Innovation takes many forms and can be seen in all aspects of everyday life. When it comes to branding, it is a constant challenge to come up with the latest smart idea to capture the public’s eye and imagination.
This is truly the domain of the Graffiti Group, a company which has turned the concept of vehicle branding into an art form through Retail Solutions, Vehicle Branding, Tarpaulin Services, Digital Print and a Design studio.
Since forming over 20 years ago, the business has identified the need to stay “current” and has duly evolved. A management change 14 years ago proved the catalyst for growing a business which has become the market leader in South Africa; around the same time Alan Harris, Managing Director, joined the business:
“Since its inception in 1999, Graffiti has grown and diversified into one of the most exciting and innovative branding and out-of-home media companies in South Africa.
“Today the business offers comprehensive and complete branding and media solution for clients wanting to build their brands. I joined when the new management team had just taken over, and back then we were doing advertising on trucks, and saw a niche for vehicle branding to become a successful business.”
The Johannesburg-based company has significantly grown its footprint over the years and now operates offices in Cape Town and Durban with subsidiaries all over the country.
Innovative branding has become a real speciality for Graffiti and the business boasts an impressive array of clientele including: fleet giants like: Barloworld, Imperial, Bidvest and Avis Fleet Services, the major banks like FNB, Standard Bank, Nedbank and ABSA, petroleum companies like BP, Sasol and Caltex, courier companies like DHL, UTI, tracking companies like Netstar and C-Track, major retailers including an array of car dealerships and major trucking and logistic companies using the company’s recently opened “Tarpaulin Division” which ensures that Graffiti is highly competitive in this price sensitive market.
During the 2010 Soccer World Cup Graffiti landed the contract to brand all of the official Team Buses and 420 fan buses in 6 weeks across the country, which was executed with precision.
Graffiti also provides services for Government-owned entities including the City of Johannesburg fleet (comprising of over 2,000 vehicles) police departments like JMPD and Emergency services including EMS.
As the company grew it also found an opportunity to sell advertising space on student vehicles and quickly established a network of 1,500 students. The next step along the pathway to growth was to work with the meter taxi companies and this has proved hugely successful, as Harris outlines:
“These sexy, trend-setting and eye-catching mini cabs create a fast-moving and powerful marketing tool. They have incredible impact, high frequency and offer fantastic flexibility from short-burst campaigns right through to long-term, brand-building exercises.
“Clients that have successfully built brand awareness and targeted clients through these mini cabs include amongst others McDonalds, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Emirates, Santam, Caltex, Coca-Cola, Total, MWEB, Cell C, Neotel, Hippo Insurance, Guess Clothing, Kauai, Grant’s Whiskey and 1st for Women.”
The operational side of the business is not straight forward, given the sheer volume of vehicles that Graffiti manages over a month:
“On the vehicle branding side we do between 600 and 1,000 vehicles each month and we have had to be innovative to deliver efficiency and ensure we can meet demands.
“We have patented our own framing systems for trucks for example, and the advertisements can easily slide in and out of the frames when they need to be replaced. This is a straight forward process and we send the advertising materials to the client who is able to install the graphics themselves with minimal disruption and downtime. We now have over 9,000 satisfied clients on the vehicle branding side of the business.”
But how effective is this vehicle branding from a marketing point of view? Harris says that recent studies indicate this is a cost-effective way to get a branding message out to a large audience.
“A good example is our own experience at Graffiti; we took 3 VW Beetle cars and branded them 13 years ago. The perception people had was that there were 40 or more vehicles carrying our branding! The branding is eye catching and mobile; it also protects the vehicles from the elements, and can be repaired quickly if damaged. Today Graffiti has its own fleet of 16 jeeps countrywide and we get between 5 and 15 enquiries per day, which has contributed substantially to the success of Graffiti.
“But the bottom line for clients is of course return on investment as an average branded vehicle can range from R1,500 to R15,000 which will give you a minimum of 3 years exposure, so do the maths. Research has indicated that vehicle branding is the cheapest form of advertising.
“We’re finding clients are turning more and more towards their own company vehicles and fleets, to push both their brand and products offering. Investing in (their own) transit options gives companies a ‘media cost free’ platform to enhance their existing marketing & communication strategies.”
Technology plays a huge role in the success of Graffiti, as Harris explains:
“We have a big drive on technology at the moment and we are looking to utilise social media as South Africa changes to communicate to the broader market; our website is typically receiving around 10 new enquiries a day.
“We also have a partnership in place with Hyundai and have invested in technology which allows their clients to customise orders and branding on the Hyundai website. We will be utilising this technology to allow our clients to go onto our website to design or order online, aiding in quicker turnaround to ensure clients brands are on the road sooner than later.
“We are not just about vehicle branding though: our Retail Division has gained great traction – interior and exterior branding solutions gives client options they often don’t consider. Corporate or SME offices invariably don’t utilize their own space. Wall paper prints or signage are visual mediums that can not only enhance the office environment but give prime ‘canvas’ to use for the benefit of promoting one’s company’s services further.
“Our “Building Wraps” and “Boundary Wraps” are truly spectacular! We boast one of the biggest building wraps in Africa, 8,000 square metre of mesh print, with proud previous advertisers like Jonny Walker and Nike who utilised this platform during the 2010 World Cup. Coke is our current advertiser.
“Our state of the art design studio with 10 in-house designers is a true value add for any clients wanting to conceptualise their designs, which could be carried through into their corporate identities.
“We also have a dynamic team of highly skilled project managers who run with the jobs in its entirety, keeping the client in the loop about their branding taking the pain away from the clients having to chase their jobs.
“Our application department comprising of 60 highly skilled guys (largest in Africa) are responsible for taking the graphics and installing them accordingly. They are trained for a minimum of 3 months and are 3M certified. A big key to the company’s success is up-skilling.
“At the same time we are conscious that South Africa has been affected by the economic downturn and I think we’ll feel it a lot more over the next 6 to 12 months, particularly with vehicle sales slightly down.
“We will adjust our model and increases our sales force of foot soldiers here in South Africa. However we also see great potential across the rest of Africa as infrastructure is introduced and we have had a real drive in the Continent over the past 6 months, with opportunities in Kenya and Mozambique, whilst we are currently looking at Angola and Rwanda.
“Currently around 10 per cent of our business is outside South Africa but I expect that to increase substantially in the coming years.”
Harris has good reason to remain excited about the future:
“The beauty of our business is that it is sustainable; companies and individuals will always want to brand vehicles. Our goal over the next year is to increase our presence across Africa while maintaining our existing client database and growing this through new offerings. That comes down to innovation to help make client’s advertising really stand out.”
It seems Graffiti’s efforts are well-received, Harris says that the company has had great interest from similar branding companies in the USA, Australia and the UK, particularly given the number of vehicles it can complete in a day and this all ties-in nicely with the company philosophy:
“Graffiti is an exciting, innovative brand and we are leaders in our field and looking for great branding opportunities for our clients.”