Makeover puts Monster in a starring role

Jez Abbott
Monday, March 6, 2017

Hollywood Monster had a lot to live up to including its name. The signage and graphics company recently underwent a monster makeover with a rebrand. “Rebranding – extensive or otherwise – is not always easy, in fact it is never easy,” recalls the man who led this one, managing director Simon McKenzie.

“Done incorrectly it can confuse everyone and drain your marketing budget. And there is no guarantee of success.”

The wide-format specialist in Birmingham is well known for epic signage for A-listers such as Virgin Media, Westfield, NEC Group and Cineworld. It too has established a name for itself within the industry, so staying true to its original identity was by far a safer path to tread – why risk overhauling a well-known brand with a clean break? 

Especially for a company on such a roll; Hollywood Monster had recently spent big on machinery, opened a new London sales office and notched up a multimillion-pound contract involving the refurbishment of more than a thousand restaurants for another one of those A-listers, McDonald’s.

The challenge 

Hollywood Monster sprang to life in 2009 following the merger of two sister companies Hollywood Signs and Monster Digital. The company has both a history and legacy within signage, graphics and printing that stretches back over 25 years. No amount of success however “could or should” gloss over a tired company image that’s stuck in the past, says McKenzie.

“Rebranding is a long and detailed process. Before you can start creating your new image, you have to take a hard look at your old one. You have to determine how you want to be perceived, not just by your existing and potential customers, but by others in the industry and of course your staff. It must be a change for the better; not for the sake of it.”

And this rebrand was “long overdue”, recalls McKenzie who has been with the company 19 years. He was promoted from sales to managing director last year to spearhead the rebrand and take over from the man who launched the business with his dad in their loft in 1991, Tim Andrews.

“We needed to recreate our identity because in its present form it didn’t look professional, creative or engaging enough. Yes, we’ve got printing machines – big deal. And yes, we do signage – big deal. We wanted to show we could drive creativity, embrace social media and work as a one-stop shop. And we wanted to do it a way that caught both the eye and imagination, and looked edgy.” 

Catching the eye is good, a fresh pair of eyes is even better when it comes to rebranding, even for a company with many years of experience in branding. McKenzie chose to work with an agency rather than go it alone. Using a dedicated specialist, he insists, not only ensures the all-important “fresh pair of eyes”, but brings healthy objectivity to your brand assets and enables company resources to be directed to other business needs. 

He recruited the agency ORB, also in Birmingham. Head of brand management Jodie Price says: “The brand lacked a sense of purpose and story that mirrored its success. Customer service, for example, is one of Hollywood Monster’s strongest assets, which is why the job was about more than changing a logo and colour themes. We had to go to the heart of the company and develop key messages and brand guidelines that focused on the people as much as their products and services.”

The method

ORB explored Hollywood Monster’s premises, spoke to dozen of employees across each department and pay scale, ran drawing-board sessions and interviewed clients. The fact-gathering process took three months but the results were an immediate “eye-opener”, according to Price. McKenzie agreed.

“While lots of people knew who we were, they didn’t know the full extent of what we did. I was surprised one client of 10 years was unaware we did signage because we hadn’t got the message across. If you don’t have an identity you can’t position yourself in the market place. And I wanted to position ourself as a brand partner rather than a commercial printer.”

What McKenzie had in mind was big and ambitious: “I didn’t want the communication to end with us telling a client ‘50 banners will cost you x amount’. We want to tell our clients, such as house builders, we will do all your print and design, but will also look after your web content and social media. In this way we can do a lot more for every one of our clients.

But first he had to get the rebranding right. ORB strategists worked with McKenzie’s team on giving Hollywood Monster not just a new identity and personality but a brand that matched the signage and graphics it created: big, bold and confident. 

The process cost around £100,000 on agency fees, website, uniforms and signs. The rebrand included new logo, brand stamp, visual identity, proposition, key messages and website. Key ‘brand devices’ included two core straplines that read ‘Delivering Impact Every Time’ and ‘#Monster-Impact’ to drive home the impact of every project. Swapping pink and purple for more striking red, yellow, and blue colours aimed to convey light and playfulness while new NJ Bold and Gotham fonts were simple but striking. 

The year-long project completed last autumn was unveiled at a special ‘leadership event’ for 100 of the retail industry’s key players. The 2,700m2 factory was transformed into a theatre with six hanging banners, a suspended dye-sub lightbox, 230m2 of vinyl and two illuminated signs to welcome guests. John Lewis’ former managing director Andy Street headlined a host of speakers for an event that cost £10,000 to host.

The result

“Feedback from the leadership event was excellent; we received praise from clients, partners and employees. We have great customers – Virgin Media, Westfield, etc – but wanted to speak to them. Securing Andy Street was both a stroke of luck and a huge boon that opened the floodgates, encouraging other speakers to step forward.” 

These included McDonald’s UK head of development Gareth Hudson talking about high-street challenges and Westfield chief marketing officer Myf Ryan arguing for the need to reform shopping centres to prevent a slide in footfall numbers. Other topics covered at the event included the uncertainty of Brexit, the potential of the digital marketplace and infomercials on YouTube.

Since the rebranding Hollywood Monster has won £1m of new business, anchored around three major contracts. One of these is for Mercedes, producing tens of thousands of number plates, vehicle livery and point-of-sale materials for showrooms. The company has spent £1m on capex, taken on four new sales staff and set itself bold targets.

Within two years McKenzie wants to increase the company’s turnover by one third, taking it up to £12m. This will be achieved, he reckons, with an expansion that includes opening a new office in Edinburgh to focus on the housing market north of the border. Meanwhile McKenzie is about to launch Monster Media marketing agency to help him realise all his social media dreams. 

“It is important for us to stand out from the crowd in our industry and now we have a brand that truly sets up apart,” concludes McKenzie. “It captures everything that makes us different yet stays true to our heritage. This new identity and brand will last for many years to come but at the same time keep us current.” 


Location Tyseley, Birmingham

Inspection host Managing director Simon McKenzie

Size Staff: 82; turnover: £9m 

Established 1991

Products Banners, wallpaper, floor graphics, hoardings, interior; window and car graphics in PVC, canvas, Melinex, paper, vinyl, Foamex and carpet up to 5x45m in one piece on roll-to-roll kit or 3x2m one-piece prints on flatbed machinery

Kit Mtex 5032 dye-sublimation textile printer, EFI Vutek GS5000R, GS3200 and H2000 Pro machines, NUR Expedio 5000, NUR Revolution, Mimaki JV33, Gerber edge-plotter, Gerber Odyssey vinyl plotters, Mimaki vinyl plotter, Zund G3 and Fiab high-frequency welder 

Inspection focus Exploiting the value of a rebrand operation


Maintain continuity It can be hard and risky to break all ties to an old brand, so create pathways to ease the uniting of old with new to avoid alienating clients.

Win over your staff Rebranding targets customers, but it’s as important to capture the hearts and minds of your staff to ensure they buy into the new culture and are on message.

Encourage creativity Rebranding should feel like a breath of fresh air, so free up your creative talent by cutting through bureaucracy and long chains of command. 

Be flexible Give your brand room to evolve – it’s not just a colour, typeface or logo, but the core of your company and will age quickly unless it can move with the times.


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