Vinyl Spin: Car wraps serve as marketing machines

By Kimberly Hundley

Ken Johnson voice thrums with excitement as he describes the latest order from Spooky Fast, the Airpark custom motorcycle shop owned by GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons. “We’re taking the motorcycle and going from blue to doing an entire chrome. It’s a wrap film. It’s going to be crazy!” says Johnson, whose vinyl car-wrap business, Signature Graphics, is just a couple blocks down Hayden Road.

As an alternative to paint, an increasing number of vehicle owners are transforming or branding their rides with vinyl treatments that range from a full color change to intricate scenes integrating business information. Budget-conscious options include small vinyl “cuts,” such as a logo and contact number adhered to a door.

About a quarter of Johnson’s business comes from car owners who want “vanity” or “pleasure” wraps, but the majority of his clientele are business owners looking to get professional attention. Mom-and-pop shops—landscapers and air conditioning repair services, for instance—emblazon their vehicles with company details, and turn their fleets or home cars into rolling billboards.

And they’re getting results, according to Johnson, who points to customer Holtzman Home Improvement as an example. The Phoenix remodeling company started off with one wrapped vehicle and now has more than 20, relying on the circulating signage as its primary means of marketing.

“It’s evident that vehicle wraps are a head-turning advertising [strategy] that not only attracts customers, but speaks a lot about the business itself,” Johnson says. “We believe that every mile driven in a wrapped vehicle is an expense turned into a profit-generating machine.”

Signature Graphics has graphic designers on staff and works closely with clients to develop striking wrap designs, even assisting new businesses to create a brand identity and logo. “If you are a potential customer, we collect a 50 percent deposit, which gets the design process rolling,” he says. “We sit down and discuss the concept, and gather all the information necessary. Within a couple of days, we will have a proof—a mockup—to show you exactly how the vehicle is going to look.”

In another two days, the customer’s newly wrapped vehicle is usually ready to go, though Signature Graphics prefers to keep it onsite a bit longer to ensure the vinyl is firmly set and to troubleshoot issues such as corners lifting.

Johnson says his company does a couple things differently than competitors when developing and delivering wraps. “I don’t charge by the hour. If it takes a week, if it takes a year, I don’t care. We’ll go back and forth until you are totally satisfied.” Also, any graphics the company creates are given to the customer in large-file format for free to be used in other marketing materials.

“We also do banners, signs, business cards and brochures, even websites,” Johnson adds. “We outsource them, so we’re not extremely competitive on the smaller items, but we can do the design work and take care of those kinds of orders for clients.”

Exotic Passion

Johnson, who boasts more than a decade in the vinyl business, recently returned to the Airpark, where he first started in the industry with a chip-prevention “clear-bra”service. However, his passion—and another focus of today’s Signature Graphics—is wrapping exotic cars, a specialty he says is well suited to the Airpark area, known for its high-end dealerships, clientele and auto-centric events such as Barrett-Jackson—not to mention the proximity of Parsons’ GoAZ Motorcycles down the street.

“I Just love being around these ‘super cars,’” says Johnson. “Even as a little kid, I had posters on my wall of exotic cars.”

The Signature Graphics’ home page, in fact, displays a $2.5 million wrapped Bugatti as well as a Ferrari. Many owners of super cars enjoy personalizing their vehicles with colorful accents or designs, or just temporarily changing the color, which runs about $3,000, or half the price of an average paint job, Johnson explains.

New vinyl materials also are tempting super-car owners into getting treatments. Satin and matte finishes can give the vehicles an eye-catching, unusual look—or they can be used to tone down a feature. A few weeks ago, Parsons, for example, ordered the chrome rims of his two black Suburbans to be covered in black vinyl. “We ‘de-chromed’ them,’” Johnson says. “It’s a more subtle look. It’s personal preference.”

By the beginning of summer, Johnson anticipates Signature Graphics will have a second shop in the Airpark—a hangar, where staff will have the space to wrap extremely large vehicles, such as semi-trailers, planes and helicopters.

“This area is a gold mine. It’s been awesome up here,” Johnson says of his return to the Airpark. “I’m amazed to see how much the area has grown, and I’m happy to be surrounded with amazing, striving and outgoing entrepreneurs like myself.”

5 Surprising Facts about Wraps

• You can entirely change your auto’s color for half the price of painting it.

• The 3 main tools in the wrap business are a squeegee, an X-ACTO blade and a blowtorch.

• How do you get a wrap off? Leave the car in the sun or heat up the vinyl and peel it back like a giant sticker.

• Businesses that brand a vehicle with a website, number and logo can potentially be seen by 40,000 to 80,000 people per day, depending on how much the cars are driven and where they go.

• As long as you don’t let the film begin to fail (flat surfaces degenerate in one to three years in the Arizona sun), it will act as a jacket/skin over your paint, protecting it from the elements.

Source: Ken Johnson