The car visors by Clipy create a place in the sun for advertising messages. Thanks to their inventiveness, entrepreneurial spirit and charm, the Madrid-based company has advanced into becoming a specialist that is well-known far beyond the borders of Spain.
At the beginning there were two eyes: During a visit to the USA in 1987, Carlos Jiménez, the subsequent founder, owner and Commercial Director of Clipy, came across an unusual and new product: colourfully imprinted sunshades for car windscreens. “It is hard to believe, but this type of sun visor wasn’t familiar in Europe back then,” recalled Jiménez. “It was common practice to attach a towel or something similar behind the windscreen. So, I acquired the European patent, adapted the product slightly and produced 100,000 copies.” The original model was made out of simple corrugated cardboard that was imprinted with five different motifs, among others a striking pair of eyes, using the flexoprint technique. “We gave cars eyes, long before the animation factory Pixar did in its film Cars. I should have sold the idea to Pixar,” joked Jiménez, who nevertheless realised many other trend-setting business ideas over the course of the following years.
However, initially the market introduction of the new product proved tricky: “My original plan was to sell the sunshades to the retail trade, among others to raise awareness for the product,” said Jiménez. “However, many of the retailers couldn’t imagine that people would be prepared to pay for such a simple item as a sun visor. I drove from city to city and distributed the majority of the first batch on the streets literally from out of the trunk of my car.” Then, the project was jump-started from a direction that later proved to be groundbreaking: the B2B market. “Our products are predestined as promotional products: They offer high practical value, a strong multiplying effect and above all a huge advertising surface. The fact that 3M ordered 10,000 sun visors for the Olympic Games in 1988 turned out to be a stroke of luck,” commented Jiménez.
With the growing recognition for the simple, but extremely useful item, the demand increased strongly, the sun visors were also a hit in the retail sector. The fact that Clipy focused on the promotional products market – today the company’s only sales channel – led to many further developments of the products. For example, in 1997 Clipy also began to customise them using offset print: “The customers from the advertising agencies had much higher demands in terms of the design of the sun visors and wanted to reproduce photo motifs for example,” explained Cristina González, Marketing Director and Export Manager. “In addition to the improved printing quality, offset printing also offers the advantage that it is very fast, so we can imprint 7,000 pieces per hour.“ A further ‘milestone’ was the introduction of Clipy Compact in the year 2000. The patented model that is compact and foldable thanks to a special folding technique and is also fitted with a plastic fastener was, like almost all of the Clipy products, invented by Jiménez. The Super Compact, which can be folded up to an even smaller size, is a further development of the product. Maxi and Jumbo follow the trend towards even bigger windscreen visors, Static – a sun visor made out of electro-static foil with a micro-perforated imprint – that was introduced in 2003 also provides companies with an advertising surface on the car door. In 2005, a model for the cold winter months, the weatherproof Wintershield, which attached to the outside of the windscreen protects it against snow and ice, was added to the line-up. These are just a few examples of the comprehensive assortment of product developments, whose patents fill up a whole file in the meantime, and which have made Clipy a name as a highly-specialised niche supplier.
Meanwhile, the company makes a turnover of around 3 mil. Euros and has a headcount of 17 full-time employees. Seven employees work at the company’s headquarters in Madrid. The offices are located in the centre of the metropolis, quite appropriately just a few steps away from the Puerta del Sol. A further ten employees are based in the partner factories, where Clipy has its items manufactured and customised. Since its foundation, the company has exclusively produced in Spain at companies that are especially geared up for the highly-complicated process: “We use special cardboard, the fibres of which are particularly long and all lie in the same direction – this is essential for the folding technique,” the Commercial Director, Begoña Alvarez, reported. “We purchase this FSC-certified cardboard from a special supplier in Finland. Because we can only purchase the material by the ton, we have to be able to store the corresponding volumes – so we always have between 250,000 and 300,000 pieces of cardboard in stock.“ The metallisation of the cardboard is a further challenge: “Attaching the aluminium layer is precision work,” said González. “Furthermore, because of the aluminium static electricity is generated when the laminated cardboard is stacked, which can be very dangerous. We had to find a solution for these problems as well as for how to imprint the aluminium layer on certain models.“
High export share
Clipy sells the majority of the finished products abroad – the company has an export share of 65%. And whoever believes that sun visors are primarily a “Mediterranean“ product, is very much mistaken: “Astonishingly, our best customers are based in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland,” reported Alvarez. González added: “Export was an important factor that enabled us to survive the crisis. Since we are a comparably small team, this proved to be an advantage. We were able to make fast decisions and the customers appreciate the short routes, our multilingualism and last, but not least our simplicity and charm.“ Not to forget the unabated innovativeness of the Madrid-based company: “The next big step is going to be the introduction of digital printing – work has already started on this new project,” revealed Jiménez. So, it is already clear that Clipy will once again secure itself a spot in the sun.