Happy anniversary: Six steps to celebrating your company’s birthday

Imagine if you organised your own birthday party and nobody turned up? Once you’d recovered from the shock to your ego, you’d probably start asking yourself – and your so-called friends – a few tricky questions, like “What did I do wrong?” and “What shall I do with all these balloons?”

It’s the same for brands. There is a danger of focusing so hard on their corporate message when they reach a milestone year that they forget to think about what their friends – or audiences in marketing terms – might actually find enjoyable or interesting. So a great deal of time and money can be spent without any discernible positive effect, let alone return on investment.

Huge brands have enough expertise, influence and budget to ensure that they get this right – the skyscraper 125th anniversary Coke bottle and Disneyland’s Paint the Night parade are good examples of making an international fanfare as well as giving millions of people something fun to talk about. But few brands can afford that level of investment – or have sufficient global stature to get away with such bombast.

So how do you make the most of the opportunity that a significant birthday offers?

(1) The past is another country…

…you did things differently there. This is interesting, but only to a point. Wallowing in nostalgia is rarely compelling to anyone other than those who were there. By all means celebrate the journey and acknowledge those who contributed to present day success, but make sure it’s relevant to your current audiences.

This can be a chance to expose deep brand roots that have got a bit mossy over the years; or to send out a reminder of a brand’s originality and authenticity in a market crowded by copycats.

Vola

Vola’s Arne Jacobsen tap genuinely deserves the title “design icon”. Its simple lines and peerless engineering set a new benchmark – and were inevitably copied far and wide, with all the usual compromises on design and quality.

So when Vola reached its 40th year, the team there asked us to create a piece that would, in the company’s own subtle but straight-forward Scandinavian style, remind everyone that it was the first and still the best.

The brochure we designed reflected this confident attitude in its design, tone and imagery, as well as showcasing Vola’s thoroughly modern take on future innovations.

(2) Share the love

There’s nothing new about brands wanting to be “loved” by their audiences. But it’s a two-way street and anniversaries are a great way to keep the love traffic flowing. By tapping into what people love about you and then giving it back to them in spades on special occasions, brands demonstrate understanding and generosity.

Selfridges

When Selfridges reached the grand old age of 125 in 2009, they realised that shoppers had taken a liking to their distinctive Pantone 109 yellow bags. So they turned everything yellow for a whole month, from window displays and building atriums to actual products in the store – Converse trainers, Blackberrys, Coke bottles. Cue reams of valuable PR and a warm fuzzy feeling for everyone.

Curious about how Glyndebourne and Aston Martin celebrated their anniversaries? Find out on the next page. 

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