April 23, 2019 • History Factory
Companies that are approaching a major anniversary must face the possibility that, outside the company’s walls, nobody cares about their big milestone.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hubris of hitting a milestone anniversary and forget the fact that the customer really doesn’t care that you’re however many years old. In the words of Janet Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?” is the primary question that customers or consumers ask of most brands. Your 100-year heritage doesn’t really answer that question.
So how can a business anniversary be made relevant to non-employees and company insiders? Here are a few ways.
Probably the most common way that companies engage customers: an offer or deal that relates to the anniversary. You’ve been in business for 50 years? Offer 50% off. Has it really been 100 years? Then save $100. It may be unimaginative, but it’s a way to package a discount or deal to try to derive some sales benefit from the milestone.
When the Florida Marlins baseball franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018, the organization had a season of festivities planned, including a return to original ticket pricing from 1993. One weekend in June, the team donned throwback jerseys and tickets started at just $4. (Unfortunately for many, hot dog and beer prices did not revert to the 1993 pricing.)
Automobile manufacturers in particular seem to gravitate toward the tactic of using the anniversary to launch a special edition.
This year, Chevy released a special edition COPO Camaro to celebrate 50 years of performance racing. In 1969, Chevy dealer Fred Gibb special-ordered a Camaro for competition in Stock Eliminator drag racing. Gibb used the Central Office Production Order (COPO) system to outfit the muscle car with an aluminum engine, which gave the car a lightweight advantage over the competition.
The anniversary edition features the 1969 paint color, special logos and an engine that emulates the original. To add a level of exclusivity to the release, the company only manufactured 69 of the exclusive cars—the same number made in the initial release.
Any excuse for a party is a good excuse, and anniversaries are no exception. Events are not often practical for a brand that is marketing to consumers, but it’s common to throw a bash or celebratory event for retailers or distributors.
When Jim Beam turned 150, the company invited anyone legally named “Jim Beam” to join in the festivities. Those who traveled to the Kentucky-based distillery were treated to a distillery tour and lunch, and were invited to help unveil a new statue of the distillery’s namesake.
Another common technique is to hold a competition or sweepstakes. Google will turn up countless examples of contests and giveaways from a variety of companies celebrating anniversaries. For its 100th anniversary in 2018, Panasonic asked consumers to take artistic pictures of the number 100. The most creative entries won prizes that included a range of consumer electronics produced by the company.
While some companies may go for the simple “fill out a form for a chance to win” formula, Panasonic engaged its customers and challenged them to get creative.
Some companies produce a commemorative gift or keepsake related to the anniversary year. For its 50th anniversary, Chicago-based real estate developer Inland reproduced its vintage mascot, Indy, a teddy bear with a work hat and overalls. The anniversary bear has been a huge hit among employees, clients and business partners.
As with the cash discount or savings, the effectiveness of this as a technique relies on the attractiveness of the gift.
Often, a company produces a history book alongside an anniversary program. Target audiences for the company history book usually include distributors and customers.
For its 200th anniversary, esteemed clothing company Brooks Brothers produced a commemorative coffee table book: Brooks Brothers: 200 Years of American Style. The volume has received great feedback from customers. Brands with less name recognition might consider offering their book to employees and customers as a gift. Huntington Bank hired History Factory to create a richly illustrated history book for its 150th anniversary using research from the company’s archives as well as local historical societies and other research resources
Creating an experiential exhibit at a specific venue or as a roadshow offers another way to bring a company anniversary to life. Transportation services provider Penske turned 50 this year. As part of a larger celebration, the company created a traveling exhibit illustrating the history of the company. The exhibit has visited a number of cities across the country, and once the tour is complete, the exhibit will have a permanent home in its headquarters in Reading, PA.
A stunt or event that builds off an anniversary can grab people’s attention. For its 50th anniversary, Intel set a Guinness World Record for flying the most unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, simultaneously. The company coordinated more than 2,000 drones in a “firework” display and a 3-D rending of the Intel logo. An event like this one doesn’t just generate buzz but also highlights the company’s technological capabilities.
John Erickson of Brooks Brothers said it best when he spoke recently at The Anniversary Marketing Summit. Erickson’s view is that companies need to give people a reason to care, and that the anniversary is not the event itself, but a platform for engagement. Without engagement, he said, “you’re just shouting.”
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