By Jason Dressel

Companies routinely come to The History Factory and to historyfactory.com because they’re looking for ideas for their upcoming company anniversary. A common approach includes some combination of the following activities:

  • Benchmarking what competitors have done
  • Brainstorming ideas with an anniversary task force
Just like how a boxer wins a match by landing
repeated blows round after round, a great
anniversary plan will succeed through the
careful execution of consistent and targeted
communications to key audiences.

All of these approaches are a good place to start. Yet we’ve found that teams are sometimes so wrapped around the axle on what they’re going to do that they forget that what really matters is doing it! In our experience, we’ve found that it’s the little details that make an anniversary program magic. We all know that great marketing and communications is won like most boxing matches: consistent blows round after round after round. Rare is the boxer who succeeds throwing all knockout punches. The “big idea” anniversary approach is similar: At the expense of a lot of energy, it rarely lands the punch.

The anniversary celebration program can and should be highly creative and have some surprises. But most important, the anniversary needs to be authentic to your company’s culture and brand. IBM’s centennial won awards and got a ton of press in part because it was a great program and in part because it’s IBM. Few companies have the media star power and resources of IBM. But here’s a tip that everyone can take from IBM’s successful centennial: When you look at the tactics, they weren’t “big ideas” resulting from any groundbreaking or revolutionary thinking. They were relatively familiar tactics that were executed in an innovative and smart way. A brilliant approach for the company that has shifted from Big Blue to Let’s Build a Smarter Planet.

The big ideas may not be what you do but how you do them in order to accomplish your goals and resonate with your audiences. And those ideas tend to be little insights that are found by looking inward rather than outward.