Crude bumper stickers and graphics promote the wrong message to potential customers.

Ever been behind a truck and noticed decals that say, “Only the Good” on the left and “Die Young” on the right?

How about “How's my driving? Call 1-800-EAT XXXX.” They may be good for a chuckle, but not so good for business.

What do you think about permitting advertising bumper stickers like a radio station in New York does that says, “Wow”? In New York, this means “Whip it out Wednesday.” Do you find “Watch my rear end, not hers” a catchy phrase?

Well, maybe you do. But it's pretty crude to downright offensive. It's not my opinion; it's what your clients and potential clients think. They also don't like when you endorse politicians with bumper stickers and placards.

How about your sign that says, “Help Wanted”? Is this reassuring to a potential customer? How does it make you feel to walk into a restaurant and spot a sign on the front door saying, “Help Wanted. Cooks, Waiters and Bus Boys needed.” Hope you enjoy your meal!

What's a Dead Head sticker doing on the back of your truck? No, I'm not referring to Dan Holohan's “Dead Heads.” The Grateful Dead band is referred to here. Keep your musical taste to yourself.

What a giant waste of your marketing dollars because you're promoting the wrong message! What is the right message?

Four Steps To Good Truck Design

Your trucks are rolling billboards. This is especially so when you move away from vans and invest in Sprinter, mini boxes or big box-type trucks. At least, that's how my family came to think about the fleet of trucks that rolled each day with our name on them.

The elements of good truck design are:

  • Step No. 1 - Pick a color that attracts people's attention first. The kind of color that gets your truck noticed blocks away. The best colors are bright red like Coca-Cola, bright green like 7 Up, bright orange like Allied Vans and a bright yellow like DHL; they really get your attention.

    Do you remember seeing DHL trucks on the road just a couple of years ago? Today, they seem to be everywhere. Why? The trucks used to be a dull grey. Now they're a bright yellow.

  • Step No. 2 - The name of your company needs to jump off the truck. The test is to take a color photo of your truck and print it out in black and white. If the name doesn't smack you in the face, the color is hiding a bad design.

    Moving the lettering toward the back of the truck rather than in the dead center forces the person seeing your truck to move their eyes and that gets you noticed. Our company put our logos toward the back and on an angle. That really made you tilt your head. It was out of the ordinary, at that time, and it got noticed.

  • Step No. 3 - Make it very clear what you do. And make it clear very fast. If you're among the very few who picked a name that actually means something to a customer (rather than your family name or the town the company is located), this step is easier. For the rest of us, you need to spell out clearly what you do.

  • Step No. 4 - Reduce the clutter. When I first got involved in our marketing, our trucks looked like circus wagons because we had so much writing. It had more copy than most big Yellow Pages ads. People didn't know where to look first. So, they didn't look at all. You need to direct their eyes to what's most important.

    If you have a great 800-type number, go ahead and promote it. Otherwise, don't kid yourself; no one is saying to their spouse while speeding down the highway, “Honey, quick get a pen! I want to write down the phone number on that service truck.”

    Good truck design is so important that you need to commit the money to hire professionals to create the design. Just add it to your marketing budget because it's a marketing expense. A professional designer understands color, graphics and how to get noticed. Today, you have a lot of options. You can get the truck wrapped and that allows vibrant colors and the use of photos. There's a whole big world of possibilities available to you that didn't exist a few years ago. Even if you choose not to have your trucks wrapped, you can still make them stand out on the road with good-looking decals.

    Stay involved with the designers by having them adhere to the steps I outlined. Another good tip would be for you to visit PM's best-looking truck designs online. But a word of caution: Don't steal someone else's design. It'll always look like a paint-by-number fake. Use it only to see what you like and don't like. Then, help guide the professional designer with that knowledge.

    Another word of advice: If you like the design you picked immediately, you probably went way too safe. A more edgy design that gets you noticed takes some getting used to.

    After you have at least three good designs to choose from, ask the designer to send you the design in a computer file that will allow you to see what your truck will look like. You want to view those files in a slide show on your computer at a pretty rapid pace. That's how you'll know which design jumps at you and most likely to get the attention you desire.

    That's how to make the best use of your truck at any speed.