Vehicle Wrap Design Dos & Don’ts

Features - Marketing Matters

Best practices for wrapping your service vehicle from a leading creative talent.

October 15, 2021

By Brad Harbison

here was a time — and not that long ago — when it was not that unusual for pest control companies to have no images, no logos and even no text on the outside of their service vehicles. Homeowners and businesses did not necessarily want their neighbors knowing they were receiving a visit from “the bugman.” But times have changed and so too have the public’s perception about having pest control services; NPMA/PPMA and others have helped the public better understand the important role pest management plays in protecting public health and property.

With this stigma gone, pest management professionals have turned their attention to best utilizing the space on their service vehicles through creative vehicle wraps. Done correctly, a vehicle wrap serves as a moving billboard that can build your brand. But it’s also easy to go down wrong paths when it comes to designing your vehicle wrap.

“Vehicle wraps can be one your best ROIs in terms of advertising spend, but most people just don’t do it right and they marginalize it,” said Dan Antonelli, president and chief creative officer at KickCharge Creative, Washington, N.J. “There are some limitations of the medium. Ultimately, what you’re trying to do from a brand perspective is communicate that promise to the consumer.”

Antonelli shared with PCT his thoughts on some dos and don’ts when it comes to vehicle wrap design in the pest control industry.

DO CONSIDER A RE-BRAND. There are, Antonelli said, some situations when an existing brand (e.g., a logo or a mascot) can be incorporated into a new vehicle wrap. In these cases, the wrap can be an “evolution” of what they’ve had, he said. “Maybe the typography is weak; it doesn’t perform well from a distance, but the mark that they have or the mascot that they have is good. OK, so let’s fix the typography and keep the other elements and evolve this brand instead of having a complete revolution.” Similarly, if everyone in your community knows you as the guys with orange trucks, it might not make sense to change your color scheme.

However, in most instances, Antonelli recommends that vehicle wraps be part of a rebrand so that the wrap can be built on a solid foundation. Antonelli starts this process by asking what it is that your brand delivers in terms of a brand promise to that customer. “Does it represent who your company is today? Does it do all the things that you want your brand to do from a perception standpoint? Is it going to be legible on a vehicle when it’s blown up? Can you quickly at a glance determine what it is that your company does?”

An example of a rebrand/redesign KickCharge Creative did for a client was Defense Pest Control. In the prior branding, the primary color was white, and the secondary colors were the black and red lettering. “We said, ‘OK, well let’s leverage the red and black in a more dominant way on that truck.’” KickCharge Creative also came up with a new bug/shield logo that was incorporated into the wrap. “So, the brand equity that was salvaged is more related to the actual color scheme rather than the typography.”

The Wingman Pest Control wrap connects the name Wingman with visuals.
The new Defense Pest Control wrap leverages the red and black in a more dominant way.

DON’T USE PHOTOS. In the pest control industry, there is a temptation to use photos, particularly of insects or happy customers inside or outside of their homes. The problem, Antonelli said, is that photographs “take up a lot of real estate” on service vehicles, and they illustrate what companies do and not who they are. “So, if you’re in a pest control business and you want to show Mrs. Smith on the grass with her kids and she’s smiling [to illustrate a tick-free yard], a lot of real estate is devoted to Mrs. Smith and not much to the brand actually performing that service.”

KickCharge Creative recently completed a rebrand for Deer Solution that included a vehicle wrap redesign. The old Deer Solution wrap featured a photo of deer, while the new one incorporates a deer illustration with an eye-catching font and coordinated green-yellow color scheme. “With their old wrap, that imagery is just difficult to own. The new wrap is so much cleaner. So, it’s the same exact company, but if you didn’t know that, you would think one company was much more professional than the other.”

DO BE DISRUPTIVE, BUT DO SO STRATEGICALLY. In most instances, vehicle wraps are only seen by drivers for a few seconds, so it is important to be bold with your visual. The idea of disruption is to think about colors, imagery and visuals in a way that is unique and compelling. However, Antonelli says that it is important to balance boldness with judgments that are being made about that business based on the visual.

“I think we often misunderstand the relationship of being disruptive versus being disruptive and delivering brand promise,” Antonelli said.

For example, Antonelli said using visual elements like carbon fiber and tribal graphics can create eye-catching wraps, but do they appeal to the sensibilities of women, who oftentimes are the household members making the initial call to a pest control company?

“Remember who you’re marketing to and then look at what’s happening in your competitive landscape. It might be that putting something out on the street that doesn’t look like every other pest control business is a better way to be disruptive than using loud colors and creative patterns.”

DON’T GO OVERBOARD WITH COPY. A common mistake Antonelli sees with vehicle wraps is service providers listing association/membership affiliations, social media channels, awards/recognitions, etc. Antonelli recommends limiting text to the following: (1) brand name; (2) phone number; and (3) website. “With smartphone technology, you want to keep the phone number, and with so many people scheduling services on the web, you want to include your website prominently. And if you have room, include your tagline, but that is about it,” he said.

DO GO BIGGER AND BOLDER. Antonelli said he prefers to use fewer images and design elements, but to use ones that are bigger and bolder. “It’s very simple. We’re trying to get people to associate a visual or a specific image with that company. And every time they see that image, they think about that company.”

A KickCharge Creative-designed wrap that uses big, bold imagery is Mosquito Hunters. In the competitive mosquito control franchise market, Mosquito Hunters stands out because its service professionals dress in safari clothing. Front and center on the Mosquito Hunters wrap is a big illustration of the mosquito hunter decked out in safari clothes.

“Also, look at the colors being used: orange, brown, tan and just a little wood paneling design. It feels very unique and feels very different. It doesn’t look like anything that other people in that space are doing,” Antonelli said. “So those colors in that brand by itself, I think is very disruptive, yet still feels very professional and memorable.”

Another example of “going big” was KickCharge Creative’s design and placement of the Wingman Pest Control logo. Antonelli liked this design because it connected the name Wingman with visuals. “And then you’ve got the fuselage and the aluminum paneling and rivets and things like that go along with the theme of that brand.” KickCharge Creative also redesigned Wingman’s website and carried through many of those themes and ideas. “It’s kind of flashy, but it’s certainly something that still feels very professional, so I think it looks disruptive in that sense,” Antonelli said.

One last thought on vehicle wraps from Antonelli: he said well-done vehicle wraps also can be a valuable tool for smaller companies looking to compete with larger, more established brands. “I have a smaller [client] that only has four or five vans on the road, but judging by the visuals being presented, they look like people you would trust to do a service — they look bigger than they are.”

The author is senior digital editor and managing editor of PCT magazine.