Bright colors and fun artwork can help grab people’s attention. - Photo: 3M

Bright colors and fun artwork can help grab people’s attention.

Photo: 3M

Vehicle graphics are more than just a pretty image on a truck or van. Utilizing graphics helps promote brand awareness, is a very cost-effective form of advertising, and can help build business credibility. 

“Vehicle graphics communicate professionalism daily and are a high-impact communication of any brand,” said Katie Gillmore, national account manager for Signature Graphics. 

Fleet graphics turn company assets into valuable branding tools that connect with existing and prospective customers daily. 

“According to a recent Nielsen study, on average, U.S. consumers travel more than 100 miles per week, and 64% of the travelers notice vehicle wraps. Depending on the distance traveled, fleet wraps can yield millions of impressions per year, which helps a company’s brand stay top of mind with consumers,” said Jessica Franklin, segment marketing manager for 3M. 

They are also a cost-effective option for branding. 

“Fleet graphics are cost-effective and can serve as a powerful medium to help build brand awareness while delivering targeted product messages in select markets. Whether you own or lease your fleet, adding graphics can be a one-time cost that lasts up to 10 years,” said Dan Rozzo, corporate specification manager for Avery Dennison Label & Graphic Materials.

Foley Caterpillar in Bensalem, Pa., operates a fleet of approximately 325 vehicles, mostly light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks and trailers, as well as a few vans and SUVs. 

“Caterpillar went away from painted signs about 10 years ago,” explained Scott Barkus, fleet manager for Foley Caterpillar. “One of the challenges we face is laying out a consistent package for each model and division. A graphics package from Signature Graphics provides the flexibility we need and allows us to modify layouts as changes in our business division or priorities occur.”

Additionally, having some visible identification on your vehicle lends credibility to your business. 

Check out our vehicle graphics photo gallery

“It demonstrates accountability and a willingness to stand behind your name. Everyone knows your company’s reputation is linked inextricably to your brand. Vehicle graphics can either help build a differentiated impenetrable brand while the lack of graphics can leave others in doubt about your intentions or legitimacy as a business. While that may seem extreme, take a moment to consider your behavior and attitude toward brands. We are confident you check the brand name before you make a purchase — those same behaviors subconsciously or consciously carry through to business transactions as well,” said Deborah Scott, president of Riveting Wraps. 

Also, many service vehicles operate or service clients on the client’s premises. 

“A well-marked vehicle assures the client, neighboring businesses and homes, and other workers that the vehicle appropriately belongs on the premises. For example, we wrap fleet vehicles for a large landscape company that services the grounds for world-famous technology companies. The management, security, and employees at those tech companies want assurance that particular maintenance crew belongs on the premises. A sketchy, unmarked vehicle may draw suspicion even if their presence was legitimate,” Scott added.

However, the No. 1 factor that makes vehicle graphics important to fleet? Advertising. 

“Vehicle graphics are the most cost-effective advertising media available regarding cost per thousand — also called cost per mile (CPM) impressions. Vehicle graphics allow a company to convey the quality and professionalism of their organization, in addition to what products or services they offer,” said Ron Kraudel, national fleet manager for Visual Marking Systems.    

Medical Service Company operates 58 vehicles, mostly vans as well as three box trucks and two cars. All vehicles have a graphics package from Visual Marking Systems. 

“Our vehicles act as mobile billboards that point a spotlight on our services, our heritage, and our professionalism. By using graphics from Visual Marking Systems, we achieved the design continuity and standardization we desired in our fleet,” said Josh Marx, managing director, sleep, and vice president of business development for Medical Service Company.

Remember, graphics are for communicating.

“The value of having graphics on your fleet vehicles allows you to both advertise what you do and how to contact your company as well as implementing the company brand identity with consumers,” said Tim Fontana, sales director, national fleet for Visual Marking Systems. 

Fleet graphics and branding are a considerable part of a company’s overall marketing strategy.

