Can anyone envisage a world today without pictorial advertising? No? There is no doubt that we have become a very visual society, and sales and marketing campaigns would be forced to take a very different stance if visual images were no longer used. The written word is powerful, but as the old saying goes, ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words.’ Product advertising on commercial vehicles is becoming the norm.
As well as being respected throughout industry for its high quality, custom-made flexible fabric products manufactured from heavy-duty thermoplastic materials, Structure-flex Limited of Melton Constable in Norfolk is an established manufacturer of both fixed strap and pocket style vehicle curtains. It is able to offer every available buckle, webbing and roller combination and holds one of the largest ex-stock fabric colour ranges in the industry. Every curtain Structure-flex makes is purpose-built and tailored to the vehicle and customer requirements.
The company appreciates the power of advertising. To enhance the commercial effect of its trailer curtains, Structure-flex uses the latest digital print techniques to create one continuous picture to use on the side of a ‘moving billboard’ – a trailer.
Not many companies in Europe have this capability; Structure-flex, aware of the impact of this type of moving advertising, has invested heavily in two plants, one in Melton Constable in the UK, and one in mainland Europe. It can now manufacture digitally printed vehicle curtains to any current height and length measurements.
The process of commissioning trailer curtains usually follows the same path. The majority of product manufacturers and suppliers employ project managers to make decisions about product promotion; project managers in turn, use the expertise of design and marketing agencies to supply the design. The design company liaises with the vehicle bodybuilders, and it is the bodybuilders that place the order with the curtain manufacturer and printer. In the case of the two breweries featured here, that curtain manufacturer was Structure-flex.
Design agencies have been quick to realise the potential advertising opportunities afforded by the expanse of ‘blank canvas’ on the sides of trailers, and are increasingly suggesting this modern, cost-effective advertising option, that will be seen on a daily basis by millions up and down the country’s, indeed, the continent’s roads.
Keith Ironside is the Marketing Manager at the Greene King Brewing Company in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, brewers of well-loved beers such as Abbot’s Ale, Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen. The brewery produces one of the finest ranges of cask ales in the country. It is Keith’s responsibility to ensure that the right brand message is delivered to as wide an audience as possible by whatever means are available to him.
Keith explains: “Greene King has recently purchased twelve new DAF lorries and had the choice of back bodywork. We opt for our vehicles to have curtains, which our drivers and delivery personnel find easy to use and give a good degree of weather protection to our products. This gave us an amazing opportunity to have permanent branding on our curtain sided trailers, which I see as moving adverts – a strong marketing tool, producing a strong message to a wide audience. Because of the longevity of the curtains and their exposure to a large number of people, it is a considerably more cost-effective way of getting your message across than fixed advertising.”
Working closely with Greene King, 032 Design in Suffolk produced a spectacular design for each of Greene King’s three main brands – IPA, Abbott’s Ale and Old Speckled Hen. 032 Design works on a variety of branding projects for the brewery to develop and relay key messages, and provided the artwork for Structure-flex to manufacture the curtains. Dan Seago from 032 Design says: “We kept the design simple and very brand focused using stock images, which creates a consistency when seeing Greene King liveries. We ensured that the design was appropriate in terms of proportion and impact.”
“Digitally printed curtains are manufactured from a specifically formulated material to absorb the ink, but which retains the mechanical properties of standard curtain material,” explains Matt Doughty from Structure-flex. “Life expectancy is of course dependent upon regular maintenance and likelihood of accidental damage, but the curtains can be repaired, and should enjoy a similar lifetime to traditional curtains. When preparing a marketing campaign for lorry curtains, this is a key matter to be taken into consideration. We recommend using the company brand with clear visual product identity, try to incorporate core company values, BUT – don’t use anything seasonal or transitional. Structure-flex has alternative curtain products for short-term or seasonal campaigns.”
