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What Hollywood Can Teach Us About Visual Branding

And why it is one of the most successful branding ever!

  • Prerna S
    Prerna S
  • Branding
  • 5 min read

– How have the Hollywood letters become iconic over the years?
– How are the Hollywood letters used in advertising?
– What can brands & marketers learn from iconic branding?


Initially, the Hollywood sign was created to advertise the area for real-estate. After all, despite the glamour of the film industry, real estate has always been Hollywood’s key economic driver. While the sign’s appearance and purpose have evolved over the years, its core aspirational message remains the same: Hollywood is the place where one can create magic; the land where possibilities are endless, and where dreams can come true.

Earlier back in the day, life aspiration was a beautiful home and lifestyle. Today, the sign stands as a metaphor for dreams, hopes, ambitions, desires, and ideas conjured by the word “Hollywood”.


Hollywood and Visual Branding

  • 01
    Who built the sign?

    Around 1923 Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler invested in a fashionable real-estate development called Hollywoodland, that capitalized on the growing recognition of Hollywood as a movie-industry mecca.

  • 02
    What was the sign built for?

    Chandler went beyond just advertising his houses in the newspaper for the upscale real-estate development. He built the iconic 45-foot high symbol in white by shelling out $21,000 on Mount Lee, in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains. The sign overlooks Hollywood, Los Angeles. It was studded with 4,000 light bulbs and glowed at night in four stages – lighting up ‘Holly’ followed by ‘Wood’, and then ‘Land’, and subsequently all together ‘Hollywoodland’. Originally meant to exist only for 18 months just as other billboards, the sign instantly went beyond its purpose of being just a real estate advert to symbolizing the city and its larger-than-life spectacles. 

    Later on, it was decided for the LAND section to be removed, keeping HOLLYWOOD in order to promote the movie industry. In 1932, the actress Peg Entwistle threw herself off the letter H. A sign of a fixture of the city, by the 1970s the symbol fell into serious disrepair and required extensive restoration. The Hollywood sign trust is responsible for the regular upkeep and maintenance.

  • 03
    What has the sign come to represent over the years?

    The Hollywood icon acts as the symbol of both a place with beautiful views of Los Angeles & Hollywood and the idea of the $41.7 billion industry (as of 2018). The icon has successfully created a destination out of this branding as the symbol is the most identifiable tourist attraction in Southern California and acts as a branding tool not only for the area but also the city of Los Angeles. Symbolic of dreams and making it big on screen, this symbol has garnered deep admiration around the world.

With the legacy of this landmark, comes strict protection, budget, and maintenance upkeep by the signed trust. The sign that has created a destination in itself is licensed for merchandise development – t-shirts, candy, jewelry, souvenirs, stationery, shot glasses, caps, brand and ad campaigns, etc – all generating a whopping 6 figure revenue that fuels its maintenance.

How has the symbol been used in advertising?

  • A marquee representation of the brand Hollywood, the sign has played an integral role in advertising – from Joe Camel in 1988 to Claudia Schiffer sporting YSL in 2009 to a 2013 ad for Tommy Hilfiger.

Joe Camel in 1988, Image courtesy of Tobacco Timeline WordPress

Claudia Schiffer dressed in a tuxedo jacket, in front of the “Y” of Hollywood iconic hill for the brand Yves Saint Laurent. Ad campaign shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin under the direction of YSL Stefano Pilati.

By paying the Hollywood symbol a homage in 2013, Tommy Hilfigers smartly used the icon to announce their opening at Roberston. Image courtesy of daily billboard blog. Leaving you with some inspiration on how different brands have used the Hollywood icon to advertise through the years.

What can we as Brands & Marketers learn?

The Hollywood icon is testimony to think of Branding not as a short-term tactic but as a long-term strategy. We need to think long term while building our brands. While our activities may not equate to creating a Hollywood sign or Eiffel tower, building a destination out of your brand can be the best marketing strategy ever used. And creating destinations is a powerful way to attract other brands to use your branding to fuel their marketing.

While using the Hollywood symbol, if branding or creating assets around it may not fit in your marketing budget, thanks to the digital era today, the idea of Hollywood can be used extensively via widely available images of Hollywood symbols, and also use 2D or 3D animation videos as a tool to create these opportunities and convey the brand message to the audience. Hollywood, Los Angeles has some of the world’s best commercial animation companies and branding studios, who can contextualize your brand requirements with the idea of using Hollywood as a smart marketing tool! One such multidisciplinary studio that specializes in branding and 2d & 3d animation videos is Colorblast Films.

You may also contact Colorblast Films, the branding studio in Los Angeles to discuss ideas and strategies to bring alive your brand vision.