Fleet managers, write this down: A single commercial van with an effective exterior “wrap” operating within a major city can generate up to 16 million visual impressions per year, according to an oft-cited study from the American Trucking Association. Needless to say, taking advantage of that exposure — and converting some of those eyeballs into business — is key. A typical vehicle wrap can cost between $2,500 and $3,000 — but consider the payoffs, also cited in the study:

  • 96 percent say fleet graphics have more impact than billboards or other outdoor media.
  • 91 percent notice the words and images displayed on vehicle graphics.
  • 75 percent develop an impression about a company and its products based upon vehicle graphics.

We talked to some industry pros about how fleet managers can get the most for their money:

Smart Design

A service van is often the first direct exposure a company has to its customers and prospects. How can you ensure than your graphics grab their attention? It’s important to work with designers who understand your brand’s messaging and color scheme, says Peter Salaverry, CEO of SkinzWraps, a national full-service vehicle-wrap company headquartered in Dallas. “Pre-made templates and artwork are amateurish at best, and give off the wrong impression,” Salaverry says. “It’s the task of the artist to take your components and present an image that’s unique, consistent and builds off your brand.”

  • Get Your Messaging Down: Salaverry says it’s essential to understand the strategic implications of your wrap design. Where does the viewer’s eye go first? (Answer: It should be the company name.) Where should the phone number and website address go? Where should you put your logo? 3M has a “visual attention service” (VAS) tool on its website that can scan an image of your graphic and show where a viewer’s eye is likely to gravitate.
  • Use the Space: There’s lot of space on a van — so use it. Wording on the hood can be laid out in reverse text so it can be read from a driver’s rear-view mirror. And remember the rear doors. Drivers often have a few seconds to kill, so why not give them something useful to read?
  • But Don’t Clutter: While it’s important to maximize space, a common mistake companies make is to try to say too much on the wrap, which clutters the appearance and diminishes its sales impact. “You want [graphics] as simple and crisp as possible, because the reader doesn’t have much time,” says Tim Boxeth, a business manager with 3M Commercial Graphics. Boxeth calls that the “five second rule.” Keep the content of the graphics focused on one or two key messages at most.

The Right Materials

Designing “eye-popping” graphics is only half the equation: The right wrap material, or film, is also important to the overall effectiveness of your graphics. After spending all that time and money on the design, you don’t want it to fad or fall off after a few weeks.

  • Use High-End Materials: Low-quality film may shrink prematurely — sometimes within a year — diminishing the look and impact of your vehicle branding. “As the [film] shrinks, there’s a little residue that’s left behind, which collects dirt that creates a ring around your graphics,” Boxeth says. “If you’re going to spend the money on vehicle graphics, don’t skimp on the materials to save a nickel — it will cost you more in the long run.”
  • Weigh Gloss vs. Luster Laminates: Glossy laminate gives a factory-quality wet-paint look, enhancing colors. But in places where there’s a lot of sun, the luster laminate may be a better fit because it minimizes glare, improving readability. 
  • Consider Your Climate: “In some parts of the country, with intense sun, or as is often the case in Los Angeles, acid dew, it can cause staining or brown-spotting in your standard materials,” Boxeth warns. “In those cases, you want materials with extra protection for those elements.”
  • Find the Right Fit for Your Vehicle Make and Model: Some vehicles present challenges with corrugated and riveted surfaces, which if not covered properly can lead to air bubbles and moisture that cause premature wrap failure. Boxeth says it’s important to make sure the film you choose is a good fit for your particular vehicle model and can stretch appropriately.

More: How to Pimp Your Van (and Other Fleet Vehicle Considerations).

Click here to download a free whitepaper, “Five Steps to Make Field Service Profitable.” 

ABOUT Sean Lyden

Avatar photoSean is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a content strategy and editorial consulting firm, and also serves as editor for Utility Fleet Professional magazine. A nationally recognized feature writer on sales, marketing, technology and transportation topics, Sean is also a contributing author to "The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide” and “The Great Big Book of Business Lists,” both books published by Entrepreneur Press.