Application Spotlight: Mini Men on the Moon

How do you make a small car stand out? Transform it into a rocket ship—at least that's what Mini of the Fox Valley and FastSigns Appleton decided to do for a national Mini dealer contest.

FastSigns Appleton, WI has been in business 17 years. Starting out as a typical small storefront with a very small team, it has grown to 15 full time employees working with three roll-to-roll printers, two flatbed printers, two plotters, one large-format router, one digital cutter, and one rotary engraver. With more than 8,000 sqft of building space and one 1,500+ sqft off-site installation bay, FastSigns of Appleton has become the #3 center in a franchise system of over 500 locations. Under the leadership of owner Doug Brauer and his trusted sales staff and dedicated production team, the company continues to grow and push the boundaries of what “sign shop” can do.

"Bergstrom Automotive / Mini of the Fox Valley were involved with a promotion and advertising challenge, based on the MINI concept of 'Not Normal',” said Brauer. "The goal with Mini of the Fox Valley was to create a viral video and event showcasing the unique and fun personality of MINI. Overall the goal was to standout and make a splash with local and national advertising, and inevitably drive sales."

The idea for the "Mini Rocket" came along with researching what people thought of MINI, explained Brauer. A brainstorming team that included Tom Scheetz, manager at Bergstrom’s Mini of the Fox Valley; Tim Bergstrom, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Bergstrom Automotive; Becky Knuth, FastSigns creative director; Trevor Hauk, project manager, and Brauer started throwing ideas back and forth, looking to find an idea that would be able to stretch across the fabric of the MINI market nationally as well in the local area. The team decided to make a Mini Cooper Clubman out of this world and turn it into a rocket. The campaign would include "moon men"—complete with suits—and supporting building graphics. These were used to create a short commercial and viral video to showcase “mini moon men” and the transformation of targeted customers into other moon men. Traveling throughout Wisconsin the video not only generated awareness and excitement for MINI, it showcased the sights and scenes of entertaining local landmarks.

Once the concept was decided on, it was turned over the to the project manager and the design team, with nothing more than “make this happen!” "With parameters of how it could be attached, the approximate sizes, and a budget, we were set in motion," said Brauer. "First, out Project Manager Trevor Hauk and Creative Director Becky Knuth generated some quick sketches, and thought of a process of how to take a flat, limited-sized substrate and make it into two huge three-dimensional rockets. After a few days we came up with ridged foam and aluminum to generate an internal armature that would then be wrapped with a polystyrene skin. This armature measured close to 16 feet tall and needed to be installed and handled by our small team of dedicated installers working without a crane and the restriction of not damaging, screwing into or permanently altering the building it was to be affixed to. Keeping weight to a minimum was a key feature along with material costs, since we had a strict committed budget for the project."

The team at Fastsigns Appleton had a little over a week to create this entire project from start to finish. "Luckily we have a great working relationship with the dealership entrusting us to create something remarkable. This single point in trust allowed us to eliminate all proofing stages bringing us right into production followed by installation," said Brauer. Also, since the deadline was so tight they were unable to special-order any material. They had to make it work with the available materials on hand. Within days, the design and processes were finalized for construction.

"We pride ourselves here in that we were able to complete everything in-house. Structural design was handled by the Project Manager, with input from the installers and the design team. The appearance was handled by our design team and all of the machining of the armature was completed using our Sabre 408 router, printing was done on 3M IJ35-10 with a gloss lam run on an Epson GS6000," said Brauer.

Installation, though, was a challenge along with the “simple” task of delivery. Being 16+’ tall and close to 60-inches wide with brackets, Fastsigns Appleton called in a small favor to a client that owned a trailer company. "We lucked out one more time," said Brauer. "Originally, the rockets needed to be installed approximately 12 feet off the ground, but Mini of the Fox Valley later requested there be a launch pad under these rockets. This gave us the perfect opportunity to install a few sections of scaffolding, wrap it in a banner and leave it up to the entirety of the event. With one man in a boom and two on the scaffolding and a fourth inside the hollowed out shell of the Mini Countryman we were able to cantilever the rockets off the existing structure supporting the Countryman with no damage to the building or any permanent mounts. "

The final key to this puzzle was the installation of two industrial fog machines used in the theatrical production. The fog machines where plumbed into each side of the rocket and hid up inside the Countryman.

"Thanks to a great team they were able to stay late into the night getting this ready for the beginning of the event the following business day," said Brauer. This promotion also received national honors when this dealership topped all other Mini dealers in the US in a competition for the best October promotion—for the second year in a row.