Themed Wrap Serves as Traveling Billboard

For sheer marketing firepower and increased efficiency, Omaha plumber’s Nissan van stands out from the competition.
Themed Wrap Serves as Traveling Billboard
Birge casts an imposing figure as a wrench-toting lumberjack.

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Even though Brad Birge runs a plumbing business founded on the principles of old-fashioned service, the owner of Omaha-based Big Birge Plumbing Co. can still appreciate the value of modern equipment and marketing techniques.

For proof, look no further than the company’s 2014 Nissan NV service van and its eye-catching vinyl wrap, which features a flannel-shirt-clad Birge on one side and his wife and business co-owner, Lallenia, on the other. The vehicle, one of four service trucks, enhances efficiency and effectively bolsters brand recognition for the business, established in 2011.

Before Birge bought the Nissan, the company ran two pickup trucks with utility bodies and one utility van. (Residential remodeling and service work generates about half the company’s revenue, while commercial plumbing work provides the rest.)

When the need for a fourth truck arose, Birge wanted a vehicle with more curb appeal, a comfortable cab, a taller interior (Birge is 6 feet 2 inches tall) and an exterior with plenty of room to display the company’s playful vinyl wrap. The Nissan checked all the boxes.

Birge also wanted a boxier, more masculine-looking van to offset the vinyl wrap, which he describes as “a bit on the eccentric side — a little edgy.” He also wanted a cargo area that could be configured for maximum efficiency. The Nissan’s unusually tall roofline helped accomplish both goals.

“I can stand inside the truck without ducking,” the master plumber says. “It’s awesome. You don’t have to get on your knees and crawl around to find things. You’re already on your knees a lot as a plumber while you’re working, so being able to stand up while looking for items in the truck is a big plus. We spend less time looking for things because it’s well organized and don’t waste as much energy doing so.

“A clean workspace is a happy workspace,” he adds. “The more room you have to work, the cleaner you can keep it and the happier the guys are who are working out of it. They finish jobs faster, which makes for happier customers.”

The only drawback was the van’s 8-foot-long bed, which makes it difficult to carry 10-foot pipe sections. But Birge got around that by cutting a hole in the partition that separates the cargo area from the cab, then fastening U-shaped “trapeze” devices — fashioned with metal Unistrut supports and All-Thread sections — to the roof joists. The devices hold the pipes high up and out of the way, near the roofline. One end of the pipes extends into the cab, high above the driver’s seat, where they’re supported by another U-shaped support.

The interior storage system was supplied by Badger Body & Truck Equipment in Omaha. The company didn’t make a system specifically for plumbing vans, so Birge cherry-picked parts of other storage systems made by Badger that he thought would work best. The result is three sections of shelving — two on one wall and one on the wall with the van’s sliding door. One section is dedicated to power tools; the other two feature built-in drawers with compartments that hold about $20,000 in spare parts.

Two drain cleaning machines, made by RIDGID and Ken-Way Corp., are stored up front, behind the cab and by the sliding side door. A rooftop ladder rack — which folds down for easier access because the truck is so tall — carries a 28-foot extension ladder. Inside, 4- and 6-foot stepladders are strapped upright to the cab wall.

Birge also picked the Nissan because of its spacious cab that features plenty of handy storage compartments and a between-the-seats console with a built-in file folder holder.

In addition, the van’s large sidewalls provide a wealth of space for a vinyl wrap designed by the Birges.

“We were talking about how to emphasize old-fashioned values from the 1950s, the way that movies from that era portrayed them, and her mind goes, ‘Ding! Let’s dress up in costumes,’” Birge says.

Since he often wears a flannel shirt, it seemed like a natural choice to make Birge look like a lumberjack, holding a large wrench that at first glance resembles an ax. The other side shows Lallenia wearing a polka-dot red dress, white sweater and heels — also holding a large pipe wrench.

While Birge says it’s difficult to quantify how many service calls are generated by the wrap — which cost about $3,700 and was made by Revolution Wraps in Omaha — it definitely attracts attention and enhances the company’s brand recognition.

“It’s like driving a billboard down a highway,” Birge says. “Lots of customers tell us they noticed the truck on the interstate or parked in a neighborhood. It actually makes us look like a larger company than we really are because when people see a fancy wrap, they figure we must be a decent-sized company that’s doing pretty well.”

Long term, Birge — who employs five other plumbers — would like to replace all his residential service trucks with vinyl-wrapped Nissan NVs. He firmly believes the van also helps him achieve an even larger goal: to improve Omaha-area consumers’ perception of plumbers.

“In my opinion, we have a very prestigious trade that performs a very valuable service that should be presented in a clean, valuable and professional way,” he says.
Service vehicles included.



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