A smart approach to fleet liveries


Paul Bellard, general manager at Smart Graphics, answered some quickfire questions


How has Covid-19 affected the graphics sector?


It has been a c hallenging start to the year for most businesses, as the pandemic continues to impact on the way we work and live.


Since the start of the Covid crisis, we have noticed some fundamental changes in approaches to graphics from fleet owners. There has been a shift in mindset from using something simple like a logo, to using vehicles as a platform to deliver information or advertising messages, or promote product ranges.


With most businesses feeling the pinch in the current climate, they are cutting back on traditional platforms like radio, press, television and online. Vehicles can act as mobile billboards, so we have noticed a marked switch, with clients being much more creative with vehicle graphics.


In recent weeks, we have quoted for several installations where fleet owners are turning their vehicles into mobile billboards.



What should fleets consider when buying graphics?


While content and visual appeal is obviously vital, there are several practical factors to consider.


Consider the quality of the material. Often, cost is king when it comes to buying graphics with the cheapest quote as victor. Remember that there are massive variations for a reason.


Graphics are exposed to the elements on vehicles – sun, rain, snow and salt. Each vehicle is representative of your organisation and faded, weather-beaten graphics create a negative image. Consider your vehicle’s shelf life, and if the cheapest graphics will still look good a few years down the line.




What challenges do you face when fitting graphics?


As temperatures drop in winter time, the fitting process becomes increasingly difficult, as vinyl becomes less pliable and more brittle in cold temperatures. As ambient temperature drops, metal surfaces like truck bodies are far colder, making the adhesion process much more difficult.


We always advise clients that we need to work in an ambient temperature above 10°C to avoid potential issues.


Are more fleets considering environmentally friendly vinyls?


Customers will often come to us with hybrid or electric vehicles and then ask us to fit graphics made from plastic, which negates the good work done through choosing environmentally friendly vehicles as part of their corporate social responsibility policy. We now try to educate customers in terms of our range of environmentally friendly graphics materials.


In recent years, we have seen several non-PVC materials enter the marketplace. Products like the Envision product from 3M are much more environmentally friendly than more traditional materials. The cost is obviously higher than standard vinyl, but those serious about reducing their carbon footprint are happy to pay the additional premium.


What is important when considering graphics content?


Think about what you want to achieve from your content. Good creative makes your vehicles much more eye catching and memorable. We work with clients to determine what they hope to achieve from their vehicle graphics. Some clients are looking for greater brand exposure, and some want to make their vehicle work harder by using them to advertise products or services.


The power of good visuals is phenomenal. I would always recommend working with a designer who can capture the ethos of your organisation.


What should you look for in a graphics supplier?


It is important to look for an established company with a good reputation within the industry. The availability of low cost printers has seen an explosion in smaller outlets offering low cost printed vinyl. However, while it is easy to be drawn into a low cost deal, ask about their skill set and experience in terms of fitting.


Good fitters make graphics fitting look easy, but it is a skill that takes years to hone. Look for companies that ask lots of questions about your fleet, as they will be keen to establish fleet size, variations in vehicle models (including year of manufacture), how long you plan to keep the fleet, and where each vehicle is located for fitting purposes.


How important is service?


Like most things in life, the old ‘get what you pay for’ cliché applies. Often, we will be asked to quote for graphics and the buyer will say that he or she has a cheaper quote. However, when we point out the differences of quality of vinyl, present the client with a fitting plan and a service level agreement, they understand the difference in price.


Remember that it is easy to deliver a great price, but it is much more difficult to deliver an installation programme that minimises operational disruption.






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