Volume 17, Issue 3 - May/June 2013


Build a Better Business
How Building Wraps Can Bolster Your Sales and Beef Up Your Jobs

by Casey Neeley

Non-traditional advertising is a growing phenomenon many businesses are looking to undertake. Architectural window film dealers and installers, as well as distributors and suppliers, should consider building wraps in an effort to take advantage of this growing worldwide trend.

“Building wraps are similar to car wraps except they are for buildings so they are on a much, much grander scale,” says Dave Conrad, marketing manager for Mutoh America Inc. “They typically involve wrapping portions or entire buildings to give them a unique look or, more often, to promote events or products. You can wrap part or all of a building depending on the visibility and the message.”

“Building wraps are used worldwide for a wide array of advertising and marketing applications, as well as to promote community and public-art events,” says Judy Bellah, public relations manager for Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Clear Focus Imaging Inc. “Examples include promoting sports and entertainment events at casinos, hotels and other venues; launching products as part of a broader media campaign; and providing an attractive covering during building renovations or adding color to cityscapes.”

“It’s a giant way to catch someone’s attention,” says Camille Watson, marketing manager for USA Image, a grand format digital printer based in Louisville, Ky. “There are different materials you can use. You can use a mesh material. If you have more of a window film product you could wrap the window with the adhesive film.”

Installation for these wraps can range from wrapping the exterior portions of a window, or new to, such as adding graphics to the textured building façade.

“You can install them on brick, stucco, even a textured wall is not a limitation for this film,” says Tim Boxeth, business manager with 3M commercial graphics.

“A building wrap involves partially or fully covering the façade of a building with colorful printed graphics,” says Bellah. “Most of the films installed on building windows are made of perforated vinyl and have a pressure-sensitive adhesive on the back that is protected by a liner, which is removed prior to installation. The liner also catches the ink that passes through the film’s holes.

“Perforated window films are usually identified by brand and their perforation pattern—for example, ‘65/35,’ means 65 percent print surface and 35 percent perforations, or open area,” Bellah adds. “The back of the film is usually black, which allows people inside the building to see out. Some building wraps are printed on mesh, which requires a different installation method and allows air to pass through the image without tearing.”

In-Your-Face Ads
Brian Timm, owner of Tint King in Billerica, Mass., says the addition of the service is a no-brainer, as many advertisers choose to update their graphics often.

“It’s another easy add-on,” says Timm. “It’s partnering. You partner with a graphic artist; they can even do the printing and you install. The films are quite durable. Some are temporary and may only be for an upcoming show. At Madison Square Garden [in New York City] they’re doing new ones all the time.”

“In Times Square where these are very popular, rather than attaching banners to buildings, they’ll put a frame on the building so they can change that banner out frequently,” says Watson.

High-traffic areas, especially those with changing attractions, offer the best opportunities for building wrap jobs.

“You see a lot of building wraps in Las Vegas where the casinos use them to promote their shows and the talent they bring in to their location,” says Conrad.

“Advertisers and promoters are using buildings as an opportunity to get their products in front of thousands of people,” he says. “Hotels use them to promote events or major shows with big name performers that are playing in their facility. You see this a lot in tourist cities such as Las Vegas, Orlando and Atlantic City, N.J. Real estate investors and developers are also using building wraps to advertise their properties or promote new housing, condo or apartment developments during the construction process.” 

Commercial properties may also use building wraps as a more cost-effective solution to renovations, using the films and graphics to make the exterior of the building more appealing to consumers.

“Similar to vehicle wraps, producers of building wraps are now offering aesthetic solutions to older buildings to make them look more modern or hip,” says Conrad. “They also are using building wraps to improve the appearance of outdated architecture or to improve the appearance of all or parts of large structures where a rebuild or remodel is too costly or not able to happen in the immediate future. 

“Similar to wrapping a car to make it look more appealing, building graphics and producers of building graphics are using their wraps as a way to help developers and real estate professionals enhance the façade of their facility making it more appealing to the public or a specific audience they are trying to attract,” he adds. “It’s also a great way to advertise available retail or rental space for sale, rent or lease. Typically, a building wrap will be used when there is a longer sale or promotional cycle so the imagery or messaging doesn’t have to be changed as frequently, but in high-traffic locations like theme parks, resort areas and tourist attractions the building wraps can change much more regularly.”

As the push for corporate advertising continues to grow, so will building wraps.

“One growing trend is the rental of media space on buildings by landlords as a means of generating revenue,” says Bellah.

“Continually seeking new, creative ways to catch the eye of consumers, advertisers have turned to non-traditional forms of advertising,” she adds. “Building wraps demand attention as they tower over most other ads and generate a lot of buzz.”

“It’s a medium that wasn’t used long ago and it’s a great way to put your name out there,” Watson says.

