Floor Your Clients
Floor graphics are the last blank canvas.
Things are looking up for floor graphics. As marketers explore novel ways to display and convey their messages, colorful images and text shouting for attention from floors are beginning to become more prominent in fully integrated campaigns.
In fact, says Tim Greene, director of wide-format market research at InfoTrends (www.infotrends.com), the North American market for floor graphics will grow at a rate of nearly 12 percent through 2015. “Floor graphics are a strong market,” he says, “one that’s greatly enabled by product development on the film side with technologies that make these films easier to apply and slip-proof – a big deal in the retail market.”
In the discussions that follow, we turned to several industry companies – including Asphalt Art, Avery Dennison Graphics, Drytac, LexJet, Mactac, Oracal, and 3M – to get their take on the state of floor graphics as well as information on their current product mix.
Fixtures in the graphic experience
Floor graphics are proving “great for promotions and brand building and they are not a commodity,” says Dione Metnick, product line manager for LexJet (www.lexjet.com). “For print shops, this [specialty] has more perceived value and provides greater sales margins than other traditional type of graphics.”
And, points out Mary Ann Kucera, marketing manager for Mactac (www.mactac.com), “Floor graphics add interest to under-used space in eye-catching ways – with the additional benefit of not using expensive shelf space in a retail environment while still conveying the advertiser’s message.”
It’s a point echoed by Todd Hain, marketing communications manager of Avery Dennison Graphics (www.averygraphics.com). For point-of-sale promotions, floor graphics can be positioned as a superior alternative to other options, he says. “Shelf space is so competitive and the amount of product and labels can be overwhelming. Strategically placed floor graphics can be a great way to cut through that clutter and make a brand stand out.”
It’s not just at the point-of-sale, however, where floor graphics are having an impact. Lobbies, public stairwells, museums, stadiums, streets, and sidewalks – wherever there is foot or road traffic – are all locations where “prints on the floor” are becoming fixtures in the graphic experience.
Michael Gillette, brand manager for Asphalt Art, might sum it up best: Floor graphics “create tremendous opportunities for advertising and branding. We seem to have filled up every conceivable vertical space with graphics. The floor may be that last blank canvas.”
Media manufacturers have produced a variety of media products and related technologies for floor-graphics alternatives. By familiarizing yourself with the range of floor-graphics solutions that are available, you can assist your customers with what can become a lucrative specialty.
Avery Dennison offers various media that lend themselves to all types of ground-level projects, says Todd Hain. “Avery Dennison products can be installed on pretty much any floor surface, from concrete and vinyl to carpet. Elevators, public transit, and sidewalks are all surfaces that can be turned into promotional platforms.”
Hain points to the company’s MPI 6121 Street Graphics film as a solution for increasingly popular exterior street graphics. “MPI 1621 can be installed on the sidewalk or street to drive attendance and awareness for events or promotions inside retail space or an event at a convention center,” he says. The 1.8-mil non-PVC film works with UV, solvent, and eco-solvent inks. Its “micro-fracture” technology helps it conform to rough surfaces, the company reports; durability is rated at three months when exposed to vehicle traffic and six months for foot traffic.
For indoor applications, he suggests the company’s MPI 2923, a 3.4-mil calendered vinyl, offered in a choice of adhesives and finishes, with any of Avery’s DOL 2000 series overlams. “Specific effects and looks for the graphics can be achieved with gloss, luster, or matte overlaminate,” he adds.
“Nearly every surface imaginable is available for branding or promotion, from the floor to the ceiling,” Hain notes. “The opportunities for impressions and awareness are endless with the advances in films and adhesives.”
Adam Larson, commercial graphics marketing supervisor for 3M Graphic Solutions (www.3m.com), says one 3M solution for indoor applications is to combine the company’s IJ-162 Controltac Graphic film with its 3645 Scotchcal Luster Overlaminate. The IJ-162 can be printed with solvent, UV, and latex digital print systems. Most common applications for this material has been for in-store P-O-P, but as floor graphics become more popular, so are the range of applications. These graphics carry a one-year warranty when properly installed, says Larson.
For shorter-term installations, he says, 3M offers its newer Scotchcal IJ40C film with Comply Adhesive for solvent and UV inkjet printers, protected with the 3648 Scotchcal High Gloss overlaminate. “[IJ40C] is a lower-grade calendared film for carpets and tradeshows.” To ensure durability, he recommends installing graphics in rectangular sheets to minimize avoiding jagged edges, which can catch and begin to peel when exposed to foot traffic.
3M also has a product for exterior sidewalk and street applications, although it’s officially approved for screenprinting, not inkjet: 2-mil Scotchcal 3662 Graphic Film, and the company’s 19-mil Scothcal Matte 3647 overlaminate film. For solvent inkjet use, notes Larson, “the product tends to worm up (because of the solvent ink), but when an overlam is applied the worming goes away. UV, eco-solvent, and latex do not seem to present any issues with this product.”
