As your company rounds the corner into another year, you may be considering whether to mark the occasion publicly with a campaign. We say go for it! A significant anniversary provides an excellent opportunity to refocus on your brand’s core messaging, reflect on past successes, and envision and plan for the future.
Marking milestones such as a given number of years in business or a historically significant product release reminds your customers of where you came from and what you’ve accomplished. It’s also an opportunity to acknowledge employees, strengthen client relationships and, depending on the reach, entice new customers.
A significant anniversary provides an excellent opportunity to refocus on your brand’s core messaging, reflect on past successes, and envision and plan for the future.
So where do you start to ensure a successful anniversary campaign? Consider these tips:
1. Round up the troops
Most successful businesses haven’t got to where they are by working in silos. Collaboration and buy-in among departments and employees is key to ensuring everyone is on the same page about direction, method and outcomes. The same is true when planning an anniversary celebration. Getting your staff excited about the anniversary by having them actively participate in the planning and execution will go a long way to running a smooth campaign. After all, they’re a huge reason there’s anything worth celebrating. (Marketing and Communications will most likely take on the bulk of the work, but there are important ways other employees can be involved – see #5 below.)
2. Plan, plan, plan
With everyone on board, the planning stages for your anniversary campaign can begin. How long is your celebration going to last? Will there be events and acknowledgement throughout the year? Will your main focus be a concerted social media campaign? Or are you quietly building up to one big blow-out bash? Whatever your timeline, a campaign like this usually involves many components. Start planning anywhere from six months to two years out from your actual anniversary to ensure that all the pieces are in place.
3. Know your story
Behind everything you do, there’s your brand story. There is no better time to revisit it, hone it, and disseminate it than an anniversary. Think of your parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, your grandmother’s 90th birthday, your baby’s first year, or any of the significant birthdays you’ve personally celebrated. These are all made particularly touching by the stories told about the person or couple of honour. The same is true of your company. Its origin story, its evolution, its characters—these are compelling components of your business and articulating them will help you determine the tone and theme of your celebrations. If you haven’t yet created this story, now’s the time.
4. Make a splash
This is the fun part. How are you going to mark this important occasion? Here are a few ideas:
Get it down on paper
When you really have a story to tell, one of the best ways to do it is by creating a commemorative book. At ECHO, we specialize in teasing out your company story and translating it into a compelling narrative, complete with beautiful layout and design. An anniversary is an excellent time to think about publishing your corporate history—the physical book acts as a tangible celebration of the business or organization to date. And what better gift for employees and clients alike?
Throw a party
What’s a birthday without a party? Gather your colleagues, your clients, your families, your friends in the business, and some media too, and treat them to a night of celebrating. Depending on your budget, it can be as low-key as beers and barbeque in the park or as swanky as a black-tie gala. Whatever your vibe, this is a night to toast the company and all who have a had a hand in its success. Remember to brand your invitations and the evening with the anniversary campaign—tagline, logo, etc.—this is yet another opportunity to tell your story. And don’t forget the cake.
If you’ve been wondering whether your brand needs a refresh, an anniversary is a great time to launch your new look and feel. Again, it all comes back to your story so get drafting. Engage in the storytelling process full-on (we have a course for that!) and consider where you want your company to go. A rebrand is a major undertaking and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but done well, it can imbue your company with a new relevance. And your anniversary is the perfect pivot point for reflecting on your company’s past while launching anew into the future.
Whether through a sponsorship, an endowment, or a promise to match contributions from your customers to a charity of your choice, there are altruistic ways of marking a special birthday as well. And if your company is purpose-driven, this will be something your customers will respect and appreciate. Also consider contests, promotions, and special discounts on products and services, all with the aim of celebrating your anniversary and giving the gift, rather than receiving one.
5. Have it permeate everything you do
From email signatures to your wow piece — whether that’s a book, a special or limited edition product, or a dedicated website — make sure the anniversary campaign message is heard loud and clear. Print special postcards, brand your party invitations, make cute buttons or t-shirts, update your social media profile images, get it on your letterhead—as you go about the daily running of your business, find everyday ways of promoting this milestone. Think about pitching media as well. Trade magazines and websites are likely to pick up the story, and if you have a particularly engaging story to tell, mainstream media may be interested as well. Especially if you can provide compelling and easily digestible material, like infographics, fun facts or a company timeline.
Yes, there are business objectives for implementing an anniversary campaign: increasing visibility, pleasing shareholders, attracting media attention. But don’t lose sight of the traditional purpose of anniversaries: to mark a special birthday in the life of your company. It’s a moment you can revel in as you take stock of the success of the company and acknowledge all the people who have helped make it so. Cheers to that!
6.1. Plan, plan, plan again
As a footnote, we’ll add another planning stage. As the celebrations come to a close, now is a great time to think about the path ahead, and the chapters yet to be written. Take this opportunity to think big. You’ve spent a year or so reflecting on your company’s history; you have a solid grasp on where you’ve come from, so now might be a good time to map out a strategic plan for the next five or ten years. After all, that next big anniversary will come faster than you think.