Sunday, March 25, 2012

Top 5 Rules for Effective Vehicle Wrap Design

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

5 Rules for Effective Vehicle Wrap Design

If you examined most wraps on the road today, you’d think the concept of designing a simple, easy-to-read message was difficult to understand. It’s really not, once you understand the fundamentals of what it takes to build a good wrap.

The characteristics of good wrap design and vehicle advertising -- those which use proper branding, and easy-to-discern messaging -- are rarely employed on most vehicle wraps seen on the road today. This explains why many wraps are failures from an advertising standpoint, and sadly a wasted opportunity for the businesses deploying them. This can be primarily attributed to a lack of education and understanding about the actual medium. In years past, the prerequisites for billboard painters and truck lettering artists were years of study and apprenticeships. Mastering the craft is a bit easier today, since the primary barrier to entry is acquiring the cash to buy a large format digital printer. So, while the sign or wrap company may be brilliant at installing wraps, they may lack experience in the study of effective advertising in an outdoor realm.

The following rules can help you better understand the fundamentals for good wrap design and vehicle advertising. Whether you are a designer hoping to improve your layouts, or a small business owner trying to gain market share, these tips will help you get the maximum impact and return on investment for your outdoor vehicle advertising programs.

Rule #1: Start with A Great Brand
"The response has been phenomenal. People go out of their way to compliment
the trucks. You can see people turning their heads as we drive by," says
Marcus Camferrman, owner of Air Zero, who had their brand identity
and wrap designed by NJ advertising agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.
One reason that so many wraps fail from a marketing perspective is because the business has a poor brand identity and logo. The brand should always be the primary message for a vehicle wrap, unless you have national brand recognition. For small businesses trying to make an impact in their community, the message is always about the brand. Starting with a poor brand means you’ve failed before you’ve begun: by wasting money on a wrap and missing a huge marketing opportunity.

We generally only do wrap design for clients whose brands we’ve created, because companies who come to us with an existing brand often have a terrible one. And if they won’t change it, we won’t design it. What is surprising is that we are usually the first ones to tell them that. I guess the other sign companies never mention that because they don’t want to lose the job. While I can understand that, a surprising number of clients really appreciate the candor and the fact that we only have their best interests in mind. It’s too much money to play with. I’m certainly not going to be responsible for wasting your money by trying to work with a brand that has no business being implemented on a wrap. The brand is the message, period.

Rule #2: Don’t Use Photos
Retro-themed truck wrap example for carpet cleaning company in Orlando,
FL. Note how an effective brand implementation works better than a photo.
I’ve had this discussion often with other sign makers, and some disagree with me on this point. However, I believe that there are few effective wraps that use photos, and I’d argue that any wrap that uses a photo could have been more effectively done without one. The photo is not a brand identity; it doesn’t connect me with the business name. Maybe it connects me with what the company does, but so should a good brand

Take the usual examples, like the HVAC contractor with a picture of an air conditioner. Great. Now I know you do air conditioning, but who are you? I don’t know, because I only have 2.5 seconds to view the message. Or consider the contractor and the picture of a house. Great. A house. But are you a siding company, a roofing company, a window installer, powerwasher, a landscaper or an electrician? I have no idea, since the photo is the dominant element. After my 2.5 seconds are up, your message is lost amidst all the other things trying to grab my attention.

Perhaps on box trucks or trailers you can use a photo, but I’d still argue a more powerful brand integration would be more effective. National chains have an easier time using photography, because, once again, their brand is already known and the message need not be 100% focused on who or what the brand is. Small businesses don't have this luxury.

Rule #3: Limit Your Advertising Copy

It's especially important to keep simple messaging on smaller vehicles,
as this wrap design for a maid service in Texas illustrates.
There’s only 3 or 4 things a good wrap needs: strong brand implementation, and perhaps tagline messaging, a web address, and maybe a phone number. Bullet lists, which look more like shopping lists, have no place on a vehicle. This isn’t the yellow pages. Would you rather list 10 things and have none remembered, or convey one to two memorable takeaways? If this truck were a billboard, how much copy would be on it? Billboards have the exact same challenges as vehicle advertising. If you prioritize your copy, it will be more effective. In general, the hierarchy should always be: BRAND, TAGLINE, WEB and/or PHONE NUMBER.

