Tag : vehicle-wrap

74: Street Cred for Your Brand

VSP Graphics Employee WorkIn the last year, since wrapping my MINI in vinyl advertising, I’ve fielded a bevy of questions about the wrap and the company it advertises. The car has been featured on an internationally-followed podcast and in the leading trade magazine for the auction industry. In short, my investment has returned more exposure and publicity than I had anticipated. What started as a flamboyant tax deduction has grown into a key marketing tool for my business.

If you’re looking to turn heads with your company vehicle or turn your personal ride into a company billboard, here are some recommendations for getting the most out of your investment.

Google Search “Vehicle Wrap”
Before you start to generate ideas, discover what’s already out there. See what can be done—the possibilities and the limitations. And ask yourself what you like and why you like them. You’ll find common denominators that you can replicate for your design. I also recommend right-clicking those images and saving them into a folder to show your wrap designer. Make sure to also Google search the model of your vehicle and “wrap” to get an idea of the special considerations for which you’ll need to account on your vehicle.

Hire a Professional Wrap Designer
A wrap is a totally different bird to design than an ad, brochure, Web site, or logo. Moving from two to three dimensions is just the start. The nuances of the substrate, the curves of your vehicle, the mobile nature of the medium, and the installation process all but require someone with experience in wrap design. (I’m grateful my uncle’s wrap shop design team was present and patient to educate and help me.)

Wrap design firms like Cranky Creative and VSP Graphics can build you eye-popping composites on pictures of your vehicle to help you visualize the finished product and tweak it. With certified national installer networks, you can have national talent do the creative and have their work installed locally or at least regionally.

If you have an in-house designer and don’t mind them learning on your dime, most wrap companies can provide you with templates for your vehicle on which Illustrator or Photoshop designs can be overlaid. Design is done at full scale; so, the file sizes are quite large. Stock photos will be more expensive, as you’ll need the highest resolution version of each image. A consultant from a wrap company will save you headaches and money.

Grab Attention
With the top three car colors in the States being white, then black, then silver, it doesn’t take much to stand apart from traffic. If they match the rest of your branding, use bright colors and captivating photos. Regardless of design, you want your company logo and contact information to significantly contrast the background.

Keep It Simple
Vehicle wraps make great portable billboards, but don’t forget they’ll often be viewed as they are moving. Because of this, readability is a key design element. You need the message to be easily absorbed from various distances. Thus, the design shouldn’t be busy or crowded. Unless you have a van or tall SUV, you’ll want to avoid most text beyond your slogan and contact information. I highly recommend only one URL and only one phone number with very few exceptions.

[In my situation (with a statewide non-compete agreement), I’m not looking to generate local business from my wrap. So, my wrap’s design is intentionally more ambiguous than what I’d recommend to small businesses.]

Remember That ROI is Measured in Years
Some companies change their wraps frequently to promote different marketing campaigns, but most wraps typically live three to five years on their respective vehicles. When you take the number of daily impressions multiplied by 1,000 or 1,500+ days, your cost per impression is ridiculously low. That said, your wrap should pay for itself; so, add “vehicle wrap/advertising” to your list of media in your “How did you hear about us?” tracking.

Vancouver Mall ElevatorI also recommend covering the entire car with the wrap material—even if in a plain color, so that your paint doesn’t fade unevenly. Wraps protect the surface underneath them, which helps your resale value. Talk to your insurance agent about insuring the wrap, in the event of an accident.

Think Fleet
If you use multiple vehicles for work or otherwise, don’t forget they can all be brand extenders. You can wrap auction toppers, boats, and recreational vehicles. Don’t forget walls, elevator doors (like this one I saw in a mall), and appliances.

Wrapping your vehicle is a good next step in your marketing plan, but amateur design can advertise your lack of professionalism. Your vehicle can take your message places it never would go otherwise; make sure it’s taking the most effective, attractive message.

I’ve never been one for bumper stickers. I don’t like tailgaters, and I doubt many people have ever changed their mind based on a pithy bumper or metal fish outline. To be honest, I’m probably as least like Jesus behind the wheel than any other place; so, I don’t want to drag his cause through my accidental or intentional driving missteps.

A kind mentor of mine in high school and college got me a “Jesus is my copilot” license plate frame. I never put it on my vehicle for the reasons just mentioned. Too often, I don’t want Jesus as my wingman—sad as that is to admit. Sometimes, I prefer to do things he’s asked me not to do or that I don’t think he’d approve. That’s sinning against our relationship, even if there’s not a Bible verse to demarcate the line of infringement. And I need to remember he’s there, whether I’m comfortable with him joining me or not.

Even better would be for me to let him drive, since that’s his rightful place. My buddy, Will, says we often want a backpack Jesus—a God to take with us, a supernatural rabbit’s foot or genie lamp. But to reach our fullest eternal potential as determined by a sovereign Designer, we’ve got too ride shot gun.

