Atlantic Cities

How Much Is Your Bumper Worth?

How Much Is Your Bumper Worth?
Courtesy of GoBumper

An Illinois-based company found one of the few remaining ad-free spaces on the planet — the back bumper of your minivan. And they're asking you to turn it over in exchange for discounts.

It seems unlikely that someone would willingly stick a brand’s logo on their car (unless they really loved those new Nike’s), but the duo behind the company GoBumper thought they might if they were given rewards in return. Launched earlier this year, GoBumper is partnering with companies to produce catchy bumper stickers called "Bumpees." Companies can hand those over to consumers free of charge in exchange for company rewards. 

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In a company press release, co-founder Adam Fridman wrote, “[Co-founder Jeffrey Sogolov] and I created Bumpees to facilitate relationship-building between drivers and brands...But we are not offering ads; we are about endorsement and loyalty. People trust the recommendations of fellow consumers. We like to think of Bumpees as a 'tweet' for your bumper.”

The advantage for businesses is clear: a Bumpee sticker is paid advertising, although the company prefers the term "endorsement." The companies (both GoBumper and those that buy the Bumpee stickers) are essentially leasing the rights to space on your vehicle’s bumper.

So far, a handful of Illinois companies have signed on, including a radio station and a balloon company. GoBumper is working on campaigns for a pizza joint and a dental office.

The way it works: A company buys a set of stickers (a 5-by-20-inch sticker costs $20 apiece, with a 500 minimum order). GoBumper designs and manufactures these stickers, and then offers them to their registered users (currently, about 450 people have volunteered to stick them on their cars, according to Fridman). Users then request the stickers they want.

Courtesy of Balloon Lab

Balloon Lab, which specializes in those balloon arches and columns often seen at graduations and proms, bought around 500 Bumpees and have handed out about 50. Aleksandr Vaysman, founder and vice-president of Balloon Lab, writes in an email that "it’s hard to tell" at this point if the stickers are more effective than other types of advertising. "We have not had them out long enough to do any kind of data polling, but the fact that they are out there, it can’t hurt!" he writes.

The press release promises VIP rewards like "major discounts, after-hour shopping sprees, travel upgrades, exclusive contests and more." This caliber of rewards haven't materialized yet, but the company is still in infancy (their website lists other possible promotions).

In exchange for putting Balloon Lab’s sticker on their car, drivers get 25 percent off their next order and a raffle ticket to win a balloon party. For driving around the Vashe radio sticker, users get a station t-shirt (another form of advertising, is it not?), a spot on the "VIP" list for info like pre-sale concert tickets, and a raffle entry for free concert tickets.

In addition to producing the sticker, the Bumpee price also includes a hefty "verification process."

Once you get your sticker and put it on your car, users take a picture and email it to GoBumper. Some companies may want another picture after a few months, in which case GoBumper asks for another picture to make sure the sticker is still stuck. Back at GoBumper, these pictures are analyzed to make sure you didn’t Photoshop your Bumpee onto your car.

And there are more fail-tsafes. Each sticker comes with a fold that goes away after it's stuck to your car, as well as a slit that makes it hard to take off and stick back on. The website notes that if you don’t "follow the process," you lose your user rights for six months. (Keep in mind these are the rights to host advertising on your personal car.)

Therein lies the catch — you either have to really, really love the brand or be getting some pretty awesome kickbacks to warrant turning your car into a roving billboard. GoBumper acknowledges that they are intended for regular customers: the Bumpees are defined on their website as an "on-vehicle expressions of loyalty."

If you are already frequently buying balloons, then sure, 25 percent off is helpful. But let us not forget that a discount still means you are paying money. Unless the reward is sweet — say instead of a one-time seat upgrade, pasting an airline logo on your car allowed you to forever fly first-class for the price of coach — a several-month commitment in exchange for a token discount isn’t sufficient.

The concept makes sense, and is reasonably flushed out on the company-side. Now they just need to make it worth it for consumers.

Top image: Courtesy of GoBumper

Keywords: Advertising, Start-Up, Car

Sara Johnson is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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