Some of the most memorable car commercials in popular culture are the “December to Remember” series of Holiday TV ads from Lexus, now in their 19th year, but not necessarily for the vehicles themselves but rather for the giant red bow that has become synonymous with the brand at this celebratory time of year.
You know the commercials, but do you know the story about how the huge folded ribbons came to be THE symbol of automotive Holiday gift-giving?
“Once you put a bow on it its a present!”
The original concept began in 2000 when Lynda King of Southern California couldn’t find a bow big enough to adorn the VW she was planning to gift her son for his 16th birthday, so she started a business that did just that, creating King Size Bows who’s name, rather conveniently, tells you everything you need to know about what the company produces. When it came time for Lynda to retire in 2015, the mother-daughter duo of Jan Kingaard and Amber Kingaard-Hughes purchased King Size Bows and updated the company and its offerings by way of their combined skills, in Jan’s case as a former marketing consultant, and in Amber’s case as a talented designer of some of her own clothing and accessories since childhood. It was an especially meaningful collaboration for the pair after Amber had to seek out new work opportunities when a serious car accident left her without the ability to speak for a period of time.
Lexus came knocking on King Size Bow’s door in 2003 and used the product in their commercials that year. I personally remember the response was immediate and massive. Everyone was talking about the ads for one reason or another. I can recall comments ranging from admonitions from one spouse to another for not having the forethought to put a big bow on top of their own new car purchase, to derision among others for giving such an extravagant gift as a brand new Lexus. Whatever the case, it got people talking about the brand, and for Lexus, who was still a relative newcomer to the US market and struggling with brand recognition on the roadways among the car-buying public, this was an exciting reaction. The value of those bows may run in the several hundreds of dollars each, but the goodwill and brand recognition they brought to the Lexus brand is likely worth many tens of millions at this point. Simply put, Lexus couldn’t have come up with a more effective strategy to get buyers onto dealer lots.
If you have a keen eye, you may have even noticed that the design of the bow has changed over the years. Amber explains, “We started with a very large, smooth, multi-loop bow and evolved the design into the distinctive twisted loop edition you’ve seen in the Christmas commercials and showrooms for the last few years.” Materials are largely dependent upon the eventual use and location, indoor bows will generally last longer and can be made from more delicate materials while outdoor bows may be weatherized and feature stronger structural components.
King Size Bows may be known primarily for their association with Lexus but you’ve probably seen the company’s unique products in many other places including Mardi Gras parade floats, christening of new jet aircraft, the expansion of the Golden Gate Bridge ceremony, and even atop a giant gift box that Channing Tatum popped out of for Ellen’s televised 60th birthday celebration. Magic Mike approved… now that’s some street cred! More mundane uses include use at hotels, casinos and Main Street USA’s all over the country for fundraisers, honoring the various branches of the military, and so on. They make bows in a variety of sizes and materials, that according to Amber include “creating 18-inch to 15-feet WOW bows that universally bring joy to the giver as well as the receiver.”
Amber tells me that, “nearly all (car) brands use bows in their showrooms, to decorate their dealerships, and as gifts to car buyers.” She explained that dealers often buy their Signature bows by the dozen to offer to new car buyers.
King Size Bow’s customers can order directly from them online, or by appointment at their Costa Mesa, California studio. The ready-made 30” x 40” Signature bows are $49.99 and stocked for immediate shipment in case you’re giving away cars this year like the neighborhood Oprah. Those wishing to order a Lexus-dealer style bow, or to take advantage of KSB’s design services for a custom product, will need to call them directly to discuss specific use, materials, and deadlines.
Will you ever look at the classic Lexus Holiday ads the same way after learning the names and faces of the creatives behind this uniquely identifiable product? Just another example (remember CocoMats?) of industrious Americans finding a niche in the automotive market and filling it, all while keeping production right here in the USA.
This is not a sponsored post and no products were requested or received in exchange for this article.