66: Mug Shot Marketing

State Farm BillboardOn the way home from a North Carolina airport Monday, I passed a vibrant-red billboard (similar to the one above) with a giant human head pictured next to an insurance company logo and white letters that spelled something like, “You’re a name not a number.”

I found it ironic, since the appeal was made impersonally to a bunch of cars probably sold to the advertiser as “traffic count per day.” It was trite—a line entrepreneurs have made meaningless right next to “We specialize in customer service.”

But it got me thinking about a question I’ve been asked multiple times from small business marketers: “Should I put my picture in my advertising?”

The answer to that question depends on your profession and sometimes—hard truth—how attractive you are.

So, who CAN market themselves with portraits?

Politicians & Professional Speakers
Politics is big business, and your brand is wrapped around your personal image. That doesn’t mean all political materials need to have your likeness to be effective; but you get a pass on marketing with your pearly whites. If you have ever earned a sizable appearance fee, your audience already knows you like the spotlight. In either case, selling your face won’t make you seem any more arrogant—I mean, confident (sorry)—than you already are.

Athletes & Famous Chefs
If you’re trying to extend your financial security in your free time—and leverage your personality or body of work, your image might help sell your product or service. It has already been sold by TV networks and other appearances. You’ve got a photo excuse, even though your name may be enough to sell what you’re selling.

Media Celebrities & Personalities
If you’ve appeared regularly or significantly on screens or through speakers, pictures of you might help sell your work. More than likely, though, you’re not making the advertising decisions and answering the phone, as someone else is marketing your appearance. But if you’re pushing a post-reality-TV career, help yourself to public face time. And if you’re Chuck Norris—well, just know that everyone is too scared to buy what you’re selling.

Gynecologists & Proctologists
Some (though not all) women I know say they prefer women OBGYN physicians over their male counterparts; and maybe guys feel better about prostate rectal exams administered by other dudes—don’t know . . . haven’t crossed that bridge yet. If you work in gender-specific professions, you’ll get a pass, too. You may not always be able to illustrate exactly what you do with stock images, but you may be able to find a creative solution to illustrate the end result. Otherwise, your public proof of gender may be an asset to you.

Personal Trainers & Nutritionists
If you’re the result of what you’re selling, illustrate it. It doesn’t hurt to show the ramifications others have experienced; don’t neglect those—especially if they’re famous. But people want to see that you practice what you preach. That said, your picture doesn’t need to be the brand; so, don’t shy away from logos and other creative campaign imagery.

Baby Sitters & Nannies
Baby sitters don’t buy billboards or wrap their cars. It’s probably best for parents to use other family members or someone from a trust-fostering social group rather than strangers. But if you’re putting fliers in newspaper boxes or selling your child-supervision door-to-door, you might want to show that your face isn’t pierced too much to make it through airport security or framed in skull and evil clown tattoos.

Who should NOT market themselves with portraits?

Bench Seat
People like this local entrepreneur, pictured on a Kroger waiting bench; if you need me to explain, your friends may be carrying secret cameras for Stacy and Clinton. Faith healers who wear glasses—still don’t understand that visual irony. All ministers, actually. (If Mother Teresa wouldn’t, you probably shouldn’t either.) Divorce lawyers like this fellow. People who previously appeared in post office wanted posters. Currently-profitable drug dealers.

And probably you.

Sorry. If you don’t fit squarely in one of the above-bolded categories, your face is probably taking the place of either (1) more and better sales content and/or (2) white space to give your advertising breathing room. I know what you’re going to say: “But I’m an agent trying to sell myself, not just my [umbrella] company.” But does your face sell what you sell? Could you, instead, create a personal logo or advertising theme? Could you brand a creative URL or phone number? If you work for yourself, you hopefully passed on the chance to name your business after yourself and grabbed something memorable. This will give you more flexible branding options. (I have never regretted naming my design company after an open-cockpit aircraft.)

See the problem is that your brand should be uniform and everywhere, and we humans age faster than our logos. Your profile shot can sit next to your bio on your web site and maybe even on your business card, where people interact with it only by choice. But if people don’t want what you’re selling, more than likely, they won’t buy it because “they look like a nice person.” Don’t kid yourself: if your looks don’t get you a free lunch, they probably won’t get you business.

If you are going to market your mug shot, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Vehicle Wraps

  • Pay or barter for professional photography.
  • Have pictures taken from both right and left angles to give future advertising more flexibility.
  • Request both full body (preferably standing) and head shots.
  • Ask your photographer for high-resolution, masked images (those cut out from their backgrounds), and request both .JPG and .PSD versions of such. Even if you can’t open the files, keep them on hand to give to your designer and media outlets. (An advance thanks on behalf of whichever graphic designer you hire to handle these in your advertising.)
  • And go all in. If you do signs, billboards, vehicle wraps, brochures, newspaper ads, etc., you want your marketing to be consistent. Use the same look across all media as closely as possible, and realize that you’ll need to update your materials on an annual or biannual basis.


