October 25, 2018 • Jason Dressel
Initially, many executives see a company anniversary as an expense—a one-time, self-indulgent celebration. But when the anniversary is aligned with organizational objectives, their mindset often shifts, and they think of the anniversary as an investment and a once-in-a-generation opportunity. In order to get company leaders into the right mindset, you must first determine your company anniversary budget, so that you can bring optimistic but realistic expectations to the decision room.
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Developing a company anniversary budget involves many factors, including the type of organization, its size and the significance of the milestone. As a result, it’s impossible to provide a one-size-fits-all solution. But regardless of your organization’s situation and structure, there is a good chance you are experiencing one of four budgeting scenarios:
With 40 years of experience helping world-class organizations plan their anniversaries, History Factory has seen all four scenarios, and we understand their unique challenges.
While your organization may not have a company anniversary budget, the expectation to do something unique for your milestone year remains. If this is the case, there are a number of ways to build your company’s anniversary budget. Consider the following approaches:
Some companies add 25 percent to 45 percent to the marketing/communications annual budget for anniversary-related activities, with 33 percent being the most common figure. Clearly, it depends on the complexity of the organization, global vs. national scope, the ability to leverage existing events or initiatives, whether vendors or key partners contribute, etc. It also depends on your past levels of marketing investment. If your brand has had a relatively low level of funding in recent years but you want to use the anniversary as an opportunity to relaunch or re-energize the brand, then a simple percentage addition to previous years’ budgets might not work effectively.
This approach allocates a sum of money for anniversary planning, over and above what you might spend externally for “normal” planning and strategic consultancy. When this is completed, the various desired tactics are priced out to form a budget request. This is the most common method, as it allows for budgeting against specific tactics.
Similar to the bottom-up approach, this approach puts a budget figure on achieving specific objectives. So, for example, achieving a 3 percent sales increase would require $X in incremental marketing spend. If that is the goal for the anniversary campaign, then that is how the budget is established. This can be straightforward for some external goals, but it is more challenging for internal goals.
Transitioning into your milestone year without a separate anniversary budget, or simply repurposing the marketing budget, risks underplaying the anniversary as a basis for culture change or amplification of your core purpose, values or messages. It is the equivalent of sponsoring a major event like the Olympics but leaving the budget for marketing the sponsorship exactly the same as your business-as-usual marketing. Yes, you’ll benefit, but you won’t optimize the value of the investment in a rare event. The rule of thumb for sponsorships is to invest two to three times the sponsorship cost in marketing the sponsorship. A company anniversary should be viewed similarly.
One of the ways to get more resources is to leverage supplier or business partner funds. This is suitable for some types of businesses (such as retail and distribution) and involves shifting some of the budget requirements on suppliers to contribute over and above what they might normally provide. We’ve seen some clients use this approach for the majority of their anniversary campaign budget requirements. The limitation is clearly the nature of the relationship, and what the supplier receives in exchange for their investment—many anniversary programs, for example, focus on the internal audience, and that may not be an audience that suppliers want to invest in.
Organizations we’ve worked with often use their marketing and communications budget to scale their anniversary programming to great success. The organizations that have been most successful in this approach started planning early. For this very reason, we can’t stress enough how important it is to start planning your anniversary as much as three years in advance.
When a portion of the marketing budget is devoted to the company anniversary, options become available that would otherwise remain a pipe dream. Organizations like Jack Daniel’s and University Health Care System are among the best examples of what a company can accomplish when marketing budget is repurposed to bolster a company anniversary.
For Jack Daniel’s, the 150th anniversary greatly influenced product design. To commemorate the milestone, the company released a limited-edition anniversary whiskey with an accompanying microsite and video campaign. And the anniversary message went beyond the bottle. Over 19 million cans of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Cola delivered the anniversary message that year, as well.
The company also leveraged its formidable social media presence to share the anniversary messaging. The messages reached over 122 million people and accounted for 1.2 million new Facebook followers. The organization recorded a total 10 percent increase in its global Facebook following during its anniversary year using the annual marketing budget.
University Health Care System harnessed its marketing budget in a similar way. The organization used its 200th anniversary identity to reskin its 2018 advertising initiatives. Along with the new design came messaging that focused on the stories and achievements that differentiated University during its 200 years and reinforced its imprint on the health care industry.
Companies in the final scenario have been proactive, raising funds or allocating surpluses for their upcoming anniversary. For organizations in this situation, the question isn’t how to get the money, it’s how best to use it.
In the case of a global food and industrial conglomerate, it was a matter of recognizing the anniversary opportunity early on and saving a portion of its communications budget for many years in a row in anticipation of its 150th anniversary. The company anniversary budget breakdown looked like this:
There is no sugar-coating it: Developing your company anniversary budget is difficult. The nuances of your organization need to be considered when it comes to how—and how much—you decide to invest.
For more ideas about how to mark your corporate anniversary, check out our comprehensive Guide to Celebrating Your Company Anniversary.