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Marketing Insights for Entrepreneurs

Branded Cars: The Surprisingly Effective Marketing Tool That Makes Business Vroom, Vroom

When you’re driving around town, you pass tons of branded cars and trucks without even realizing it. It’s not uncommon to see a Coca Cola truck barreling down the highway or a U-Haul van decked out in orange and white.

But shipping and moving companies aren’t the only ones branding their cars, vans, and trucks. It turns out small business owners and startups are doing it just as much, if not more.

But are these companies seeing ROI from their vehicles? Are branded cars and vans great marketing tools or just a waste of money?

We did the math, talked to a ton of small business owners with various types of branded transport, and figured out which industries are most likely to see success.

Vroom, vroom.

Does The Investment Make Sense?

No marketing decision is a good one if you don’t do the math beforehand. You can brand the car you already own or you can get a new one.

Here’s how much it would cost to buy and brand a new Smart Car in Massachusetts:

Estimated Cost of Branding a Smart Car in Massachusetts

Cost of Smart Car

~$15,000

Taxes (6.25% Massachusetts state tax)

$937.50

Fully Wrapping the Car

$2000

Insurance per year (one MA driver with clean record)

~$1500

Gas per year (20,000 miles)

$2006

Total Cost:

$21,443.50

Ultimately, this investment will cost about $21,443 in the first year, providing you don’t get into any accidents.

Alternatively, you can brand the car you’re already driving. If you’re already paying for gas, maintenance, insurance, and taxes, your only cost is wrapping: roughly $2000.

If you think of a branded car as a billboard and you’re constantly driving in high traffic areas and frequenting events, this could be worth it. If you’re banking on a branded car bringing you direct sales … eh… you might want to think twice.

In this post, we’ll explore different aspects of branding your vehicle to help you decide if it’s right for your business.

Branded Vehicles Are Attention-Grabbers

There’s a lot of branded cars on the road, so if you’re going to brand, make sure your wrapping gets you noticed. Small business owners with branded vehicles cite attention and recognition as the primary reason for spankin’ their company name on a car. Many talked about how their vehicles were moving billboards.

Amy and Rod Burkert, a husband and wife team, branded their RV with Go Pet Friendly.com, their company’s name. Their home is essentially an advertisement and they see more website visits from locations where they’re parked.

gopetfriendly1

A car with a funky personality could be a way to brand, too. Your car has the potential to become famous in your town or city.

“Creating Maggie, my branded Mini Cooper, was the best thing I did for my business,” says Leeann Shattuck of Women’s Automotive Solutions. “Everyone recognizes her, and she had more friends on Facebook than I did at one point.  When I meet people, they often have seen Maggie zooming around town.”

Breeding The Familiarity Principle

Did you know that 60% of consumers would rather buy products from companies they’ve heard of than ones they haven’t? 

If people are familiar with your brand, they’re more likely to buy from you. So, breed a little familiarity and get a branded vehicle. This works especially well if you’re catering to people in a certain neighborhood or geographic region.

If your company name rings a bell, people will be more comfortable with you. They’ll feel like they’ve seen you and your business around town, as though you’re an esteemed neighbor.

“Familiarity sells. If someone is in your area and needs a dentist, and they go to Google and say ‘hey, I’ve heard of them,’ they’re more likely to differentiate, they’re more likely to choose you,” says Jeff Blake, founder of Rush Hour Advertising, a company that connects advertisers with prospective drivers.

Maintaining a Professional Image

If you’re making house calls and visiting clients, a branded vehicle goes a step beyond customer acquisition and recognition. It serves as proof that you’re a real professional, totally dedicated to your company.

“Our van makes my business seem larger, more robust than it is. When asking a new customer recently how she heard of us, she replied, ‘Oh, I saw one of your vans in front of my apartment.’  I love that she thinks that my one and only company vehicle is part of a larger fleet.”

-Valerie McCartney, Enticing Tables.

When you drive up to someone’s home and park in their driveway, you’re not only showing them that you’re serious, but you’re showing your company to the neighborhood.

If a customer is buying from you, their neighbors are probably interested, too. That’s why landscaping companies always have branded vans and trucks. Neighbors peek out their front windows or walk by and decide to call that landscaper, too.

Getting Direct Sales

So we said getting direct sales isn’t a reason to brand a car, but some of the business owners we talked to believe their vehicles result in direct sales.