I’ll just put it on the table: one of the hardest parts of the Christian life is living in full, willing understanding of the fact that our lives our meant for one purpose: when people see us, they should see Jesus. I pray for that on Sunday mornings, when I take my directional antics to my church’s parking lot. Sometimes, I even pray that over my hangar time.

But it’s too easy to work on my Ryan brand, the one I’ve so well crafted and curated for public consumption. As an often-insecure business owner, sometimes I take biplane’s image-building past healthy levels, too. My mug gets in the way.

Thankfully, we are not without example. Christ came and showed us what a self-abandoned life looks like. While people knew him for his miracles and captivating oratory skills, Jesus was able to say with heaven’s approval: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

I’m not there yet, but I hope that each year the people around me can see more and more of the one who planned my birth, my life path, and my gifts—for his glory. How ’bout you? What parts of your life are obstructing other people from seeing God alive in you?

[footer]Vehicle wrap images used by permission from Barbra Bannon of Cranky Creative.
Billboard image from this uncopyrighted gallery.[/footer]

47: Take Your Message to the Streets

Hutch UnwrappedFor over a century, business owners have labeled their wagons and motorized vehicles with their respective companies’ names. For decades, precision painters scripted entrepreneurs names on the door of their trucks and vans. Decades later, vinyl lettering came along for faster, crisper installation of words and artwork. Then, a little over a decade ago, 3M perfected a product that could be wrapped around vehicles, expanding the advertising space to include almost the entire surface of a vehicle (I even have advertising on my roof).

Now, people can still get your dot com, phone number, and company name from those little white letters on your tailgate or rear window. But they could get more than information. They could get an idea of the kind of company you run, the culture of your staff, the type and value of the items or services that you sell.

With a vehicle wrap.

I recently had VSP Marketing Graphics Group of West Seneca, NY, transform my MINI Cooper with a vinyl wrap. [If you follow me on Twitter, you saw a live photo blog of the transformation process. I’ve also uploaded the pictures and process descriptions here.]

Already I’ve found several significant benefits stemming from this investment.

Brand Awareness
If your brand includes a modern logo and is well maintained across multiple media, a wrap will extend that professional image to people who would not otherwise interact with it. For a company looking for local or regional customers, there’s no medium as ubiquitous as public roads and parking lots. Due to a non-compete agreement with my local client, I wasn’t looking to gain local business from my MINI wrap. But in just the first couple weeks, I’ve had multiple inquiries about biplane from people looking at my car. biplane, a company run from a quiet-neighborhood basement, flew onto the radar of my community.

Hutch Wrapped

Wow Factor
I started designing cars when I was in junior high—aspired to that career in high school, when I drew over 500 vehicle designs. So, when the opportunity came to literally create the skin my sports car would wear, I spent well over a year mulling artistic elements. But that design time is atypical in the vinyl wrap industry, and the finished product matches biplane’s brand image and stands out in traffic. I’ve literally seen heads turn and people point at it. You can’t miss the vehicle, which means people can’t miss your advertising. It makes a three-dimensional, moving impression. In traffic, you become the visual exception—the unexpected and colorful image that gets remembered.

Cost Value
Your vehicle presents a large canvas—probably much larger than my MINI. At a national average of $15-$25 per square foot (including installation), you can’t ask for a better value in visual promotion. A typical wrap lasts 3-4 years. So, your one-time expense can end up costing you less than 48¢ per thousand viewers. Try that in newsprint, television, or direct mail!

Tax Benefit
In my case, wrapping my MINI allowed my personal vehicle to count as a business expense. Should I use this wrap for three years, as planned, the tax benefit should be roughly ten times the cost of the wrap. Consult your accountant and your auto insurer, but you may be able to turn one or more of your personal vehicles into mobile signs—with a net gain on your taxable income.

In advertising, we’re constantly confronted with upgrade choices like black-and-white versus color, postcards versus brochures, or line ads versus display ones. Strategic choices of where to upgrade and how much can accelerate or decelerate your brand’s growth in the marketplace. But a vehicle wrap should be a no-brainer. It’s the best value in corporate promotion and constantly introduces your company to new potential customers who wouldn’t know of you from any other medium.

As holiness grows in you, sinful habits and negative influences will shed from your life. But sanctification doesn’t mean perfection or demur asceticism. It means “set apart,” something different than secularism and the world Satan has fogged with deceit. Some Christians take this concept as an excuse to hide from culture, to avoid interaction with the secular—except on the church’s terms or in cold-call canvassing.

From my experience, especially here in the Bible Belt, people want something different than both the dark realities of their habitat and the plastic facade of America’s church culture. But they want the difference to be authentic, not manufactured—inspiring, not entertaining.

If we live from the core of who we are (and who we’re becoming), God can use our personalities, interests, talents, and perspective for Kingdom benefit. So, rather than hide behind some clichés and coverups, we need to catch those who watch us off guard with our response to life—standing apart from the rat race, the status quo, even the American Dream. When we wrap our outside with what God is bubbling on the inside, we can pull out into life’s traffic and expect heads to turn. We can then redirect them to “turn [their] eyes upon Jesus; look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”