Extreme Vinyl: Carving out a Niche
Become an expert at something that no one else has done before.
“The most honest form of filmmaking is to make a film for yourself.” – Peter Jackson
Tinseltown’s love affair with vinyl wraps (before anyone knew what to call them) is the real deal. It’s not some short-lived fling; we’re at soulmate status. This mutual affection can be observed during a scenic moment of your favorite film or even in a cheap paparazzi shot in a tabloid. Visibility is vital in every business, and it’s certainly no exception in the well-oiled, nonstop machine known as Hollywood. Producers are embracing the use of vinyl graphics in the same way they would applaud a perfect pairing of two leads with immense chemistry on the silver screen.
I’m also talking about an astonishing array of mediums that make up the star-studded world of entertainment: cinema, television, theater, music, commercials, public events, etc. From the perspective of a wrap artist, it’s a fairly untapped industry that hauls in billions of dollars each year. This is where my role as a vinyl expert has grown more and more coveted. It’s a role of a lifetime, and let’s face it: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a “rock star” in your profession or to gain some notoriety for your hard work. Hopefully, it all equates to a blockbuster hit: More business. More exposure. More money.
Answering the Call
When Hollywood came knocking on my door to secure my specialized services in a creative capacity, my custom vinyl work took center stage almost immediately. For the record, I had prematurely closed the door on this industry about a decade ago, though I’d always left it slightly ajar because of an affinity for motion pictures and my big dreams of one day becoming the next prolific auteur, like Truffaut or Hitchcock. Upon reconnecting with my past career in show business, I had unknowingly tapped into a new market for vinyl graphics and wraps. To this day, it’s a market that I’ve carefully cultivated with an elite community of artists, designers, filmmakers, managers, and musicians, spawning a little niche that has become another viable source of income for my wrap company.
Niche, by definition, is “denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.” As any shop owner can attest, we’re always looking for new ways to capitalize on the ever-evolving graphics market so that we may have a stable business in a crowd of competitors. When we first started our company, my business partner Susanne and I firmly established ourselves as fleet wrappers, and we took all the necessary steps to solidify our place in the corporate branding side of the wrap world. Fleet wraps are usually based on volume, like a rebranding program or conversion that may contain 20 to 1000 units. When a wrapper is tasked with wrapping different types of fleet vehicles multiple times, he or she is subconsciously honing his or her technique, speed, and quality. It becomes a perfect learning platform before moving on to the highly regarded custom side of the business that comes with its own set of rules. As a rule of thumb, you should focus on mastering, marketing, and maintaining an active customer roster, and churning out a profit in one area before considering expansion to other specialized industries.
Becoming the Expert
The year was 2013, before I had scored an aesthetic triumph with a sky blue piano wrap for Jack White’s solo performance at the Grammys. I had already reveled in Hollywood productions via “picture cars” for television commercials and thought nothing much of them at the time. Picture cars can be summarized as vehicles, either wrapped or painted, that are specifically supplied to the film industry as part of the scenic background or driven by the principal leads. I treated them like any other wrap project that landed on my desk, but I do remember some of the harsh realities involved in getting them camera-ready: impossible deadlines, endless design changes, and the involvement of way too many cooks in the kitchen when it came to approvals. As my wrap skills were applied to a host of national TV advertisements for the likes of Safelite, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon, my business hit something of a turning point. I began to adopt the “movie mogul mentality” and reshaped my installation department to accommodate our full-fledged foray into show business. And it was not cheap. I greenlighted a new marketing plan, hired and retrained a number of employees, attained more specialty wrap tools and equipment, researched the competition, and relentlessly networked and promoted our services at all the glamorous Tinseltown “party scenes.” At the end of it all, a movie mogul has to ask himself: “What are the key ingredients that make a good movie?” Or better yet: “Why bet on this market and not the others?” I may never know the answer to the latter, but I firmly believe that much of my success can be attributed to a healthy dose of practice and persistence, not to mention a stroke of luck by being in the right place at the right time.
Southern California is deemed the entertainment mecca of the world. This was a market that was right under my nose and one that I unearthed as a gold mine in my backyard. Depending on the location of your shop, you should start looking in your own backyard for an undiscovered industry ready for an infusion of vinyl graphics. Ask yourself, “What is currently trending in the area?” Is there a void you could fill? Once this potential market has been identified, you’ll need to perform your own behind-the-scenes work by tailoring and adjusting your business to meet that customer’s needs. For me, it was finally realizing that the vinyl wraps I create for my customers need to be a huge part of the story and not lost as part of the scenic backdrop.
2017 is no different. With about a dozen major film-, television-, and theater-related assignments under our belt, and a thriving wrap scene on the music front (more than 40 major recording artists and seven world tours), there’s still more that I would like to conquer in this targeted market. Another testament to Hollywood’s continued interest in the graphics world is my recent job for an artist who needs no introduction: Lady Gaga. Her upcoming Joanne World Tour has received a host of custom wraps from my team in an assortment of colors and finishes to complement her shape-shifting act. When it came to landing this job, I was armed with a background in entertainment; I already knew the basic framework of the industry in terms of the etiquette, key players, and lingo. I had a huge advantage over anyone else in the area.
Over the years, I’ve developed the concept of “concierge customization,” which means doing your best to connect with the artist by providing the best full-service installation experience. This means that I can travel with a team to any given location, offer design options and solutions, accommodate their schedule with flexibility, provide a quick turnaround of installations, and more. No custom wrap project in my shop or in the field is ever released to the client without my personal stamp of approval. It’s about maintaining top quality standards and going above and beyond the client’s expectations. What evolutions are you willing to make to get the “Lady Gaga” of your niche industry?
If Hollywood’s taught us anything, it’s to be versatile. The productions this town puts on are vast in genre and elaborate in execution. Luckily, vinyl graphics have the ability to transform and reinvent any scene. Likewise, the art of wrapping can be adapted to any viable niche for your entrepreneurial needs. But opportunities to develop a niche market don’t just fall from the sky; they’re carefully constructed from an enormous amount of passion, interest, and testing the marketplace.
There’s really no need to hide my true feelings about the ongoing affair between the world of vinyl graphics and the show biz community. Vinyl graphics have more staying power than most of the other options on the production side, and wrapping is often pitted against its rival, paint. But in a relatively short time, the art of wrapping has carved out a role for itself as a permanent cast member in Hollywood. It’s been thrilling to be a part of the transformation. Admittedly, this all feels like the time they kept those cameras rolling for a dramatic close-up of my company’s work, revealing so much with little screen time. Much like those paparazzi shots that I mentioned earlier, I truly hope that they can capture us at just the right angle.
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