If you live anywhere near a large city, you’ve probably seen the billboards, posters, flyers, etc. showing a woman graciously dancing, inviting you to a traditional Chinese dance performance called Shen Yun.
When I first saw these ads, I thought, “Oh how nice, I love cultural events promoting international art forms.” What set-off my skepticism, however, was the volume of their advertising. I sold billboard and radio advertising in the very early years of my career and have bought a lot of mass media as a marketing director. Using that knowledge, I did some rough math for the Houston area: the potential income from these performances in ticket sales (not factoring for any freebies given out and assuming each show is sold out) minus advertising expenses (that I knew of, which is limited since I don’t have TV and don’t travel the whole city), event rental hall prices, and costs of travel and such for the dance troupe.
I couldn’t make the math work where they would turn a profit.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who noticed their seemingly unlimited promotional budget and got curious; The Guardian has a great investigative piece about Shen Yun that is worth reading as does the Los Angeles Times. Both articles claim the goal of the performances is not to turn a profit from selling tickets, but to promote the agenda of a particular religious group, Falun Gong (Falun Dafa), and gain sympathy of their persecution by the Chinese government.
Which “side” is right? I don’t claim to have an opinion on this. But it’s important to highlight examples like their advertising and events where the goal of the advertising and/or event is different than we would originally assume.
Company vehicles are usually not high on the priority list for marketers, but vehicles, if used effectively, can be an effective part of your marketing mix.
Use your vehicles to reinforce your key messaging
Many businesses consider a logo and tagline on their vehicles as “brand awareness” but it’s not the most effective way to use the medium. Instead, use your vehicles to reinforce your key messages. For example, Star Furniture turned 100 years old, so they branded their vehicles with the phrase “I’m 100 years old, how am I driving?” to reinforce their store’s long history. Similarly, Staples reinforces their mission of resupplying your office supplies with their truck messaging below.
Vehicles can be a powerful advertisement
Vehicles can be used as a main form of advertisement (with a marketing mix) but, again, it has to go beyond the logo and tagline. Consider the END IT Movement Anti-Slavery/Human Trafficking Video below. In this case, a truck (and the video of the campaign) became a powerful tool for the movement.
Some words of caution
Use few words. For billboards, we recommend seven words or less. I’d adhere to this rule for your vehicles too.
Bad drivers are bad news. Your employees driving poorly, causing accidents, etc. can cause a plethora of marketing and public relations issues.
Think about your messaging with use. There are hilarious examples of vehicles where the messaging changes with use. For example, a sliding door van, when opened, spells other words (see this Starbucks sliding door fail that spells “Sucks” when the door is open).
As with any other aspect of your facilities, how well-kept your vehicle is can convey a message about how well your business is doing. Don’t let them, or the messages on them, fall into disrepair.
Think about how your clients will react to your vehicle. For example, would you think you are getting a good deal if a salesperson selling you something drove up in an Aston Martin? Most likely not. In fact, you’d be less likely to buy from them.