“These graphics serve to solidify further brand messaging and help advertise your business. When people see a creatively and professionally designed vehicle that is clean and crisp, and they see it often, it reinforces the perception that company is successful, experienced, and puts quality in everything they do. It’s obvious that many things play a factor in this public perception, but having your fleet dressed properly with your brand is a crucial part of making your business successful,” said Josh Szary, director of sales and marketing for VSP Graphics.

Finally, effective vehicle wraps and graphics advertising can create new leads and customers. 

“Think about it; your vehicles are on the road or servicing clients in your target geography. Each impression is an opportunity to build brand recognition and familiarity for your business. When someone needs products or services related to your business, your business name springs to mind. The beautiful thing about it: there is no additional work required by you or your team or crew. They go about their work and, in the process, generate new leads for your business,” Scott said.

Tips for Maintaining Truck Graphics

1. Store vehicles in a safe spot. “Once you install graphics, 3M recommends storing vehicles under cover whenever possible and washing graphics regularly to remove dirt, contaminants, and fuel spills. Touchless car washes are best for graphic care, but pressure washing can be used under certain conditions,” said Jessica Franklin, segment marketing manager for 3M. 

2. Clean routinely. “A vehicle graphic needs to be maintained just as the paint on a vehicle would. This would include routine washing with the vinyl manufacturers’ recommended cleaners with the proper PH levels. On certain wrapped vehicles, such as cars, vans, and pickups, more care should be taken on the horizontal surfaces as they take the heaviest of the UV exposure,” said Dan Rozzo, corporate specification manager for Avery Dennison Label & Graphic Materials.

3. Be gentle. “Gently cleanse any vinyl material with a PH-neutral cleanser. Avoid aggressive power washing or brushing of applied vinyl. If minimal peeling or lifting is detected, we recommend addressing issues before the problem worsens,” said Katie Gillmore, national acount manager for Signature Graphics.

4. Follow the instructions. “Fleets should be informed by the installer about proper wash and care instructions after every install. Each vehicle should be hand-washed with a mild detergent. Avoid power washing because you can damage the vinyl and even cause failure points in the vinyl. Wax can be used as long as it does not contain any petroleum distillates. Also, there are sprays and cleaners available that can help maintain your wrap,” said George Kurka, lead graphics installer at Visual Marking Systems. 

Lend credibility to your business with visible identification. - Photo: Medical Services Company

Lend credibility to your business with visible identification.

Photo: Medical Services Company

Top Mistakes Creating Graphics

Making a mistake when creating your graphic design can be costly. One mistake is not selecting the right materials for your application. 

“It’s important for fleet managers to specify the right film for the application and substrate to avoid issues down the road with their graphics. They can do that by working with their local 3M rep. Also, fleet graphics often involve input from several stakeholders. Ensure the team is in alignment on important aspects of the project such as design, timeline, and logistics is key,” said Franklin of 3M.

Also consider overall graphics longevity. 

“How long do you want the graphics to last? What type of vehicles? Flat surface, rivets, or deep recessed channels? When doing the actual design, make sure to avoid items on the vehicle such as door handles and hinges that can break up the design,” said Kraudel of Visual Marking Systems.    

Fleets need to work on keeping graphics simple.

“The biggest mistake a fleet graphics provider or a business with a fleet can make is trying to do too much. Your wrap can look noisy or cluttered. Your clientele is already ad-blind. They see too much, and they’re doing too much already. We live in the great age of multitasking, and they don’t have time to process and interpret your brand’s message. If it’s a chore, count on the fact that it won’t resonate,” said Szary of VSP Graphics. 

Too much info can make graphics too hard to understand.

“Fleets may try to get too wordy or use too many images. Too much info can cause someone looking at the vehicle to decide it takes too long to decipher what they do as a service or what they are selling and give up on it,” said Fontana of Visual Marking Systems.

