By Melissa Donovan
Wall tattoos or decals are an off-shoot of wallcoverings. Sold in mainstream stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart or online via Web storefronts, the target market is the general consumer. Thanks to advancements in vinyl and film technology, substrates used for wall tattoos or decals feature ease of application, repositioning, and removal—without damaging the existing wall.
While many wall decal kits are designed with familiar sayings or basic shapes, even more depict popular licensed characters or sports teams. Blown up to life size they can be placed in a children’s bedroom or recreational area, maybe an office, or the kitchen.
While demand is high for this type of application, print service providers (PSPs) need to educate themselves on the business aspect of offering licensed wall decals. In many cases, to print and distribute well-known characters or sports teams’ logos, royalties must be paid to get into the business.
Depending on the cost to benefit, it might make sense to stick to self-created designs or graphics in the public domain. Even then, challenges remain. The right media for the job must be considered and since wall decals are generally made up of concave and convex shapes, a versatile digital cutting device is preferred.
Based in St. Paul, MN, Brand Ink began in 2010 and today offers vehicle wraps, custom graphics, wall murals, banners, and props. Six employees work out of a 6,300 square foot shop.
“We have been providing wall tattoos since the beginning of our business. Wall tattoos are a natural extension for any graphics manufacturer, as the production process is the same, just with different materials,” explains Nicholas Lowry, president, Brand Ink.
The PSP works with both latex and UV inks when creating wall tattoos. For materials, it depends on the paint on the wall and how the long graphic will remain in place. 3M Commercial Solutions’ 3M Scotchcal Graphic Films with Comply Adhesive IJ35C is ideal for wall tattoos adhered to surfaces with no or low volatile organic compound paints because of how well it sticks for any given amount of time and also because it removes cleanly, according to Lowry.
For finishing, the PSP relies on a Graphtec America, Inc. FC8600 cutting plotter because of its ability to produce quality print-and-cut work based on the shop’s typical output volume. The device offers a maximum cutting speed of 58.5 inches per second and up to 600g cutting force.
Five percent of Brand Ink’s business is considered wall tattoos, and of those most are for the home and do not include licensed artwork. When it comes to working with well-known characters or sports teams, securing and managing licensing fees can be daunting.
Managing the legalities that come with each image may be more work than a PSP is ready to handle. Brand Ink realized this early on and decided to employ its own team of artists to create artwork owned by the company or alternatively hires freelancers.
Lowry recommends building a sales pipeline for wall tattoos first and making sure that process is successful before attempting any licensing deals. “Creating the sales pipeline is a small investment and the ability to scale the business when things get going is similarly easy,” he adds.
While Brand Ink does not currently deal with artwork royalties, Fathead, LLC is the opposite. Established in 2006, the company began with a handful of employees and sports licenses with the goal of “bringing inspiration to life,” according to a Fathead spokeswoman.
“During the inception of the brand, we wanted to transform large and small spaces into atmospheres spilling over with passion. Since then, we’ve grown to become an industry leader in graphics for all spaces,” she continues.
Today 75 employees work out of a 16,000 square foot headquarters in Detroit, MI. The company offers wall graphics, canvas prints, freestanding cut outs, domed button decals, smartphone charger sleeves, and outdoor floor graphics via direct to consumer—Web based, corporate solutions, retail, and wholesale channels throughout the U.S in addition to Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and the U.K.
According to the company, from April 2015 to 2016, 95 percent of its Web-based sales were contributed to by wall decals. Brand Ink offers two different styles—peel and stick and rub-on transfers. Products include Real.Big. Wall Decals offered at life size, Fathead Jr. Wall Decals available at three feet tall, Fathead Teammate Decals at 12×17 feet, and Fathead Tradeables decals offered in 5×7 inches.
“These products eventually don the walls of buyers and consumers looking to showcase their passion, celebrate cherished moments, or incorporate striking elements of art into their space,” shares the Fathead spokeswoman.
Graphics are printed with UV inks, as Fathead deems them eco-friendly and offering a high-quality appearance. As for the substrate used, it depends on where the art is applied and customer preference. A standard vinyl media—the company’s main product—is utilized for most orders.
Many of the graphics include intricate curves, so a quality finishing device that aids in a professional-looking final appearance is a necessity. Fathead relies on its Zünd flatbed cutting system to achieve precise, rounded cuts.
To date, the company maintains over 650 license agreements with consumer brands across multiple industries and professional sports leagues. These include Disney, John Deere, Major League Baseball, Martha Stewart, Marvel, and the National Football League.
“Every license deal is unique in terms of how the royalty is structured. The one thing all licensing deals have in common is that a royalty is required, and that needs to be factored into the cost of goods sold (COGS) when a provider considers selling a licensed product,” explains the Fathead spokeswoman.
While a PSP should consider many factors before spending money on licensing fees—for example the level of billable inventory that needs to be achieved to profit—Fathead’s spokeswoman says it really comes down to one question. “Does the property add enough increased value to my product’s sales potential to justify the incremental costs related to the royalty fees affecting my COGS?” If it does, then it’s worth the cost.
Considering it All
A reliable substrate that is easily applied, repositioned, and removed and a quality finishing device that provides professional looking edges is required for any production facility dabbling or specializing in wall decals. The combination of both provide a product any consumer would want to display in their home.
For smaller shops like Brand Ink, it’s worth becoming knowledgeable on royalty fees and structures and perhaps when the time is right, jump into the arena. Companies like Fathead built their brand around licensing and found success creating partnerships with retailers while also offering their product directly to the consumer.
Wall tattoos are lucrative, but depending on whether original or licensed artwork is chosen can significantly change the direction of the business. dps
Jul2016, DPS Magazine