When AC Electrical Contractors Ltd. of Toronto decided to rebrand and wrap their four service trucks with a new design, it was a leap of faith.
"We've been in business since 1991, but at some point we made the switch from commercial electrical work to residential work and installations, which is a huge market," says Hellen Alafogiannis who owns the business with her husband Nicolas.
"We wanted that reflected on our trucks in something that is simple, clean and professional looking — but cute. However, when you're driving past a truck, you have about two seconds to get your message across and try to be memorable, so you can't bombard people with too much information."
AC approached 10West Commercial Graphics in Pickering to wrap its four service trucks. The company's owner recommended that they first develop a design with Graphic D-Signs, Inc., a New Jersey-based advertising agency that works with small and mid-sized businesses.
"It was expensive and it was a risk for a small company," says Alafogiannis. "We wanted to invest in our own brand and our instincts told us to go ahead with the redesign."
Alafogiannis contracted agency owner Dan Antonelli to develop a retro-modern design for all of its branding including signs, advertising and business cards. The centerpiece of the design is an anthropomorphic appliance plug mascot, since dubbed Wattson. The truck wrap design was simple, incorporating Wattson, the business name, a web site, a telephone number and the phrase "Your Home Electricians" highlighting the contractor's residential focus.
10West converted the electronic design files into a truck wrap and applied it to the service vehicles.
"Our instincts were right," says Alafogiannis.
"In the first year alone, our four trucks generated enough additional sales to pay for the wrapping. We screen our calls and ask people how they heard about us. Many of them say they saw our truck parked or driving by. A lot of people call us on the road when they see our trucks."
The company fields five electricians, but she notes that the trucks have generated an image of a much larger company.
"When one of our trucks was recently rear-ended, the driver of the other vehicle said he wanted to talk to the head of our vehicle department," says Alafogiannis. "That image of a larger, professional company has also helped me to increase the quality of employees we attract. It increases their pride in working for us and inspires them to project a professional image as well."
Antonelli is the author of Building a Big Small Business Brand of which one chapter was devoted to truck wraps that "stink."
"Wraps are still pretty terrible," he says.
"A lot of people are getting into the wrap business with no training or background. But in their defense, you still have a lot of business owners buying truck wraps who don't understand the medium and direct the company to fill the wrap with bullet lists and useless phrases like 'free estimates,' Facebook logos and e-mail addresses. All of this on a canvas that experiences two to three seconds of viewing time."
Antonelli advises contractors to distill their brand into something that can be appreciated and understood in just a few seconds.
"You could paint your truck pink or orange and it would certainly be noticeable and memorable," he says. "But your brand needs to speak to the consumers in a meaningful way and project to them a reasonable expectation of what they will get if they choose to work with you. It should make them feel confident and comfortable and inspire a high expectation of what your company stands for."
Antonelli has worked across the world and notes that brand theft has become much more common, so contractors should be vigilant to ensure that the design they're buying is original.
"One of our contracting customers has had his mascot stolen seven or eight times," he says. "In one case, the owner of some trucks who didn't realize they featured the stolen logo had to strip off truck wraps worth $10,000."
Alafogiannis notes that wrapping the company trucks has provided an additional benefit in resale value.
"We recently sold one of our trucks," she says. "We had the wrap removed with infrared and when it came off, the truck looked like it was in mint condition."