A second brewery, Wadworth & Co Ltd, a family-owned brewery that has produced ales in Devizes, Wiltshire since 1875, has also been a recent recipient of Structure-flex curtains. Tradition plays a big part in Wadworth’s ethos. The company has a well-founded reputation for using original brewing techniques that produce a range of exceptional beers, and is the only brewer still to produce wooden barrels at the brewery, employing the services of the last remaining Master Cooper in the country. Tradition is further maintained by using dray horses for some local deliveries.
At the end of 2008, Wadworth was looking to change their marketing strategies and started a new campaign ‘Welcome to Wadworthshire!’ Malcolm Glenn was the man charged with producing a friendly, creative, cohesive design for a marketing campaign which encompassed the use of email, website, trade and consumer press, point of sale products, and of course, vehicle curtains.
Malcolm, who has worked with Wadworth for 12 years, comments: “We needed to come up with a campaign which used the same branding and conveyed similar messages in different media, in order to deliver a consistent brand awareness and gain consumer confidence; not including lorry curtains in the overall scheme would have been overlooking an important marketing opportunity. Having Wadworth’s company message on the trailers is satisfying for the client and creates immense public interest in our products.”
He goes on to say: “We produced digital illustrations combining all the key elements of the new marketing campaign – the sunrise background, rolling barrels and beer bottles – which we envisaged as representing ‘Wadworthshire.’ So far, we have produced one design for the vehicle curtains, which are a wonderful canvas for getting a message across. We had to bear in mind that the image needed to create an immediate impact, as, being on the move, the audience has a limited time to look at it.”
“We have had a new bespoke curtain designed by Structure-flex, called Smoothside, that uses internal in place of external clips,” says David Townsend from Wadworth, “a style we chose because it gives a cleaner look and doesn’t interrupt the curtain design.”
This was the first time that Malcolm Glenn had used Structure-flex, and at 8.3m x 2.4m, the curtain design was twice as large as anything they had worked on before. The images that Structure-flex required were huge, and all the photography needed to be the right size for such a large canvas to ensure that the resolution was high enough. It was vital that a close working relationship was established between Malcolm and Structure-flex to ensure that the final curtains were the best possible.
Says Malcolm: “The final result was excellent – the colour quality was very high and everyone was very happy with the outcome.” Once the curtains are manufactured and printed by Structure-flex, the last link in the chain is the coachbuilder, who will fit them to the new trailers. G K Harvey Coachbuilders, a family-owned company from Attleborough, Norfolk, is a near neighbour of Structure-flex. It has a 10-year history of fitting Structure-flex curtains to commercial vehicles, and has fitted the curtains for Greene King’s new trailers. Atech Coachbuilders Limited from Westbury in Wiltshire, has fitted Wadworth’s two vehicles with the new brighter designed curtains, and four further pairs are on order from Structure-flex.
Neither brewing companies can say with absolute certainty that commercial vehicle advertising has a direct impact on sales figures, but Greene King’s Keith Ironside finishes by saying: “While it is difficult to evaluate each arm of the marketing policy with complete accuracy, I believe that advertising on lorry curtains, as part of the overall strategy, undoubtedly contributes significantly to raising the brand awareness. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
David Townsend is also convinced that this type of advertising is value for money: “We don’t carry out any quantitative evaluation, but in my opinion, vehicle curtains are a fantastic advertising medium due to the number of people who see them. We will be taking our two new drays to the Badminton Horse Trials in May to advertise Henry’s Original IPA and 6X.”
Matt Doughty from Structure-flex is proud of Structure-flex’s products. “Both sets of vehicle curtains for the two breweries are stunning,” he comments. “Although Structure-flex has its own design studio, which means that we can in fact, see the process through from start to finish, we are also able to work closely with external agencies, as in both these cases. We have achieved a finished article which both Greene King and Wadworth breweries are more than pleased with. The use of digital print technology on our patented Smoothside curtain design is a fantastic product and is unique to Structure-flex.“
Structure-Flex Ltd Tel: 01263 863100 www.structure-flex.co.uk