By Jeff Wooten
“As business owners, we tend to leave our shops looking like second-rate spaces when we have the technology to make them stand out,” says David Soulsby, president/CEO of Central Graphics, Inc., a national sign and digital printing company based in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “It's amazing what we, as owners, can do for our clients but fail to do for ourselves.”
As an “inter-stellar” example of this self-marketing philosophy, Soulsby’s company has printed out and installed a vinyl door cover for its garage featuring a UFO. Not only is the graphic truly out of this world, but it’s also sparking interest here on the ground in the shop’s products—and its business. It’s also an example of how other sign shops and graphics providers can decorate their own premises and properties to attract customers and better explain what they can do for them.
Central Graphics is currently located in an 8,000-square foot building that was originally built in 1926 as a Ford® car dealership. “We have the ability—sometimes free ability—to make whatever space we have the best space it can be. I finally stopped wishing I had the best showroom/location to showcase our talents and just decided to use what [we] have,” says Soulsby. “If we don't brand ourselves, then someone else will.”
Soulsby’s company actually started out in 1993 as a business model he made for a class back in his college days. “I challenged myself to figure out what would be a better way to market signs and large format graphics,” he says, “so I dusted off the business plan I had developed in a marketing course. [The business] was originally called Sign Central, but I later changed it to Central Graphics when we realized we weren’t just in the sign business but also part of the large format industry.”
Under Soulsby's leadership, Central Graphics has grown to be an industry leader in Northeast Ohio by offering exceptional customer service, a wide range of visual products, and the development of strong, long-term relationships with clients of all sizes. (Note: Soulsby is also the founding partner of Soulsby Studios, a leading-edge marketing communications company. With offices in Hudson and Los Angeles, Soulsby Studios delivers end-to-end solutions for clients through print, design, Web, and advertising promotions.)
Central Graphics has worked on a lot of high-profile projects for clients like Nike, the Walt Disney Company, Twentieth-Century Fox, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and NBC Sports. The company has increased revenue every year, and profits are expected on average of more than 30 percent this year alone. Soulsby credits this growth and profitability to developing strong, long-term relationships.
(Note: Soulsby is a results-driven self-starter with proven leadership experience in various aspects of business (such as commercial real estate, marketing, and sales)—as well as twenty years of experience with Fortune 100 companies and entrepreneurial startups.)
While deciding on self-promotion of some sort, Soulsby looked stringently at how his business brands companies for a living. “We all make these wonderful and amazing graphics for everyone's company but our own,” he says. “It's like the saying, ‘The shoe maker's kids wear no shoes.’”
It was quickly decided that the company’s garage door would make the perfect canvas for self-promotion, so photographs with the door open and closed were taken for design idea purposes.
Soulsby then challenged his employees to come up with something “outside the box” that would grab attention without being “offensive” or “political.” “Our motto is: It's got to be different/unique but respectful to others,” says Soulsby, noting that they like to conduct business in a “fun, honest, and genuine atmosphere.”
Creative Director Charlie Wilson and Vice President of Operations Jeff Loofboro brainstormed together and came up with a variety of design ideas, including a giant alligator, a large fish tank, the space shuttle, a Formula One racecar, and an elephant.
But everyone within the company all agreed that the UFO design the two had come up with really clicked and laid out the company’s creative can-do philosophy. “We’re a very close team and tend to agree on the final projects,” says Soulsby, adding that the spaceship selected is also a perfect nod to the creativity of the vinyl designers and wrappers working inside the garage.
Wilson then used Photoshop to place the UFO spaceship into the image of the cramped garage. “After adding the UFO, all I had to do was add some shadows and correct the color to make the [spaceship] appeared like it was actually in the garage,” he says.
Three hours later, Wilson sent the finished graphic to an RIP program.
Using its new HP 25550 sixty-inch-wide latex printer, Central Graphics printed out this touched-up graphic onto some leftover MACtac vinyl that they had laying around the shop from previous jobs.
Soulsby adds that the spaceship design is also a perfect nod to the creativity of the vinyl designing and wrapping workers inside the garage. (Note: These traits were also put on display when the local newspaper profiled the company’s garage door wrap efforts—bringing even more exposure.)
Soulsby explains that applying vinyl to the garage door is just like attaching materials to vans or walls. “It goes on smooth and easy,” he says. “Installation only took about three hours.”
This isn’t the first time Central Graphics has printed up graphics for their own use—although it may be the most visible and the most attention-generating. They’ve wrapped the personal vehicles they use at the office and have even output and applied vinyl graphics in the restroom. “We wanted to create some extra space there but didn’t have the room to break down any walls,” says Soulsby.
After posting the pictures of the “spacey” wrapped garage door onto his company’s Facebook page, interest in these types of door coverings skyrocketed, and Soulsby is now entering orbit to market and produce these products for interested customers. He currently estimates the cost for one is between $750 and $1,200 (ranging on the production work needed) and figures they’ll last anywhere between five to eight years before fading.
Central Graphics has already received dozens of requests for themed seasonal doors for use at holidays like Halloween and Christmas this year. “We’ve also received a couple of orders for fake windows on home garage doors,” says Soulsby.
Soulsby is definitely a firm believer that self-promotion using digitally printed graphics of some capacity shouldn’t be an alien concept, and his company’s spaceship design definitely offers proof of success here.
For more information on marketing solutions available through Central Graphics or Soulsby Studios, call 330/928-7080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.