Adrian Cook, marketing manager at 3M Commercial Solutions, says, “Graphics and signage generally have become a more relevant purchase to customers that previously may not have needed them, allowing them to expand access into new markets and applications.”
And although the vehicle graphics market slowed down considerably in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic this year (particularly as businesses ended up reducing their spending on marketing, branding, and capital investments), it is starting to see a return in investment for some clients. “While the market has bounced back, certain segments are definitely outperforming others,” says Cook. “For example, demand for wraps for delivery vehicles is increasing while tourism, sports, and event-related industries remain depressed.”
One business owner that has had to alter his promotional opportunities due to the pandemic by successfully employing highly effective vehicle wraps instead is Jordan Burham.
Burham is the founder and owner of Suntown Sparkling, a company based in Denver, Colorado that infuses CBD (cannabidiol) in its zero-calorie, zero-sugar, alcohol-alternative beverage to help people relax and unwind. “We have two flavors—Citra, which is made with citra hops and lemon, and Tropic, which we make with coconut and a lime flavor, as well as hemp terpenes,” he says.
Considering themselves still somewhat of a start-up, Burham’s company doesn’t really possess a large marketing budget, so it’s important that their dollars are spent soundly and strategically. And since they had been representing their brand since its inception at events like festivals and farmers markets, as well as through making deliveries, Burham really felt that an on-the-go, mobile billboard would be the best option to invest in for his marketing.
However the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic rattled those plans.
Burham has found that the best promotion for his “new and unique” Suntown Sparkling brand is getting people to physically try it. “We usually do samplings at festivals and concerts, but the [pandemic] has really affected our marketing since they’re not really around anymore,” he says. “And with restaurants being shut down, it has been harder to get sales and promote the brand as a healthy alcohol alternative.”
Visibility was going to be key now more than ever, so Burham turned his attention and dollars to wrapping his company’s 2007 Chevy Express 1500 Cargo Van with Suntown Sparkling branding. Burham figured that a more out-and-about wrap would be an ideal method to getting his beverage’s message to the public these days, but he had two dilemmas: (1.) figuring out a way to achieve the perfect wrap design, and (2.) finding the perfect shop to apply this branding. Fortunately he was able to accomplish both these tasks by utilizing the Wrapmate service.
Wrapmate is an end-to-end digital platform that helps its customers get their graphics designed, printed, and installed (no matter where they are located). The company is actually in the midst of a three-year global collaboration agreement with 3M Commercial Solutions to help businesses improve their marketability within a one-stop-shop network of print, signage, and vehicle graphics professionals and resources.
Large format printing specialist Summit Graphics of Commerce City, Colorado is a part of the Wrapmate network, and through this system, they were called upon to complete this van wrap project for Suntown Sparkling.
Summit Graphics has been in business for seventeen years now, and they are a fully 3M certified company holding both UASG and MCS certifications. “We do just about everything you can imagine—including vehicle wraps, banners, corporate identity signage, interior/exterior signs, and wall murals,” says Owner Jason Johnson. “Our ten-person staff has a vast amount of experience in the industry, totaling approximately one hundred years of experience.”
The Wrapmate system serves a couple of functions. On one hand, end-user customers can utilize the service’s advanced Augmented Reality (AR) technology to visualize and create vehicle graphics for a number of vehicles and applications.
And on the other hand, Wrapmate supports a network of top certified graphics professionals (“Wrapmate Pros”) by providing them with nearby custom vehicle wrap projects as well as the tools to help them manage their projects.
Thanks to their location and their experience, Wrapmate approached Johnson (who is a Wrapmate Pro) to have his shop accomplish Burham’s vehicle branding needs. Burham had already come up with a wrap design that would reflect the Suntown Sparkling message—bright lettering, bluish forest scenery, descriptions of the beverage flavors, and the company’s Web site address and hashtags.
“Wrapmate supplied us with these production files,” says Johnson. “We had to do very little to them to make them ready to produce. We just did our normal double-checking.
“After verifying that everything was correct, we then printed out the files using our Seiko M64 printer.”
Summit Graphics used 3M™ Controltac™ Graphic Film Series 180 vinyl with 8518 gloss laminate for the panels.
Fortunately Johnson’s company has wrapped this particular van model hundreds of times before, so there were no surprises on this job.
One of their goals is to make every wrap look like an actual paint job, so this means they have to make the wraps as seamless as possible. “So we broke out the panels to avoid any seams. And where that wasn’t possible, we produced it for minimal seams,” says Johnson.
Installation was simple—involving nothing extra than the typical squeegee, torch…and Summit Graphics’ skill set.
The Wrapmate system that played an instrumental role in this project is designed to help customers directly create their dream wrap design yet have a local Wrapmate Pro (for example, Summit Graphics on this Suntown Sparkling van wrap) handle all project logistics and coordinate production and installation. “Whether it’s educating end-users around vehicle wrap pricing with our instant price calculator or showing users an example design with our design bot, we eliminate barriers to entry by leveraging tools that consumers can use to get their wrap on the road quickly and efficiently,” says Jeff Luery, marketing director of Wrapmate.
On the sign shop front, all members of the Wrapmate Pro network have access to the Pro Portal to receive new customer projects and their production files. “Pros can use the portal to swiftly work their way through the project’s completion,” says Luery.
Wrapmate is more than just vehicle graphics. In today’s COVID-19-focused world, there has been a significant increase in demand for floor graphics. “Many stores and restaurants have utilized floor signage throughout the pandemic to provide six-foot social distance markings on the ground so customers stay a safe distance away from other visitors and staff,” says Luery.
Cook says that 3M saw an initial surge for floor graphics in March and April from essential businesses that remained open throughout those months. “Then we saw a second surge as non-essential businesses that had previously been closed prepared to reopen,” he says. “And while the demand for floor graphics has stabilized, customers have seen how they can use them to communicate important messages even after COVID-19.”
Meanwhile Wrapmate’s previously mentioned AR technology can be useful while social distancing guidelines are in place because it allows users to see a vehicle wrap with their actual branding on it from the comfort of their home, as happened with the Suntown Sparkling project. “It requires no human interaction whatsoever,” says Luery. “Furthermore all of our current customers who are purchasing vehicle wraps through us have the option to get a ‘contactless wrap.’ This allows customers to drop-off and pick-up their vehicle before and after installation without requiring any face-to-face.”
In the end, Burham was able to arrive at an effective van wrap design for Suntown Sparkling and get it installed quickly and effectively thanks to Wrapmate Pro member Summit Graphics. Now the stress-free Suntown Sparkling message is out on the road and in the parking lots reaching potential customers during these stressful times!