YOUR COMPANY ANNIVERSARY - 7 KEYS TO SUCCESS
Your organization has an anniversary every year. The question is, are you using this opportunity to set yourself apart from your competition? Here are seven keys to creating a successful marketing program around your upcoming corporate anniversary.
Recognize the Marketing Value of Your Corporate or Brand Anniversary
Anniversary marketing is not about your past, nor is it "old hat" or out of date. On the contrary, it is one of the most effective marketing initiatives.
You recognize the companies and organizations that have recharged their marketing programs by focusing on their anniversaries. Companies like Ford (100) and Harley-Davidson (100) and Sports Illustrated (50) and the Principal Financial Group (125).
Many others have found the value of anniversaries that don't round off to 25. Companies like Southwest Airlines (33), Yankee Candle (20), Old Navy (10) and Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum (155). In fact, nearly 45% of the companies we researched are celebrating "off year" company or brand anniversaries.
Recognize that your past is the strongest criterion people have to judge your future. So use your history of success to tell clients and customers about that future and, most importantly, tell them about your place in their future.
Key Two: Get Started Now
You may have heard that Harley-Davidson began planning its 100th anniversary celebration the day after its 95th anniversary!
That tells you that it's never too soon to get started. Because the most important thing you can do to assure success is to start planning today. Don't limit the scope of what you can accomplish waiting to put plans in place.
Also, make sure you develop and promote a "sense of urgency" within your company about your anniversary. That urgency is an important element in a successful anniversary and can carry over into other aspects of your organization.
Key Three - Know What You Want as a Return On Investment
At the end of a year of anniversary marketing, you will want to know what you accomplished, what was your Return On Investment (ROI). This is all about measurement.
Determine the measurements that matter and find out where you are now, at the beginning. Then ask yourself the question: What has to happen over the course of this year for us to declare this effort a success? What changes in attitudes and sales do we want to accomplish with our anniversary?
Then when you are done and, if necessary, during the course of the year, measure what you have accomplished and compare this with your measurements from the beginning. That is your ROI.
It is not enough to say, "We had these events for hundreds of customers and employees, and distributed thousands of brochures. And did you see our ad in the Wall Street Journal?" You must be able to measure your success.
Key Four - Involve Your Employees
When PSEG celebrated its 100th, the company asked its employees to vote on their choice for an anniversary logo. Other companies have asked for employee suggestions about how best to celebrate their anniversaries.
By asking, you are seeking to make your employees full partners in the planning and execution of your company anniversary. This is an unparalleled opportunity to build employee pride and passion and to turn your most treasured asset into true brand advocates.
Gallup recently reported that if your employees were "fully engaged," your customers would be 70% more loyal, your turnover would drop by 70%, and your profits would jump by 40%. That's a handsome payoff for creating a true company-employee partnership!
Key Five - Think Events and Sponsorships
You can win the hearts and minds of your constituents by using events and sponsorships that deliver your message in exciting and strongly personal ways.
Events communicate your organization in ways that matter to your audiences. They are key to reaching people and involving them. Events create bonds both emotional and practical and bring an excitement not available with traditional marketing methods.
Plan events of differing sizes at different locations and spread them throughout the year. Combine your celebration with scheduled existing events such as technical forums, consumer and trade shows. And create events that have general news media interest as well.
Polaris, a major manufacturer of snowmobiles, watercraft, ATVs, utility vehicles and Victory motorcycles, with annual sales of more than $1.6 billion, took over the state fairgrounds to celebrate their 50th. More than 25,000 riding enthusiasts and music fans showed up to help them celebrate.
Key Six - Celebrate all year long
Your anniversary marketing strategy should have a shelf life of at least a year. Don't spend all your anniversary capital on a single event. Events and initiatives spread throughout the year, or even over 18 months, will keep interest in your company high within your various audiences, both internal and external.
Take a lead from the pages of Sports Illustrated. Partnering with Toyota, SI created a year long traveling celebration, the Toyota Presents Sports Illustrated's 50th Anniversary Tour, a football field-size interactive site constructed state by state bringing Sports Illustrated to life for fans across the country.
Find innovative ways over the year to establish a true dialogue with your clients and customers and suppliers. Learn from them how you can help them grow and prosper, because they are the keys to your own success.
Red Hat, "the world's most trusted provider of Linux and open source technology," celebrated its 10th with a world-wide tour in which executives held forums and met one-on-one with customers in cities across the globe. Red Hat reported getting a greater sense of their users, their needs and wants, as well as now having more feeling and passion for their own work.
Key Seven - Get help to do it right
Accept that you can't do it alone and get help.
A successful celebration combines many elements including planning, measurement, anniversary logo development, corporate history, public relations, event creation and management, website creation or redesign, and more.
Find someone who can assist you with the planning and strategy, but who also can implement those plans for you. Your anniversary is too important to leave to an overworked marketing department or an understaffed agency.
And make sure you get objective assistance from someone whose fee isn't dependent upon how much you spend in certain categories, such as advertising or design or printing.
In a nutshell
The most important key to a successful company anniversary celebration is the first: Recognize the Marketing Value of Your Corporate or Brand Anniversary.
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Ken Owens headed up Olympic and Event Marketing for John Hancock Financial Services before forming his company, Owens Marketing Group (www.OwensMarketingGroup.com). Ken helps companies grow using the powerful marketing and branding tools of events and sports sponsorships, and aggressive public relations.
Ken is a member of the Kullberg Consulting Group (KCG) whose service, Marketing Milestone, provides effective assistance to companies celebrating company or brand anniversaries. KCG, a strategic alliance of nearly sixty entrepreneurially driven marketing and marketing communications companies, brings together the combined experience of its members working with over 585 companies, in 21 major industry groups. They provide strategy as well as execution. The company celebrated its own ten year anniversary in 2004.