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Taking it personally: Digitally printed tents reflect character

Products | May 12, 2016 | By:

The introduction of flat smartphones created a lucrative marketplace for another new product that has taken the world by storm: the smartphone cover. Sophisticatedly sedate, boldly colored, or blinged out with rhinestones, this snap-on accessory reveals something about the owner’s personality. Taking it to the next level, many people get one customized with a photograph of their children or pet.

Digital printing has become a popular way to personalize everything from a smartphone to a temporary structure. (To read about digital printing for interior decor, see the June issue of Specialty Fabrics Review.)

“The printing technology on tents since I started in this industry 40 years ago has come from hand painting to full digital printing,” says Brad Gleason, chief operating officer for Economy Tent International. Most of the digital printing done by the Miami, Fla.-based manufacturer is for event marketing.
Logos, brand names and colors, and images that “say something” about a company’s product can be appliquéd on a tent or printed directly on the vinyl.

“When it makes sense to print on the tent itself is when you want to brand that tent as yours,” Gleason says. “Usually when we print on a tent, it’s not going into someone’s rental inventory; it’s being sold to a marketing company.”

According to Gleason, the time to use digitally printed decals is for “informational things” like first aid and registration tents at temporary setups.

“When the event is over, you peel it off and you don’t have a tent that can only be used as an information tent,” he says.

Gleason notes, however, that some appliqués leave an outline or shadow on the vinyl and banners attached to the outside of a tent are the most economical way to give the structure particular status.

“If you are digitally printing, now you own that textile and it can’t be used for any other purpose,” says Jim Gallagher, CEO of Partytime-HDO Productions Inc. in Niles, Ill. “We tell clients that if they plan on having a vinyl cutout for a gable or sidewall to request a moderate adhesive.”

“Digital printing best serves brands,” says Christopher B. Starr, vice president of Starr Tent in New Rochelle, N.Y. “For a lot of Fortune 500 clients, the visibility of their logo is of utmost importance. Decals are not the best option when you have a soft vinyl sidewall that buffets in the wind. Wrinkles could create a challenge for that signage.”

That said, he continues, “We provide tents for food and wine festivals that use decals to keep their costs down from year to year.”

“If the brand purchases the tent, then digitally printing it makes sense,” says Suzanne Warner, vice president of Tentnology Co., B.C., Canada. “But if the buyer is a tent rental company, then it’s better to have the branding removable so that you can rent the tent to Coca-Cola this week and to Pepsi next week.”

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