The Six Golden Impression Rules

Importance of keeping print-company vehicle graphics looking fresh.

Everyone wants to look the best they can. People spend a lot of time and money putting together their image. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are a people who evaluate books by their “covers.”

I recently attended a branding seminar where the speaker asked who did not care at all about the brand of the car they drove to raise their hands. One person raised their hand, and the speaker said there was always one or two people who claimed they were not influenced by the brand when making a car choice. I was surprised when the speaker said, “Even if that is true, the rest of us do care about what brand of car we drive, and that means when you pull up in your Suzuki Samurai we are not going to be okay spending a high rate to do business with you.” His point was clear to me: Regardless of your own personal point of view on first impressions, brand alliance or making judgments based on appearance, the rest of the world is looking and they are judging.

Shallow as it may be, to the viewer, appearances are true. We don’t have to agree with this thought but we have to acknowledge it. First impressions matter. As a matter of fact, all impressions matter. After all, that is what we vehicle-wrap shops actually sell: impressions. It’s a well-known and widely used term in all forms of advertising: impressions. But did you ever stop to think about the actual impression that we make?

We’ve all heard facts about the number of impressions a vehicle wrap can make during a typical day in a busy metropolitan city. Statistics, however, tend to focus on the number, not the quality of each impression. And I think most of us would agree that it is vital to convey a professional, attractive, and effective message with each and every vehicle wrap we put out. So I ask you, what does your own shop vehicle or shop fleet say about your shop?

I’m blown away when I see a vehicle from a graphic provider’s shop that leaves a bad impression. I liken it to an overweight physical trainer or a dentist with bad teeth. There is really no excuse for not putting your best foot forward on your own shop vehicles. Now, I’m not suggesting that you must buy a fleet of Mercedes Sprinters and do full wraps with reflective elements and expensive wheels to make a good impression. I am, however, suggesting that, as the ambassadors of this unique medium, we must never break the six golden rules that follow.

Rules one, two, three
Rule number 1: Good repair – You are in the vehicle business, so make sure your vehicle is in good repair. In addition to the obvious safety concerns with vehicles out of good repair, I’m also talking about image concerns. Broken tail lights, crooked license plates, and cracked windshields are a few examples of the image problems that you just can’t have. Make sure your trucks aren’t spewing smoke or screeching with loud brakes. Cover the basics so they don’t need a jump start while leaving a customer’s place of business. Bald mismatched tires and bumpers falling off will not help customers flock to you. It doesn’t have to be a 2011 vehicle, but it does need to be properly maintained. Run a tight vehicle maintenance program and keep those vehicles running well. Your clients are watching.

Rule 2: Shine –Windex and Armor All are cheap – use them. Take pride in your work and teach discipline in the shop. Filthy windshields, caked-on mud, and water spots on the chrome are issues that are cheap and easily solved. UPS washes every truck, every day. We should be able to handle the one or two vehicles in our fleet. Find a way to make sure your vehicles are extra clean before they head out to represent your brand.

Rule 3: Graphics are in great condition –This issue is probably my biggest pet peeve. You flat out cannot have graphics on your vehicles that show even the slightest evidence of wear or other issues. They must be straight, wrinkle-free, bubble-free with no peeling or fading. You should have the means to fix this immediately. Walk around the vehicles and inspect for these issues. I know it seems obvious, but when was the last time you actually looked for issues on your fleet graphics? As a showpiece, the workmanship and condition of the materials should be perfect. Yes, perfect.

Rules four, five, six
Rule 4: Stunning design – I’m fully aware that not all shops that are great at printing and installing vehicle wraps also have an in-house design team. But I would remind those shops that this is no excuse for amateur-looking designs on your own vehicles. Spend a lot of time and thought on exactly what your vehicle graphics should look like and, if you need help, hire a pro. This is extremely important. You are going to be driving this vehicle for years to come, and each and every day a new potential client will glance at this design and judge you, right there on the spot. The number-one thing you will be judged on is that design, so it better be good. Look at your vehicles today from an outsider’s viewpoint. Is the design amazing? If not, schedule time to redo it now.

Rule 5: Current design – Okay, so we recognize that the vinyl can’t be old and the design must be creative and effective. But many shops overlook the fact that potential customers may be bored of the look of your vehicle graphics. When was the last time you rewrapped your vehicles just to update the messaging? Do you have new photos of your work you could be featuring? Do you have any new sponsorships or certifications you could leverage with a new design? Is the data -- such as your logo, tagline, website, and phone number – 100-percent accurate? At bluemedia, we look for reasons to redo the fleet. As I write this, we are doing our first 100-percent “non-printed” design for our entire fleet featuring the new 3M 1080 matte black and cut vinyl films. Because the material is new, the look is new – and new is good. Think of the roadway as your tradeshow. Don’t feature old products at the tradeshow.

Rule 6: Picture-perfect driver – You don’t have to hire models for delivery drivers, but those drivers should still represent your image very well. For many customers, this individual will be the only person they ever meet from your company. Can you get them some nice work shirts? Can they be ironed? Perhaps a nice ball cap with company logo. Are thrashed and dirty tennis shoes allowed? Really? They’re not only representing your brand when they are loading or unloading, they are representing your brand to thousands of people when they drive and how they drive. Have you ever been cut off by FedEx? Probably not. I would assume that is because there is a training program wherein FedEx expresses to their drivers how important courteous drivers are to their brand and their image. We should all take cues from FedEx. We are servants to the public at large. We don’t need to just obey the speed limits – when driving our branded vehicles we need to let people in, we need to look for children, we need to signal early and slow down. We need to flash the lights and let semi-trucks over when we see them signaling. We need to be the concierge of the roadway. It speaks volumes about your company, your training, your hiring process, and your upbringing when you drive in a courteous manner. Use the way your vehicles are driven as a marketing tool that just adds one more attractive attribute about your company.

Making the right impression
If you can check off the above list today without any issues, congratulations. I know it’s a lot of work. But it’s worth it. It does matter and it is the right thing to do. There are few better feelings for me than to see one of our company vehicles heading down the street all shined up and ready to work. This is an image game and you’re representing that you can make a customer’s vehicle look good, so it’s vital your own vehicles also look good. Your customers will notice anything you do exceptionally poor or exceptionally well, and so will your competitors. So change the oil, check the tires, spruce up the graphics, and get out there and make the right impressions.


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