Additionally, fleets should consider all dimensions of the vehicle or equipment from design through to practicality. 

“Start with your brand and determine what you want to communicate before adapting to your vehicles,” said Gillmore of Signature Graphics. “I also suggest that more is not always more. Some of my favorite fleet graphics designs are only a partial wrap or decal packages that are visually appealing and are cost-effective for excellent value.”

Understanding the different vehicles and vehicle sizes in your fleet is crucial when creating a graphic. 

“Some of the cost and mistakes made in the field could be alleviated if you can create a graphic used across many, if not all, of your vehicle sizes. One of the best ways to work around different sizes is to have a ‘base wrap’ that can be used on all the vehicles and then use overlay graphic/decals that can be more specific,” said Rozzo of Avery Dennison Label & Graphic Materials.

Also, fancy fonts and text effects can make text difficult to read. 

“Creating outlines around your text or shadows to make it look like it is popping off the truck might look cool to you, but it makes it more difficult for a viewer to read your text. Just the other day I drove past a truck that had a bold, eye-catching design. Unfortunately, they put a heavy drop shadow under the text of their company name that made it impossible to read,” said Scott of Riveting Wraps.

If you want your business trucks to get noticed, you’ve got to be willing to stand out from the crowd.

“A small logo on your door is great for identity, and that’s important. However, if you want to use your truck wrap as advertising for your business, you’ve got to be willing to put your crew in trucks that potential customers notice on the road. That doesn’t mean you should do anything that isn’t consistent with your brand and business. However, don’t be afraid to use color and design in to attract attention,” Scott said.

Pickup trucks are used for many vocational businesses and have plenty of space for graphics to advertise. - Photo: Riveting Wraps

Pickup trucks are used for many vocational businesses and have plenty of space for graphics to advertise. 

Photo: Riveting Wraps

Top Mistakes Installing Graphics

It is highly recommended to use a graphics installation company for graphics and decals. Even a small decal can look better and last longer when prepped for and installed correctly. Additionally, find a reputable installer and set the right expectations to ensure you get exactly the package you need. 

Have decals or graphics packages installed by certified graphics installers. 

“3M offers training and certification to installers to ensure the proper handling and techniques are used to install our films,” said Franklin of 3M.

Do your research to find a quality printer and a certified installation company. 

“Having a cheap wrap comes with a cheap install. Also look at what warranty is offered for vinyl and the install. Quality materials and a quality printer/installer back up their work,” said George Kurka, lead graphics installer at Visual Marking Systems.

When choosing a company, don’t forget to check out online reviews. 

“You want to see a lot of good, credible Google Reviews. If you only see a few reviews that their friends likely wrote for them, ask yourself why their customers aren’t saying anything. Look for lots of reviews from actually happy customers. If you’re still not sure, ask for references from customers,” said Scott of Riveting Wraps.

Communication with the provider is also one key to reducing downtime and unnecessary headaches. 

“You need solid communication between the fleet manager, graphics provider or installer, and install location. Also, ensure all the graphics are present and available. It’s never good to have installers and vehicles ready to go but lack the correct graphics to complete the install. Any trouble with deliveries or graphics being in the wrong place is very frustrating for all,” said Gillmore of Signature Graphics.

Look for a company that offers excellent communication right from the start. 

“We have new customers come to us every day because another company over-promised on schedule and then didn’t deliver. We know the time a vehicle is out of service is time it is not earning money. Work with companies that respect your time,” Scott said.

Another critical mistake is on the part of the graphics provider, and that’s trying to cover too much. 

“It’s crucial the installer sets the right expectations regarding what parts of the vehicle are necessary to wrap and what parts of the vehicle are high-fail points. Take the recommendation to not wrap every single piece of trim, channel, or plastic. Chances are, they won’t hold up, and soon the wrapped vehicle is curling and peeling. Such a potentially poor presentation makes a difference in how possible future customers remember and associate the brand. Be smart and stay simple,” said Szary of VSP Graphics.

