of adding detail."
The graphic vehicle market is very hot right now, according to Andy Salcido, account executive, Blue Media, as more people have to come to realize how effective this form of advertising is. "When compared to other traditional forms of advertising, it's hard to beat the price [of vehicle wraps] for the amount of impressions a vehicle gets," he says. "More business owners have seen the value of wraps. Especially the types of businesses that would not traditionally advertise on a vehicle, such as funeral homes, dentists, chiropractors, and real estate agents.
Blue Media's clients range from companies that have large fleets all the way down to the business owner who has one vehicle. But it is its most recent client that has everyone buzzing. "The Metro Light Rail project we just completed for the NBA All-Star Game is definitely unique in the fact the this Mass Transit System is brand new for Phoenix," states Salcido. The City Transit Organization has been undecided about whether or not to sell ad space on the new rail cars, but with the All-Star Game being held in Phoenix this year, it was determined that Blue Media could wrap four complete cars to promote the event. "This is being used as a trial and will hopefully help the members of the transit organization decide if they will pursue selling ad space in the future," reports Salcido.
This is not Blue Media's first foray into the sports world. "We were hired to wrap several race cars for NASCAR that were used for the filming of a commercial and was also used heavily as the intro to the Sunday afternoon races [on TV]," says Salcido. And, while it is hard to say what is next, Salcido is confident business will keep growing. "The printers are getting faster and have better resolution," he says. "Developments in vinyl are ongoing and some of the new versions of the 3M products we are using are easier to install. The economy is definitely affecting all forms of advertising, but the smart businesses are taking advantage of this great way to get your name out there."