No one knows your business exists unless you make them aware of it. Proper marketing is essential to the success of an HVAC company, and many contractors have found success using the free advertising space afforded to them on the sides of their vans or trucks. While some business owners are better than others at showcasing their company’s services to potential clients via their vehicles, there are varying schools of thought on how to best portray the message.

Mirror Your Own Marketing

The industry representatives we spoke with offered one consistent message: consistency. “Although this may seem obvious, the most important thing to keep in mind when designing your vehicle marketing is consistency,” said Mike Cassity, west regional manager, Sid Harvey Industries, Garden City, New York. “Far too often, companies are using this precious resource incorrectly by varying their themes, messages, and graphics, which sends an inconsistent message.”

Cassity continued: “Can you imagine McDonald’s using anything other than the famous golden arches to advertise its restaurants? Who among us, when searching for a McDonald’s in an unfamiliar area, hasn’t looked up in the sky for those golden arches? That is the same kind of branding you should be striving for in your local market. Once you choose a theme, stick with it. Even though your fleet might be composed of cars, pick-ups, vans, box trucks, and more, the same color scheme and theme should be used across the board, regardless of vehicle type.”

Using Themes to Build a Brand

So, what colors work best, and what, exactly, is the best way to use a fleet of vehicles to communicate to customers the strengths of a company?

“Many people associate Nike with its famous swoosh or Meow Mix with its commercial jingle,” said Todd Goldmeyer, marketing manager at Adrian Steel, Adrian, Michigan. “The most memorable brands have one thing in common: They have superior goods and services. And with a strong, cohesive brand, a company’s top-notch products will be at the forefront of customers’ minds. Staying mindful of your company’s overall brand is the key to a successful business.”

Goldmeyer said a work van can act as a moving billboard for an HVAC company, and an organized, eye-catching work vehicle will give customers a good impression of the work an HVAC company does.

A custom wrap is one easy way to create that eye-catching work vehicle and ensure a company has commercial curb appeal and will immediately be fresh in people’s minds, wherever the custom-wrapped vehicle goes.

“[When designing a custom vehicle wrap] stick with designs that are sleek and simple to avoid overwhelming potential customers with too much information,” said Goldmeyer. “Choose bold colors that complement each other to help you stand out. You’ll also want to avoid including too much detailed information to avoid confusing potential customers, but be sure to include your basic contact information on your wrap.”

Cassity agreed that bold, bright colors are essential to maximizing a vehicle’s marketing effectiveness. It’s important to include the basics, he added.

“Always, always, always include your website,” Cassity said. “It amazes me how many companies with decent websites don’t use their vehicle space to drive Web traffic. Your website is most likely the preferred way for customers to contact your company. Of course, you should include your phone number(s) too, but websites are easier to remember than 10-digit phone numbers, particularly if you are advertising several locations.”

And, don’t forget the hood, which is an often overlooked aspect of vehicle advertising design. “Always wrap the hood of your vehicle so that it looks great from a rear-view mirror,” said Cassity. “This is the most important positioning to consider when designing your hood. Yes, your hood is visible by oncoming traffic, but for how long? When you’re parked behind someone at a stoplight or a train, this gives you maximum exposure.”

Goldmeyer also noted the best thing to do in order to cultivate a positive brand with a work vehicle is to keep it organized.

“A disheveled and disorganized work van gives customers the impression that you do subpar work, which will hurt you in the long run,” he said.

“When wrapping taller vehicles, such as vans and box trucks, in any color other than the exact color of the original vehicle, don’t fall into the trap of trying to save money by not wrapping the roof,” said Cassity. “No, you can’t see the top when you are standing and looking at the vehicle, but it can be seen from so many other places. All your prospective customer will need is a two-story building to see that you took a shortcut, which results in an unappealing design. Next time you are on the road in anything other than a small car (an SUV will work just fine for this experiment), take a look at wrapped vehicles coming your way in oncoming traffic and pay attention to whether or not the roof is wrapped. You’ll undoubtedly find examples of vehicles that have an unwrapped roof, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.”

“Do not disregard visibility or legibility,” said Adams Hudson, Hudson, Ink, Montgomery, Alabama. “Busy lettering and busy imaging ruin the effect. Also, do not put too many words or alternating font styles on a vehicle. It is the same rules as billboards, where short and impactful is better than wordy and ponderous.”

Long-term Effects

While vehicle marketing may only be seen for a few brief seconds by prospective customers, it can have a lasting impact on their buying tendencies. In fact, Cassity believes vehicle marketing is one of the best long-term marketing tools available to HVAC companies.

“Ask any contractor who has a few trucks on the road but has designed them with catchy, easily recognizable designs, and I can almost guarantee he’ll say customers and friends say: ‘Man, I see your trucks all the time.’ Chances are that they are not seeing his trucks all the time if he has only one or two, but a vehicle with a great design sticks in people’s memories. And, unlike print, radio, and television advertising, you only pay once for an investment in your image, branding, and top-of-mind awareness that lasts for years.”

Climate Control Experts in Las Vegas has a fleet with a unique design that undoubtedly gets noticed.

“For the last three years, our entire fleet has been equipped with a full vehicle wrap, allowing it to stand out in a crowd of vehicles,” said Christopher Roth, president and CEO, Climate Control Experts. “It’s guerrilla marketing at its finest. We receive calls every day on our vehicles — in a couple of instances just to let us know they got a hearty laugh this morning on the way to work and will certainly use us in the future.”

Once the perfect design on a vehicle is in place to advertise to customers, how long should the design stay in place before it needs to be refreshed and rethought?

“That depends on the effectiveness of the design,” said Cassity. “If you have a great design that catches people’s eyes, you shouldn’t change it unless there is some mitigating circumstance that forces you to change it.”

Publication date: 11/10/2014 

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