Rebrand Runoff

How a client used a market research ‘election’ to finalize a design
KickCharge Creative rebrands GEM Plumbing and Heating's business after GEM conducts a market research "election" to finalize a design.

Stay in your lane. That’s a safe way to drive. But vehicle graphics should change lanes – weave in and out, make a four-lane sweep. A driving force behind this concept is Dan Antonelli, president and chief creative officer of KickCharge Creative (Washington, NJ). Dan’s term is “disruption” and his firm recently ran into a client that not only embraced this idea, but also held a mock “election” to get their rebrand right.


GEM Plumbing and Heating (Lincoln, RI) runs a fleet of about 100 vans, which had sported the familiar repairman aside a largely monochrome logo and contact copy. Interested in a rebrand, “Gem searched Google images for truck wraps to try and find some inspiration,” Dan said. “KickCharge had designed eight out of 10 they liked the most.” Dan suggested that KickCharge handle Gem’s entire rebranding package and execute the fleet wraps because the vehicles would be the most important application. Topping the list of what Gem was looking for was a design that would “disrupt the marketplace,” said Jenn D’Ambra, Gem’s vice president of operations. Sound familiar?

As KickCharge sketched ideas, they were surprised that the concept of an actual gem (stone) had never been explored. “That led to the idea of using a gem to represent the name, but also using colors to represent [Gem’s] three primary lines of business,” Dan said. “We wanted the truck to be bold, but still legible and not too busy.” KickCharge’s design also included reflective vinyl to lend sparkle.

KickCharge presented four options initially, which were narrowed to two and then to one. For the selected design, Gem requested to see a second color option from an earlier layout. Thus, Gem had its two candidates – one design with two color options. Using mockups of both design-color combos, Gem started the research (showing passersby the options on 2 x 3-ft. boards, perched on easels) at a Rhode Island shopping center. “The original results were validated by doubling the pool on day two, conducting research in Massachusetts and expanding our demographics,” Jenn said. 

GEM Plumbing and Heating’s fleet design prior to rebranding by KickCharge Creative.
GEM Plumbing and Heating’s fleet design prior to rebranding by KickCharge Creative.

Overall, the teal color beat out the apple green by a small margin, Dan reported. “It was helpful for the people to see the logos in action to help choose.” The winning design was put into production with the help of Cool Air Creations Inc. (Smithfield, RI), which used their HP 570 Latex printers to output 3MIJ180 Wrap Film, and their Seal 62-Base Laminators to apply 3M Scotchcal 8518 Overlaminate. They also added 3M Scotchlite IJ680CR Reflective Graphic Film as an overlay. 

“The market research was effective and eye-opening,” Jenn said. “We would definitely conduct a market test for [another] rebrand or similar project to help us better understand our market and our customers.”


Meanwhile, KickCharge is developing a web application that depicts vehicles in potential wraps, with the ability to rotate vehicles on screen to get a 360° view, similar to one feature of Wrapmate. “The idea of being able to spin a van has been something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” Dan said. “I was even looking to hire a photographer, put the van on a pedestal, spin it and manually take each photo every 15 degrees…. But that seemed daunting and slow,” not to mention reminiscent of stop-action animation.

Once Dan figured out there were companies producing 3D files for nearly every vehicle, he bought a template, hired a motion designer to map the art and created test animation. “We also figured a way to export the views every 15 degrees… that the user could manually rotate the vehicle themselves,” he said. “We’re still using traditional comps with side views and 3/4 views on top of real photos,” but once KickCharge can sufficiently reduce the rendering time, they’ll begin using this new app as a means to pitch.


Signs of the Times May 2020

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