Unwrapping the secrets of the holiday gift that keeps on growing in size and popularity

By Rick Press, Dec 13, 2017

https://www.capitalone.com/cars/learn/finding-the-right-car/10-littleknown-facts-about-giant-car-bows/1024

Article Quick Takes:

  • Lexus puts a bow on holiday car sales
  • A mother’s wish becomes a King-Size business
  • We’re gonna need a bigger bow for planes, tanks

Santa’s got his sleigh. Rudolph his red nose. And Lexus its giant car bows.

Every year, these hallmarks of the holiday season float into our lives, wrapped in red velvet and good cheer, and we herald their arrival with songs, stop-action TV specials and elaborate ad campaigns.

But if the stories of Santa and Rudolph are stitched into our stockings – and the fabric of the holiday season — the genesis of the giant car bow is a bit more elusive. So we enlisted a few automotive elves to help us unfurl 10 little-known facts about giant car bows.

  1. Lexus’ unforgettable ad campaign: In 1998, the luxury carmaker debuted the big bows as part of its “December to Remember” commercials, and no matter how implausible it seemed to get a $35,000 Lexus as a gift, the pure whimsy of loopy red bows plopped on top of car roofs captivated viewers. December has since become the best sales month for Lexus–in 2016, the luxury carmaker sold 41,182 vehicles, 10,000 more than its second highest month (August). The ads are also credited with helping transform December from one of the slowest times of year for auto sales to one of the most vibrant, replete with holiday closeout sales and Black Friday specials.
  2. Big bows for showrooms and beyond: Lexus provides a few bows to each showroom, but to the surprise of some buyers they’re not included with the purchase of the car.  (Handmade fabric bows can cost $600; high gloss paper or PVC bows start around $40.) Some Lexus dealers let buyers borrow the bows for the big reveal, and include that in negotiations. But as the popularity of car bows blossomed, dealerships beyond Lexus began using them in their holiday showrooms, and car buyers who wanted to keep the bows created even more demand.
  3. The queen of King Size Bows: In 2000, Lynda King decided she wanted to surprise her daughter with her dream car, a VW Beetle, with a giant bow on top. But she couldn’t find a bow big enough, so she made one herself. After seeing her daughter’s reaction, it sparked a business idea. King Size Bows was born in her home in Costa Mesa, Calif. Dealers bought most of the bows at first, but in 2003, Lexus came calling and after appearing in the December to Remember campaign, King’s bow business boomed.
  4. You get a bow, and you get a bow!: In 2004, Oprah Winfrey famously made 276 of her audience members’ “wildest dreams” come true, when she gave each of them a Pontiac G6 with a King Size Bow on top. Since then, giant bows have made nearly as many TV appearances as Oprah, popping up on daytimers like Ellen and Steve Harvey, game shows such as America’s Got Talent, The Price is Right, and Let’s Make a Deal, and prime-time hits like Modern Family, Empire, Bones and many more. Watch for a King Size Bow on an upcoming holiday episode of The Mayor. The big bows even earned a spoof on a Saturday Night Live. In a mock ad, Seth Meyers gets a brand new SUV from his wife (Amy Poehler), but he turns his nose up at it because there’s no oversized bow on top.
  5. Rudolph the big bow maker: If Lynda King assumed the throne as the west coast queen of big bows, Michael Rudolph might well be the east coast godfather. His Car Bow Store sells nearly 25,000 bows per year, and is the leading manufacturer in the U.S. “It’s frantic right now,” Rudolph said from his Warminster, Pa., facility in late November. “About 75 to 80 percent of our business is this time of year. It’s mostly car dealerships that want them, and they wait till the last minute,” he said. “The Lexus commercials come out and everybody wants a bow.” Car Bow Store is a division of MBR Marketing, which sells supply items to the automotive industry, and its bows range from a 22-incher for $30.95 to a 36-inch velvet bow for $99.95. The company doesn’t supply Lexus with bows, but Rudolph said his team’s handiwork has been seen on Good Morning America, Nickelodeon, and at Hyundai and Kia dealerships throughout the U.S. and Canada. They also sell a lot of bows to individuals. “We sell them every day of the year,” he said. “Graduation. Birthdays. You name it.”
  6. Planes, trains, automobiles and tanks: Giving someone a new car with a big bow on top seems like the grandest of gestures – until you hear about some of King Size’s other bow-nanzas. The company, which was bought by Jan Kingaard and her daughter, Amber Hughes, in 2015, has made bows for planes, trains, buildings, billboards, even a tank. The company recently completed a 22-foot bow for a new building, and Hughes said it took a week and a half to make and cost $3,000. King Size regularly builds enormous bows for charitable causes and military homecomings, Hughes said, and they’ve even gotten requests for bows to wrap people. “It’s fun,” she said. “Everybody we work with is celebrating something. There’s never a bad day in the bow business.”
  7. Big bows = silver lining: Ironically, Hughes got into the joy biz after a near-fatal car accident left her with severe facial injuries and no voice. She had to quit her job as a 911 dispatcher – “my voice was my livelihood” – and her mother, hoping to lift her spirits, suggested they buy King Size Bows from her friend, Lynda King. “My mom knew I had to find a new career path,” says Hughes, who recovered her voice after extensive speech therapy. “I’m very grateful,” said Hughes. “I definitely had angels on my side.”
  8. Magnets and suction cups, oh my: How do you get a giant bow to stay in place? In the beginning, most manufacturers used magnets but the trend in recent years has been suction cups as auto manufacturers have shifted toward aluminum hoods and body panels, said Car Bow Store’s Rudolph. “The suction cup is the ideal choice for securing a car bow since it is effective with steel, aluminum and fiberglass hoods and is softer and more scratch-resistant than a magnetic base.”
  9. Big bows, the DIY edition: Google “big car bows on Pinterest” and you’ll get nearly 18 million results. So while Car Bow Store and King Size Bows are the big kahunas in the market, plenty of people are taking to social media and YouTube to share their DIY secrets. If that’s a bit too ambitious for you, big bows are also available at Party City, Amazon and Michael’s for $10-$60.
  10. Still dancing in December: Lexus began running its 2017 December to Remember ads in early November. All three TV spots feature a euphoric child dancing around a Lexus, King Size Bow perched on top. Then a key fob beeps, and we see it’s actually an adult letting out their “inner child” (can you blame them?), and we’re reminded of where this whole bow explosion started. Whether you call it crass commercialism, marketing genius, or childlike fantasy come to life, Lexus launched a bona fide holiday tradition with its big bow ads. And, yes, Virginia, people do give cars as gifts, according to Rudolph, who adds: “We frequently hear from our customers that the recipients are more excited about the bow than the car itself!”

And, that’s a wrap.

 

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