Paint as a Branding Strategy

By Andy Agoos, Contributing Editor | July 25, 2014

Equipment-using organizations often use their fleet to promote their brand. The name is on both sides of the equipment; their logo identifies the organization. Senior managers get quite involved and particular when it comes to how the company brand is portrayed.

There are pros and cons to painting equipment with a unique color scheme.

First, consider the positives of painting or standardizing on a single color. The standardized color scheme tells the general public that this piece belongs to the ABC Construction Co. or the ABC State or ABC County. There are several important messages here.

• Pride in ownership. The organization is saying that it has invested heavily, and the unwritten message is that this company is here in the community for the long term.

• If the organization owns lots of pieces, adopting a unique color scheme tells the general public that your company is large and significant to the community.

• A standardized-color approach identifies your on-road fleet so good drivers are appreciated and bad or rude drivers are identifiable for complaints. It also discourages assigned, take-home vehicles from parking at inappropriate places (beer joints, for example) or inappropriate use (towing a personal boat to the lake on a Sunday).

• Adopting a unique color scheme makes the pieces unusual and easier to identify, which means these pieces are less likely to be stolen.

The negatives make an equally long list.

• Painting a large machine a unique color scheme is an additional cost to the owner. This can be a small cost (such as painting only the cab exterior) or a large cost running several thousands of dollars for each piece.

• A single paint color “homogenizes” the fleet so the pieces are not as identifiable. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) usually have standard paint schemes to identify their brands. For example, Link-Belt cranes are usually white and red. Wirtgen pavers are green and their rollers are orange. Caterpillar equipment is yellow. Once the fleet is painted the same color, it is harder to identify individual pieces.

• When selling equipment, the selling owner typically repaints the piece back to the original OEM colors. Again, this adds more cost to the owner—especially if the piece is only three or four years old and the original paint job is still in good condition.

• If a fleet paints its owned equipment a unique color, everyone can easily distinguish which pieces are on a short-term lease or rental. This can work against a company because non-owned equipment may be mistreated or maintained to a lower standard. Private work customers can easily identify non-owned equipment and may conclude that their project is getting a lesser-quality job. The best operators usually operate the owned equipment, and the newest operators get the oldest equipment or the rentals.

• The OEM has the advantage of painting or dipping subassemblies prior to assembly so the OEM paint job is usually excellent. When someone repaints a machine, the paint job is usually not up to the level of an OEM paint job. Sometimes the paint masking is not well done and paint splatter gets on exposed cylinder rods and other smooth surfaces causing repair problems. Painting the inside of a cab is especially difficult because of all the gauges and control levers.

• A good repaint job will require the owner to purchase an expensive set of OEM placards and decals for maintenance and safety instructions. This can be five decals or 50 decals.

As an equipment manager, I strongly recommend that organizations use OEM colors with large, simple company logos on their off-road heavy equipment. For on-road trucks, use a readily available and common color (such as white or beige). Decal or trim the on-road vehicles so they are unique enough to identify them to your organization.

Think about it.