This vehicle wrap for mechanical contractor (HVAC) in Florida is
unique due to a compelling brand that we integrated into the design.
Rule #4: Design to Stand Out, Not Fit In

This isn’t the part where many might say diamond plate, carbon fiber, tribal flames will make your truck wrap stand out. Quite the contrary. By eliminating all those fills, noisy backgrounds, photos, bevels, and glows, you’ll be on your way to designing a wrap which actually stands out. The wrap market is littered with visual noise. When we see something with impact -- something that we can actually read and remember -- it can't help but stand out among the visual clutter. That’s what is so ironic to me. People think our vehicle wrap designs are innovative simply because they are unlike what everyone else seems to be doing. So -- they stand out.

Brand, brand, brand. It's all about the brand for this wrap and
brand identity our NJ advertising agency created for this
Georgia-based HVAC contractor.
Rule #5: Simple and Obvious is Good
If the viewer needs to work too hard to figure out the primary brand messaging, it’s an opportunity lost. The medium isn’t the same as print design, where the viewer can stop, absorb the advertising and try and understand the message. Consider that one, primary takeaway you’re hoping to leave with the viewer. What is it? And does the wrap effectively communicate it? Is it lost in the imagery? Distance legibility is, of course, a primary concern. You have very limited time to capture the viewer’s attention and have your brand and message be understood and remembered.

best hvac truck wrap, heating and air truck wrap example.
Fleet wrap design for HVAC company in San Antonio, Texas.

Retro HVAC Truck Wrap
Retro themed HVAC truck wrap example.

Retro themed truck wrap example for plumbing, heating and air company near Chicago.

Truck wrap example showing effective brand integration for a heating and air contractor in Fayeteville.

One of our best truck examples, showing a cohesive brand integration and easy to read messaging. 

Another view of this vehicle wrap for a handyman company.

Click here for more examples of effective vehicle wraps.

Dan Antonelli is the President and Creative Director of Graphic D-Signs, Inc, a NJ advertising agency specializing in small business advertising, marketing, and brand development, including HVAC logo design and HVAC web design services.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How the Facebook Timeline is Evolutionizing Social Media...Again

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

If you are reading this blog, chances are you landed here via Facebook. And if you landed here via Facebook, chances are that you, your business--or both--have a Facebook profile. In case you haven't noticed, the folks at Facebook like to keep us on our toes with changes to the virtual landscape. The latest and greatest "upgrade" is the Timeline. A once-optional user interface, Timeline will become a mandatory part of every individual and business profile on Mar. 31, 2012. So, what does this change mean for your company?

Click here to view our timeline!
There are several key components of Timeline that are different than the current profile page. While you may not love them, they are the future of Facebook--so it's important to embrace these changes instead of fight them. Here are some of the new features:
  1. Administrator Access: The Timeline allows you to assign up to five different degrees of access for page administrators and gain access to real-time analytics surrounding popular activity metrics. 
  2. Cover Photo: Possibly the most noticeable change, the cover photo displays across the top of a page's timeline...and it is sizably larger than the current profile picture. Use this cover image to tell your brand's story, showcase photos or highlight the unique selling points of a product or service. Remember, the cover photo cannot be a "billboard" for your business; that means it cannot include prices, purchase information, calls to action or company contact information. It also cannot urge people to “Like” or “Share” your page. 
  3. Custom Tabs: These spaces will automatically display several items, like a brand’s photos and its number of “likes.” However, they can also be customized. You can have large icons linking to your custom tabs (i.e. Social Campaigns) at the top of your Timeline, giving them more visibility. If your business has apps or coupons, this is a prominent way to display them.
  4. Optional Message Button: A private messaging option allows fans and customers to communicate with your business in a one-on-one environment. This feature gives customers the power to voice complaints or negative feedback in private, and out of the public Facebook eye. Private messaging gives your business the opportunity to (1) identify weaknesses with your service or product, and (2) offer real-time solutions to defuse customer concerns. Customers want to be heard, and this provides them with that platform. 
  5. Pinning: By now, most of us have heard of Pinterest. In a similar fashion, the new Facebook pinning function allows companies to keep a particular promotion or offer at the forefront of their page for a full week. So, while you continue to populate your page with daily information and status updates, you can also keep timely messages "sticky" at the top, where they won't get lost. 
Ten years ago, the word Facebook was unheard of -- and now we can't imagine life without it. Concerned about the latest changes to the social media landscape? GDS social media strategists can help you make the most of Facebook's new functionality. To put Timeline to work for your business, or to inquire about monthly social media campaign plans, contact our NJ advertising team today. 

Dan Antonelli is the President and Creative Director of Graphic D-Signs, Inc, a NJ Advertising Agency specializing in small business advertising, marketing, and brand development in New Jersey and across the country.