Finally, make sure that what you are wrapping can be seen. 

“Wrapping roofs of vehicles (areas that cannot be seen while driving next to or past a vehicle) isn’t always necessary,” said Fontana of Visual Marking Systems.

Keeping graphics as simple as possible helps potential customers focus on exactly what’s important. - Photo: Foley Caterpillar

Keeping graphics as simple as possible helps potential customers focus on exactly what’s important.

Photo: Foley Caterpillar

New Technology for Vehicle Graphics

From changes to installation tech and techniques to the materials wraps and decals are made from, there are many advances in the world of vehicle graphics. 

“One of the most recent additions to the 3M graphic film portfolio is our 3M Scotchlite 780 reflective print wrap film. Our new reflective film is great for full reflective wraps as it offers greater conformability and removability. As an added installation benefit, it also features self-healing properties from bruising that may occur during installation. The white printable reflective film offers infinite design possibilities for brands to make a big impact both day and night,” said Franklin of 3M. 

Additionally, the air egress with a slideability feature (Avery Dennison Easy Apply RS) is another breakthrough available on some opaque vinyl options as well as reflective (MPI 1105 & V4000). 

“The technology allows installers to install much larger sheets of graphics, which not only speeds up the install process but also almost eliminates mistakes such as wrinkles or air pockets. This allows the adhesive to be much more forgiving in hotter temperatures and greater removability at the end of the graphic life,” said Rozzo of Avery Dennison Label & Graphic Materials.

Besides the technology of air egress vinyl, more of the technology is in the tools and experience and training of the installers. 

“Tools are created all the time now for a quicker and cleaner install of vinyl graphics. Some examples would be knifeless tape and specialty squeegees,” said Kurka of Visual Marking Systems.

Newer types of vinyl with a higher “white point,” (such as Avery Dennison MPI 1105) also allow today’s printers and ink sets to hit many of the “corporate colors” not achieved in the past on a digitally printed graphic, Rozzo explained. “Often, the graphics provider would have to purchase a custom color-matched vinyl, wrap the vehicle with that color, and then do an overlay of the messaging,” said Rozzo added.

Semi-conformable prismatic reflective vinyl (such as Avery Dennison V-8000) is also a newer addition to the vehicle graphics market.

“The nighttime visual impact of the image is greatly increased (up to eight times more reflective than glass bead technology) for improved safety,” Rozzo said.

High-tech is also growing in graphics. 

“A new solution we offer, brandRESPONSE, allows data management, robust visibility, real-time install updates, and transparency to fleet brand standards. We are also seeing new vinyl material and printing technology rolling out. An abundance of vinyl materials available today include temporary materials for promotional campaigns and transit advertising,” said Gillmore of Signature Graphics. 

Wraps vs. Decals

When it comes to figuring out what type of graphics to use, one of the first steps is to determine whether a full wrap or a decal (also called spot graphics) package is needed. 

Vehicle Wrap: Pros
● Tends to give a more significant visual impact or “wow factor.”
● Can provide UV protection to base paint layer.
● Can be entirely removed with 
underlying paint protected. 
● Fleets can completely change the look of a vehicle much faster than a paint job.
● There is more space to work on.

Vehicle Wrap: Cons
● More expensive than a decal job. 
● Chips in vinyl can require a full section or even full wrap replacement.
● The design may eventually fade.

Decals: Pros
● An inexpensive way to advertise your company (lower cost than a full wrap).
● Less complicated and time-
consuming to install.
● Easier to change a small item, such as a phone number.
● Can be simpler to replace just one damaged letter or item.

Decals: Cons
● Some decals can be more costly than expected due to setting and cut-out time.
● When removing a decal, there can be “ghosting” of the images where the decal was. 
● Edges can “lift” when washing 
vehicles with a power washer.
● The design may eventually fade.

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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