Do it Yourself
Members of the window film industry can consider a variety of methods to add this service to their offerings.

“Working with designers and finding areas, near arenas especially, the paybacks are fast for the advertisers so it’s a great opportunity,” says Timm. “Printers are also pretty reasonable these days.

“I would recommend dealers add the service to their website and brochures and see what happens,” adds Timm. “As for difficulty, most window film installers would have no problem with the skill sets needed for the install.”

“Work with local retailers, commercial developers, realtors and builders to determine the opportunity for building wraps,” says Conrad. “Know what is coming next and be able to provide an economical solution that is unique. This will get attention and is always something that interests these people. Many retailers and developers aren’t even aware of the potential for them to promote or use their building as advertising space, so educating them on the possibilities and potential is a good opportunity to score big with building wraps.”

Looking into professional organizations can help generate leads as well.

“We belong to the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA)?and they have a subgroup Professional Decal Application Alliance, a certified subgroup where you get tested and certified on the materials and a listing on their website,” says Watson. “People looking for that type of installation can find you there. It’s an installer network and it’s a great way to get involved.”

As with any new venture, however, it should be approached with caution.

“Talk to the experts before making the leap,” recommends Bellah. “Dealers need to understand the challenges and requirements associated with the entire process—permitting/compliance, design, prepress, printing, finishing, shipping, installation and removal. Steps include obtaining the necessary permits to ensure compliance with local ordinances, creating a template of the individual building to be wrapped, having an in-depth understanding of substrates and their performance characteristics, having the proper printing and finishing equipment and expertise to output client files according to specification and having qualified/certified installers to install and remove the graphics.”

“The material that goes on the building is a non-adhesive vinyl mesh,” says Watson. “If there isn’t an existing frame you screw it into the mortar. It is harder to install and it takes someone who is trained on the material. It’s not something I suggest just anyone take on; it takes a degree of skill.”

“Being successful at producing full-coverage building wraps requires serious investment in equipment and personnel as well as technical expertise,” Bellah says. “Building wrap production is a niche within a niche, and the client base with the marketing budget to commission a wrap is finite. As a result, these specialty jobs will not be the mainstay of a print shop or dealer. They can help differentiate a company from the competition, however, and may lead to other new business opportunities.”

“Be sure you do your homework,” says Conrad. “Choosing the right types of materials needed for such wraps is critical. Wrapping a building is no small feat and mistakes can be costly. 

“The right print material and ink combination to give you the best looking graphic that promotes your message in the best and most desirable way is important,” Conrad adds. “Longevity is also something you will need to know. Knowing how long the graphic is going to be up will give you a good idea of how long you need it to last. The right ink and media solution to give you the best performance is important, so you need to do your homework and understand the application and the conditions to which the wrap will be exposed.”

“Companies without a full-service solution—including an experienced graphics department to process artwork, the latest wide-format digital printers and finishing equipment, space to house it all and qualified installers—may wish to find partners having the necessary expertise,” Bellah adds.

A Bright Future
According to Boxeth, sales of building wraps are only going to increase.

“The trend is to do more out-of-home advertising that is different; wraps in general are the most cost-effective way to promote,” Boxeth says. “Vehicle and building wraps are continuing to grow at double-digit rates each year. At retail it’s worth about $1 billion a year. That’s a big number to grow.

“The trend is definitely growth because more people are realizing the benefit graphics can have for them,” says Boxeth. “Using graphics for buildings and walls can create a certain look and atmosphere. I think more architects and designers are understanding that, when using these films, the limitations continue to be reduced.”

Several newer trends have even developed as a result of the success and growth.

“Transforming the surface of a building into an image-projection system is yet another recent innovative application,” Bellah says.

“Rear-projection films … are like putting a frosted film on the glass but you place a projector behind it and project images out of the building to customers,” says Timm. “You project from behind. It is a film that reacts to the projector and causes the image to ‘pop’ out of the glass … You project the picture out of the window.”

Among the many trends in building wraps, it’s eco-friendly aspects may be the most attractive benefits for some consumers.

“It’s our industry’s best foot forward for a green option,” says Boxeth. “It’s environmentally preferred since it’s a non-PVC film. It has to be highly conformable with good lifting resistance.”

“In addition to their promotional prowess, building wraps have an added benefit of potential energy savings, provided the graphics are printed in bright colors that reflect light,” adds Bellah. “We recommend against the use of dark colors across a large area for several important reasons: depending on the lighting conditions dark colors can allow the viewer to see through the graphics, which is the opposite effect than that desired; they require more ink coverage, which can magnify any banding or other printing imperfections; and they absorb more light and may increase heat buildup on the glass.”

“Given the trends, the outlook for building wraps looks good for the foreseeable future,” says Bellah. “Ongoing innovations in printer, ink and substrate technologies will continue to open up new opportunities.”

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