The Referee is Becoming the Show
by Tom Niziolek
If several hundred thousand square feet of polished chrome 22s don’t cause you to consider the word “reflection,” nothing will. So, given that this is the annual SEMA issue of Window Film magazine, I thought I would reflect on how far the window tint industry has come since my first SEMA Show in 2002 and, if space permits, explore some of the reasons behind the progress.
Let’s be honest. For a long time, window tint was a lot like a football referee: unless it was really bad, nobody talked much about it. After all, like football fans at a stadium, SEMA attendees flocked to Las Vegas to see the star athletes—the wheels, the tires, the accessories and (of course) the cars—not the boring refs.
Window tint’s mundane reputation wasn’t helped by its relegation to the Convention Center’s most remote hall, where visitors were divided evenly among booth staff, competitors and attendees who took a wrong turn on their way to the carbon fiber hood pavilion.
But in 2003 something changed. As if by design, tint companies all appeared to invest in larger, more stylish booths.
Product presentation wasn’t all that had changed, either; product innovation could also be found throughout the industry.
Some manufacturers responded to the market’s demand for aesthetics by introducing new tint colors. Other companies unveiled computer-aided materials that were designed to be easier to install. Others still shared their vision for shatter-resistant laminates.
The public responded. Interactive exhibits and live installation demos attracted large audiences, which in turn justified larger booths the following year. The level of sophistication has increased year after year. I fully expect that at this year’s SEMA Show the window film hall will have established itself as much of a consumer destination as nearly any other class of aftermarket accessory (wheels notwithstanding, of course).
But, could that be it? Could flashier booths and some new products really be responsible for such a sweeping change in perception? Of course not.
None of this progress could have been made had the leading industry players not made a concerted effort to overcome the challenge that has long dogged the industry: the quality of an installation. Like the memorable bad call that causes a fan to remember the referee rather than the game, substandard tint jobs—purple, peeling and puckered—leave a lasting impression on many would-be customers.
Long aware of this obstacle, the IWFA developed the Automotive Accreditation program for installers several years ago. The training/testing program is designed to educate dealers and installers in the specific area of automotive window film applications and properties. The examination may be used to gain recognition and verify knowledge of automotive film principles, properties and applications. Passing the final examination may improve dealer credibility, as a specific body of knowledge has been measured and tested.
Although attendance at these workshops increased steadily during the program’s early years, it wasn’t until the manufacturers themselves re-purposed the association’s content to focus on automotive installations that participation became truly widespread.
Tom Niziolek is marketing manager for Madico Inc. and president of the International Window Film Association (IWFA).
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