Asphalt Art (www.asphaltartusa.com) launched its namesake product in the US almost two years ago as a specialty media with unique properties. “Ours is a foil-based product that easily conforms to the irregularity of materials like asphalt, concrete, and brick,” points out Michael Gillette. “And because it’s foil-based and a non-slip material, it can be run through UV inkjet and latex printers.” The material’s glass bead surface gives it slip-resistant qualities and eliminates the need for a protective laminate film or coating, he says.
“Once it’s properly applied, it can be walked or driven on,” Gillette asserts. “We don’t have durability issues because of the way that foil backing sticks to the surface.”
In Europe, where the product originated, Asphalt Art is used for all types of ground and floor applications. In the US, most early applications have been for event graphics, although there have been some novel installations. For instance, the material served as the finish line for a recent Chicago marathon, and on another project, oversized goldfish were printed on the material, then cut and applied to the bottom of a swimming pool. It’s also been used to define and advertise on the lines separating spaces in parking lots.
Ensuring safety and beyond
“The most important feature floor graphics must have is anti-skid protection,” says Lisa Humrick, marketing manager for Oracal USA (www.oracal.com). Without that feature, she says print providers, as well as their clients, could leave themselves exposed to potential liability should someone slip on the graphic.
For floor applications, the company’s OraJet Series 1663 PVC Digital Media is a 4.5-mil film. To protect the graphic and provide a safe and protective finish, Oracal offers either of two laminate films, the 4.7-mil OraGuard Series 250AS Anti-Skid, or heavy-duty OraGuard Series 255AS Anti-Skid 6.5 mil film.
One emerging floor-graphics trend has been customers using the floor materials “not only for wayfinding and advertising but as temporary tabletop and bar-top graphics,” as a decorative element and as another ad venue, says Humrick.
Mactac’s floor media has been used to “transform indoor floors into Roman roads, woodland paths, and wilderness tracks,” reports Mary Ann Kucera . “Others combined floor and wall graphics to create entirely immersive three-dimensional environments.” The range of installations has encompassed everything from carpeting to concrete, all types of standard flooring, tiles, and terrazzo.
Whatever the setting, print providers must “deliver a slip-resistant surface, with the correct over-laminating film,” she says. “It’s essential to ensure you have rating documentation and thoroughly research and read installation and fabrication instructions, as well as properly care for the graphic once it’s installed.”
For outdoor installations on streets and sidewalks, where the graphics must endure weather, UV exposure, and foot traffic, Kucera points to Mactac StreetRap 3.4-mil matte white vinyl, and companion Permaflex PF 6300 5.9-mil textured laminate.
For application to the short-napped carpet found in stores and convention halls, Imagin JT58528 HTO vinyl media can be easily installed and later removed without leaving adhesive residue, she says. Rebel RB520R 4-mil vinyl media, available white or clear, can serve for indoor floor graphics and is designed to be removable for up to a year after installation. And the company recently added two new laminates to protect floor graphics with a slip-resistant protective film: PermaFlex PF6400 is a 3.75-mil textured polyofilm for short-term indoor floor graphics; the 5-mil PF6500 is recommended for installations up to three months indoors, or one week outdoors.
While the graphics’ intended “use life” should be factored in, “We find choosing the appropriate media and laminate for the flooring is probably a more important consideration,” Kucera says. To that end, Mactac has put together a floor-graphics guide to help customers select the best media for each project (available in PDF form via the company’s website).
For the typical floor project, where intended graphic life is six months or less, LexJet (lexjet.com) has developed its Indoor FloorAd and Simple CarpetAd. Both FloorAd and CarpetAd are removable for up to six months, and can be cleaned as if they are part of the floor within 24 hours after installation. LexJet warranties both products when they are protected with its 3-mil Floor Glass laminate film, or 5-mil Floor Velvet laminate.
Two issues to consider in deciding on the right floor media for the setting are its adhesive and the protective laminate to be applied, says LexJet’s Metnick. “The adhesive needs to be formulated for use on either floors or carpets, so that it not only creates a bond with the surface but is removable, and the laminate needs to be slip-resistant,” she stresses.
Although Drytac (www.drytac.com) is not currently offering any floor-specific media, the company reports that its Interlam Emerytex UV laminating film (5-mil) can be applied with other media in its line to create a durable floor graphic. The non-glare vinyl laminating film is also scuff-resistant, and boasts a pebble texture finish. “Interlam Pro Emerytex is a pressure-sensitive laminating film that is ASTM certified to be anti-slip,” says Andrea Spivey, Drytac’s marketing coordinator.
Getting in on the ground floor
If you’re a floor-graphics newbie, one of the best locales to experiment on is your company’s own lobby, demonstration room, or parking lot. By doing so, you not only boost your operation’s aesthetics, but also provide yourself with a sure-fire promotional tool for when you bring clients in-house.
With people looking down at their phones more than ever as they navigate through their day, messages at ground-level are increasingly difficult to miss. Floor graphics can make a critical impact on your clients’ prospective customers – and generate more output and installation work for your shop.