I literally see people sitting beside me at stop lights reading my car or looking at the photos,” says Valerie. “Occasionally, they snap a photo of the brand name with their smartphone. People routinely walk up to me and ask for a business card.”

Welmoed Sisson of Inspections by Bob has had a similar experience. “We get calls all the time from people who have seen our vehicles and want to know more about our services. I’m also approached in parking lots as I’m getting in or out of my car, and asked for business cards. We have small business card holders on the rear of our vehicles, and we need to refill them every week or two.”

Considering Your Industry

The people that see the most return on their branded vehicles run businesses catering to local audiences in certain neighborhoods. No surprise there– it’s pretty hard to get a national presence if you’re driving around one area.

People who believe their branded cars were awesome investments:

You have control over where you park, so you can position your vehicle in neighborhoods and locations where you’re needed.

Branding your car has better results than spending money on a billboard because you not only make the advertising targeted, but you have a higher reach when driving. We often park our car outside of healthcare clinics we are trying to enroll, community centers, country clubs, fitness clubs, etc. so we can raise awareness about our service.

-Nadeem Kassam, Connect the Doc

Boosting Company Culture

Siemasko + Verbridge, an architecture and interior design firm, used a branded van and a crazy contest to boost company culture.

Because the firm prides itself in creativity and innovation, it held an internal contest for the best van design.

Employee entries were serious, fun, and surprising. Employees not only got a good laugh, but ended up with a van they helped create.

svdesign2

If you decide to get a company vehicle, learn from Siemasko + Verbridge. Fill the branding process with fun. Have a contest to name and design the vehicle. Gather your employees together to make your new car part of the family.

Final Thoughts: Branded Vehicles Are Surprisingly Effective

Talking to small business owners with branded vehicles made us realize that billboards with wheels can be awesome marketing tools.

See ya on the road.

Your Turn: Do you have a branded car or van? Would you consider one? Tell us all about it!

  • http://www.shawngraham.me/ Shawn

    Great post. Unlike social media and online marketing where you’re competing with thousands of other businesses for attention, branded vehicles can definitely be a highly effective way for getting noticed in your local market. Personally, I know I always find myself checking them out when they drive by.

    • http://www.emmasiemasko.com/ Emma Siemasko

      Me too, Shawn, especially when they’re in my neighborhood. Worth keeping the vehicle in tip-top shape, too. Looks even more professional.

      • http://www.shawngraham.me/ Shawn

        Just no QR codes. I know some businesses think they make their branded vehicles look all “high tech” and “hip,” but most of the time you’re going to be moving–and that makes scanning totally impractical.

        • http://www.emmasiemasko.com/ Emma Siemasko

          In my opinion, QR codes are impractical anyway. If you want someone to meet you on the web, best post an easy to remember domain name. :)

          • http://www.shawngraham.me/ Shawn

            Agreed. There’s definitely a need for technology that helps us blur the lines between our virtual and physical worlds–unfortunately QR codes don’t seem to be it.

          • http://www.emmasiemasko.com/ Emma Siemasko

            …Sounds like a sound idea for a business venture! ;)

  • Valerie

    Thanks for the article Emma. Since we spoke, I’ve booked another wedding from a bride whose friend “saw one of my cars” on the road. Still just have the one and still very happy with the investment and results. I’ve finally gotten used to big dudes walking up to me in parking lots……and asking for a business card.

    • http://www.emmasiemasko.com/ Emma Siemasko

      So glad to hear that, Valerie. It was fun putting together this post and hearing from people like you about what their cars have done for them. Thanks again for all your insights.

  • http://rmichaeldavies.com/ R Michael Davies

    We have had numerous branded vehicles for our real estate franchises,l and would agree that the return has been excellent. The branding has lasted between 5 and 7 years per vehicle, and cost about $2k each, meaning a yearly cost of less than an ad in a local paper. I would have to say the returns for us in the high ticket space are in the 17 to 20X range, as a very minimum.

    • http://www.emmasiemasko.com/ Emma Siemasko

      Hi Michael, thanks for reading Real estate is a particularly good industry for branded vehicles because of the local marketing component, so I’m not surprised to hear you say that. it really helps with brand recognition to have a few cars driving around town with your name on them. When it comes time for someone to sell their house or buy a new one, they remember you. Very cool. Thanks again for reading :)