Business Resources - Operations - February 2019


Jake’s Unlimited was recently recognized as the Top FEC of the World during the 2018 IAAPA Brass Ring Awards ceremony at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018. (Credit: Jake’s Unlimited)

The Next Chapter

How one Arizona FEC underwent a simultaneous remodel and rebrand

by Mike Bederka

Matt-Banker-Headshot-for-Sidebar---Credit-Matt-BankerJeremy Hoyum describes the original Amazing Jake’s as the typical younger-skewing “big-box pizza concept,” with bright, gaudy colors and kiddie-themed murals throughout the space.

“We were really the only show in town when we opened in 2005,” he says. “And everyone was good with it.”

Time passed, though, and the competition heated up. Numerous traditional family entertainment centers (FECs), as well as trampoline parks, inflatable venues, and escape rooms, opened within driving distance of the facility in Mesa, Arizona.

“We had most of the same equipment as our competitors: bowling, video games, and laser tag,” says Hoyum, co-owner and operator. “However, our environment didn’t make adults and teens feel comfortable, so they stopped coming, and we began losing a significant portion of our group and corporate revenue.”

The management team knew it had to act soon or the business wouldn’t survive much longer. As a result, management decided to undergo a major overhaul and rebrand that would completely reshape the FEC from top to bottom, including the name itself. 

A Brand New Look

Much of the team’s strategy centered on keeping the facility family-friendly at the core but transformed it into a place where people would still want to have their corporate events, sweet 16 parties, and grad nights. For example, the team members ripped up the carpeting in favor of subdued wood flooring and changed the formerly loud wall color scheme to all gray. 

“We wanted the focus to be on the signage and revenue centers, such as the video games, especially since most of the new ones have bright, colorful LED lights,” he says, noting they added a custom lighting package through which they could tweak the mood and color of the facility with a touchpad. “If a big company like Intel comes in, we could change the building to blue so it feels like it’s a custom event.” 

Other visual moves include the installation of screens and projections throughout the facility. For buyouts, companies could put their logo on the large video board near the front entrance.

“Small details like this can make a huge difference,” says Hoyum, a member of the IAAPA FEC Committee.

To further attract private, higher-end group events, the FEC improved the overall food quality and added a banquet facility that can seat 500 people, and to increase revenue after 8 p.m. (another pain point), it nixed the admission costs, and guests just pay as they go.

However, perhaps one of the biggest adjustments came from changing the name from Amazing Jake’s to Jake’s Unlimited when it reopened in December 2017 after eight weeks of construction.

“After 12 years of over 300,000 people a year coming in, you have a significant amount of brand equity—do you want to start over or capture some of that brand equity?” says Hoyum of the decision. “We kept some of the brand equity with Jake’s in the name, but it’s different enough to be the ‘big brother’ of the original Amazing Jake’s.”


Rebranding Amazing Jake’s to Jake’s Unlimited came with more than a name change. The facility’s look transformed with the addition of subdued wood flooring, gray walls, and a custom lighting package. (Credit: Jake’s Unlimited)

Marketing Matters

The marketing of the revamped 95,000-square-foot Jake’s Unlimited played a crucial role in educating guests of all the distinct changes, Hoyum says. Under the leadership of a new marketing director, the team placed a heavy emphasis on the visual aspects of the differences.

“We can’t just communicate the message through text and assume people understand what it is,” he says. “They have to see it.”

Professional pictures and videos of the event spaces, attractions, and food and beverage fill the facility’s marketing collateral, website, and social media channels, and Jake’s Unlimited took part in a 30-minute segment with a local cable company highlighting the FEC’s history, the construction process, and, of course, the final product.

Along with the digital side, Jake’s Unlimited—recently recognized as the Top FEC of the World during the 2018 IAAPA Brass Ring Awards ceremony at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018—still relied on old-fashioned guerrilla marketing by getting out into neighborhoods and shaking hands and delivering pizzas to area radio stations and office decision-makers. 

“Having a street team that can build a buzz before you open those doors is a key to success,” he says.

For facilities considering a similar remodel and rebrand, Hoyum also suggests keeping the marketing budget “sacred,” he says. “Construction overruns will happen. You need to separate that money. If not, that can really affect your reopening.”

Clarity Is King in Marketing

Skip being overly clever or using elaborate fonts and dizzying colors in the marketing materials, urges Matt Banker, web designer and marketing consultant for Banker Creative in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Facilities should instead opt for a clear and concise marketing message, especially those venues undergoing a rebrand, says Banker.

“You’re competing against so many advertisements—and not just for other FECs,” he says. “Consumers see thousands of advertising messages a day. Our brains are really good at filtering out the things we don’t think are important to us. Be intentional with the words you use.”

Banker shares four tips on writing copy that connects:

  • Offer a solution. People most often remember companies by the problems they solve. FECs should show how exactly they can entertain 20 kids for a two-hour birthday party or be the perfect spot to hold the annual holiday gathering.
  • Present a call to action. Tell customers exactly how to book their event or give them the facility’s website address. “You don’t want to have to leave it to the guest to connect the dots and assume what to do next,” he says.
  • Stay away from jokes. During the brainstorming process, managers may fall in love with a pun or punch line and throw it on their marketing collateral, Banker says. “There’s a tendency to go for a joke, but I’d be careful about that. They just don’t realize how personal and specific that can be, and it doesn’t connect to a wider audience.”
  • Don’t be overly sales-y. Delivering helpful content develops trust and loyalty with guests. For instance, composing a list of five ways to create a memorable birthday party vs. a hard pitch goes a long way. Customers will think, “They’re just not after our money; they want us to be successful parents,” he says. “Be the guide that helps them accomplish what they want to do.”


Contact Funworld Contributing Editor Mike Bederka at