Many van owners fail to make use of the single, most obvious method of selling their own products or services.... their vehicle (small, medium or large) is a constantly moving advertisement which actively communicates with potential customers all year round. There may be many reasons for this – cost, security (you don’t want to advertise gear in the van) or just a plain lack of knowledge of what is available. If you're slapping a No Smoking sticker on your van's dashboard to comply with new legislation you may want to consider the state of the vehicle's exterior signwriting at the same time.
Should I or Shouldn’t I?
Unless you have an absolutely critical reason not to, for example you are involved in some form of surveillance or need to be discrete as a sub contractor, you should make maximum use of your van as an advertising opportunity. Why? Because every venture needs exposure and communication with potential new customers is critical to building up your business. It is no good being a skilled tradesmen, having the best product in the world or the keenest prices, if people are not made aware of this. Your van is the simplest and probably the cheapest all year round method of doing this.
What about theft?
It is true that if you’re distributing tools you might not want to advertise the fact but this should not put you off advertising your company and contact details. In terms of security the best advice is to empty your van if possible each night, consider renting space in a secure yard or lockup and take precautions on the van itself such as window blackout film and metal grilles, a bulkhead to secure the load area and a decent set of locks can all help to deter potential thieves.
What are your options?
Van livery used to be limited to a vehicle colour (normally your companies colour), the company name and some contact details. In recent years, companies like Tesco have used the sides of their delivery vans to act as a moving bill board, and new technology can allow the whole vehicle to be wrapped in full colour vinyl. In fact, you can have almost any image you like on the van, even photographs. What should you base a decision on?
The main points to consider are:
Your target audience and what you want to convey – you should always try to communicate with customers in their own language so tailor your graphics to your marketplace e.g. if you want to appear friendly, efficient and professional to reassure customers that you know what you are doing then bring it out with statements like “Established 1979”, “Quality Guaranteed” or “Certified Engineer” as well as in the type of colours and font of text you use.
- Cost – the budget will obviously limit the extent of the work.
- Fitting – simple vinyl lettering can be a DIY job, vehicle wrapping is not.
The van itself – if you are buying a new van you will have taken into account the load and capacity for your business needs but also give a moment to consider the graphics as some vans are better equipped for this than others. Large flat panels on the side are much better for logos, long company names and images.
Paintwork and colour – if you’re after a new van can you kill two birds with one stone and get a suitable colour or can you consider some additional paintwork. Re-spraying part of a vehicle is relatively cheap. Bright colours can be used to attract attention – think of RAC vans – but be wary of anything that is as stylish or fashionable as these can change over 12 months and may not look as good in 5 years time.
Type size and colour – keep in mind that the audience may see your van as a moving object some distance away so the main points, your name and contact number, should be a good size and have a good visual contrast with the paintwork i.e. a dark colour over a light colour or vice-versa. Look at traffic signs as a guide – red and white, white and black, orange and black are preferred for a reason… they’re very visible. This is why McDonalds use yellow and red!
- Longevity – not all vinyl is the same or intended to last forever. Check with your supplier that the material is colourfast outdoors and how easy the vinyl is to remove or replace should your details change in the future.
So what does get a van sign-written actually cost? Use a digitally-reproduced picture big on the back and the front of your Sprinter and you'll typically be facing a bill for from £1,200 to £1,500. Restrict yourself to slapping it on the rear doors and it will set you back nearer £450 to £650.
If that's too expensive, then you can get your business name, address and telephone number applied for anything from £75 to £200.
When you're thinking about the price, just remember that any pictures and information could be in place for from five to seven years — always assuming you want to keep your vehicle for that long — depending on the quality of the vinyl used and the signwriter's skills. Viewed in that light, it's really cheap advertising.
Like the No Smoking signs now decorating so many vehicles and all enclosed public spaces, almost all signwriting these days is created out of adhesive vinyl.
You can have virtually any colour you fancy and it can be made to fade from one shade to another. Your chosen wording will be cut out in the style and size agreed on a computerised plotting table accompanied by any loops, squiggles and exclamation marks that have been specified.
The computer will record all the details so that the signwriting and associated logos can be faithfully reproduced if the van is involved in a collision and they suffer damage.
All sorts of ready-made logos are available; a saw for a carpenter for instance. If you want maximum impact, however, you should select an appropriate picture — a grazing cow for a butcher, — and have it reproduced on the side of your vehicle.
There is of course no reason — other than cost — why a vehicle shouldn't be wrapped completely in vinyl. Wrapping a vehicle has the advantage that it protects the paintwork underneath. Peel the vinyl off when you come to sell your van and the paint will be as good as new, boosting its second-hand value. Such an approach has the added advantage that it isn't immediately apparent to the used buyer, his customers, or other road users what the van used to be used for and who used to own it. Some fleet operators — the Royal Mail for instance — have distinctive paint schemes.
It's usually better to have an experienced signwriter put the vinyl on rather than do it yourself because he's likely to do a better job — it's more difficult than it looks — in half the time.
While applying vinyl isn't easy unless you know what you're doing, removing it is usually a doddle. You fetch it off by pointing a heat gun — or maybe a hair drier — at the edge, then tugging hard.
That's the easy part. Once you've removed it all you'll realise that the paint beneath hasn't weathered to the same extent as the paint covering the rest of your vehicle. As a consequence the outline of your name will still be there, and somebody will have to get busy with cutting compound to fetch it off.
Never make the mistake of selling your van with its livery still in place. The last thing you want is the next owner using it to commit a crime; and the police knocking on your door first thing the next morning because they think you're the culprit.
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