Invented at Britten
Over 33 years, Britten has evolved from simple banners to one of northern Michigan’s biggest success stories.
Having morphed from Britten Banners to Britten Studios, the company is now known as Britten, Inc., a multi-million dollar banner production, advertising and large-format printing company. Several proprietary innovations have closed business with national and multi-national clients from sports teams to retail giants.
Which of Britten’s innovations have been the most notable? From banner hoist systems to foam molding technologies, here are the top eight.
The Innovation: BannerSaver
The Problem: Outdoor banners have a bad habit of succumbing to the elements. The strain is especially problematic for light pole banners, which bear the full brunt of heavy winds and battering rain, snow or hail.
The Solution: Britten purchased the BannerSaver patent about 15 years ago as a way to improve its light pole banner designs. The patent is for a spring-loaded bracket system, which is designed to reduce stress on banners in high-wind conditions. When the wind calms, the spring-loaded system releases and lets the banners revert to their initial position. This system not only prevents damage to the banners themselves, but also to the light poles. The protection is so significant that city engineers in many parts of the world have even specified BannerSaver as a local standard.
The Innovation: BannerGalaxy
The Problem: With Amazon.com already growing rapidly in the late 90s, the future of internet retail and ecommerce was evident. Sitting on an airplane in 1998, Paul Britten started thinking of all the ways that an ecommerce platform could streamline his business. Such a system could eliminate the complex back-and-forth between customers and Britten’s art department, sales department and accounting department. Instead of a headache-inducing process, customers could just submit their designs and order their banners online.
The Solution: Britten launched BannerGalaxy.com, becoming one of the first large-format printers in the country to have its own ecommerce platform. The site, still operational today, lets customers create an account, choose a banner category, select a template, and customize their banners based on color, size, font style, fabric and more. BannerGalaxy renders and displays the banner changes in real time. Once the design is done, the customer can submit it directly to Britten’s printing department.
The Innovation: BannerDrop
The Problem: Britten was working with a major mall development client called General Growth Properties (GGP), which itself had a big-time contract with 20th Century Fox. GGP was installing large ceiling banners in its malls, but was spending huge sums of money each month to rent lifts and change out the banners manually. Looking for a better and more affordable alternativel, GGP approached Britten.
The Solution: BannerDrop solved GGP’s problem with a remote-controlled banner hoist system. The innovation features a ceiling-mounted electrical motor apparatus, which makes it easy to raise or lower banners without lifts or other equipment.
The Innovation: BannerRail
The Problem: A contract was up for grabs with the Daytona 500 NASCAR race to provide 30 banners for the back of the grandstand at the Daytona International Speedway. Organizers of the Daytona 500 wanted a system that would allow them to lower banners quickly and efficiently if hurricane gales struck the speedway. Such a system would prevent damage to the banners and avoid the time and cost of hiring lift operators to take down the banners manually.
The Solution: BannerRail is a modified version of the BannerDrop remote control hoist system, with tension rail systems situated on the left and right sides of each banner. The system allows each banner to move smoothly up and down the rails. Raising or lowering the banners only takes about two minutes. The innovation won Britten the contract with the Daytona 500 and was even put to the test three days before the 2008 race, when a storm struck Daytona.
The Innovation: BriteWall
The Problem: Some of Britten’s highest-profile customers – including the Chicago Bears and Simon Property Group, the largest shopping mall operator in the United States – were interested in LED-backlit display systems. They wanted something that could brighten dimly lit parts of their facilities while also turning those spots into high-demand real estate for advertisers.
The Solution: Britten built BriteWall, which it calls “the brightest, most vibrant backlit display system on the market.” BriteWall installations feature vinyl banners backed by high-efficiency LED lighting panels. Compared to fluorescent-backlit graphics, BriteWall displays are brighter, use less energy and last longer. Britten estimates a lifespan of 50,000 hours for each display.
The Innovation: BoxPop
The Problem: Several Britten clients – mostly event agencies – were on the hunt for an innovative way to set up pop-up restaurants, stores, bars or marketing booths. They wanted something that would be aesthetically appealing enough to attract customers without sacrificing portability or affordability.
The Solution: Britten started turning shipping containers into portable lounges and business spaces. The standard Box Pop model is a 10×20 container featuring fold-down doors, a modular staircase, and a removable glass railing on the top. The design allows for two-story pop-up shop experiences. Britten also provides banners and signage to brand and decorate the shipping containers. In fall 2017, a Box Pop container could be found at Hard Rock Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins, in the form of the “Bud Light Friend Zone.”
The Innovation: Foam3D
The Problem: As 3D props and sculptures became increasingly common at festival events, in experiential marketing campaigns, and for professional sports teams, Britten sensed that it needed to expand its offerings to include this niche.
The Solution: CEO Paul Britten invested in state-of-the-art computer numerical control (CNC) foam sculpting equipment. The system includes a laser scanner, a sophisticated 3D modeling software program and a CNC machine that turns blocks of foam into meticulously rendered sculptures. So far, the technology has been used for everything from a life-sized sculpture of the Incredible Hulk to an entrance tunnel for the Denver Broncos.
The Innovation: Building Wraps
The Problem: During construction and renovation projects, building facades often become ugly messes of scaffolding and demolition. Britten wanted to create some sort of printing solution that could solve the aesthetic problem without obstructing out-the-window views for building occupants.
The Solution: Britten’s Building Wraps are large format mesh prints that can be customized to suit the look that the client requires. Building wraps can take many different forms, from artful murals to huge advertising banners. Most famously, Britten created a 62,000-square-foot mural for the façade of the Plaza Hotel in New York City to hide scaffolding and construction work while the building was being renovated in 2013. The meticulously hand-drawn mural showed what the hotel façade was going to look like when construction was finished. The mesh design maintained the Plaza Hotel’s aesthetic while also maintaining views and natural light for construction workers and hotel guests alike.