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Why Market Your Corporate Or Brand Anniversary?
Because Your Past Is How People Will Judge Your Future Performance.

By Gary W. Kullberg
CEO, Kullberg Consulting Group

Does it make good, profitable marketing sense to celebrate your upcoming corporate or brand milestone? You're in very good company if you do.

Some recently promoted milestones
Ford Motor Company pulled out all the stops to involve past and potential customers, as well as its employees, when it turned 100. American icon, Harley-Davidson, drew 250,000 people to Milwaukee for the finale of its 100th anniversary festivities.

New York's Mayor Bloomberg led the party to mark Times Square's centennial two months ago, as marketers from around the world bought space to promote the area's reputation as the pre-eminent location for outdoor advertising.

Two months ago, when it turned 75, Business Week Magazine launched an on-going series of weekly profiles of the greatest innovators of the past 75 years. Fortune Magazine is presently going to some lengths to celebrate the 50 years of the Fortune 500. And, last April, to celebrate its 100th, Canada Dry began offering a collection of commemorative coins, as well as a chance to win 100 ounces of pure gold through its packaging, website and point-of-purchase materials.

This summer, the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport will draw thousands to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Others promoting significant milestones include Heidrick & Struggles (50th), Vanguard Wellington Fund (75th), PSE&G (100th), Principal Financial Group (125th) and Chevron Texaco (125th).

There is no magic date
You don't have to celebrate just multiples of 25. Twenty years of history was deemed a solid reason by Domestications to create a marketing presence offering "20 percent savings on our 20 top picks". Meanwhile, People Magazine celebrated 30 years with a "Pop Culture Getaway To LA Sweepstakes". And a variety of significant marketing programs have been undertaken by Dell, Lifetime Network and Inc. Magazine (all at 20 years) as well as New York's Shea Stadiumat 40 years to celebrate their "non-traditional" milestones.

Just this month, Southwest Airlines offered a number of special fares, including $33 one-way, to celebrate its 33rd birthday.

Additionally, a brand milestone was tied in with a corporate milestone when Ford celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of its most popular brands, the Mustang. And, Old Navy recently began a major program in connection with its 10th anniversary, creating television advertising featuring Joan Collins and Morgan Fairchild, among others. Yankee Candle is celebrating its 20th anniversary; Hispanic celebrity, Christina, is celebrating 15 years in television; Girls Incorporated launched a celebration of its 140th anniversary. The list goes on and on, and the opportunities are unlimited.

It's clear - using a corporate or brand anniversary to market your organization makes very good sense. And you get to choose which anniversary is significant. Your 33rd anniversary can be as powerful a marketing tool as your 25th, if you take full advantage.

But, what can you do to take full advantage of your milestone? Here are six thoughts:

1. "You can't build your reputation on what you're going to do." Henry Ford

Henry Ford was right. Your company's reputation is based upon its accomplishments. And, with an important anniversary coming up, you have an exceptional opportunity to focus attention on these accomplishments.

This is a ready-made opportunity for you to demonstrate how your history has given you a degree of strength and expertise that is achievable only over time. In today's marketplace, with so much uncertainty, and distrust, your past can be the strongest criterion that any stakeholder has to judge your future performance.

Use your milestone to reach your key audiences to solidify and improve your company's or your brand's reputation and awareness and drive sales at the same time. Your past can speak volumes about your quality, service, culture, innovation and pricing, thus positioning you for success in the future.

2. "The best people want to work for the best brands." David F. D'Alessandro

Use your corporate anniversary to fan the flames of brand passion among your first line of offense, your own employees. In fact, a Gallup survey says, "If your employees were 'fully engaged', your customers would be 70 more loyal, your turnover would drop by 70 percent, and your profits would jump 40 percent."

Just as you can use your milestone to reach out to potential customers, you can use this occasion to create and strengthen the partnership between your company and your employees.

They are your most important resource. In their hands, is the key to your company's future success. Use this opportunity to build employee pride and passion, and to make them true brand advocates.

3. "If people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's gonna stop them." Yogi Berra

Yogi's got a point. Find a way to get your constituents to your ballpark, so you can win their hearts as well as their minds. Events and sponsorships allow you to make personal contacts with the people who count.

Events and sponsorships create bonds, both emotional and practical. They create customer loyalty and employee involvement and dedication, with an unparalleled opportunity to form a relevant connection with your audiences, both internally and externally.

The opportunities are endless. For a major impact, think about connecting your organization to a major cause.

According to a 2002 study commissioned by Cone, Inc., 84 percent of people surveyed said that "a company's commitment to social issues is important when I decide which companies I want to do business with."

4. "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." Sir Winston Churchill

Your corporate or brand history is important to your customers and clients, both existing and potential, because of what it might mean to their future. Think about how your history and the future promise of your company or brand will connect in a meaningful way to the history and future of your customers.

Joe W. Forehand, Chairman and CEO of Accenture, in a recent article, said his business "is about collaborating with our clients to deliver great ideas - both theirs and ours".

Your plans for celebrating your anniversary should include ideas about how you will collaborate with your customers to help them grow and develop, because this is key to your own growth and development.

5. "The secret of getting ahead is getting started." Mark Twain

Mark Twain's wisdom applies - get started now to successfully and profitably celebrate your company or brand anniversary. Only by significant advance planning can you take full advantage of your yearlong marketing opportunity.

And these opportunities can't be matched by your competitors.

You may want to form a company steering committee, or develop an anniversary-specific theme and logo treatment. Business-to-business and/or consumer advertising, direct mail, web development and public relations campaigns need to be planned, as well as executed.

Your employee communications vehicles will also want to cover the anniversary. You'll probably want to develop a historical CD, book or film along with commemorative mementos. And, is there a better time for a sales contest?

Perhaps your products lend themselves to the creation of an anniversary-related product. If so, there are development and production issues to consider.

And, a community initiative can provide you with increased credibility in you hometown or, if your operations are far flung, tie them together with a national or global event.

But, do get started. Without proper planning, it can be a troublesome and unrewarding journey.

6. "I hear a lot of thunder, but I don't feel any rain." Dolly Parton

Getting started is one thing, but with whom? Your Marketing Communications Department is probably swamped already, and may not be adequately staffed to handle the variety of plans and programs you need to consider to efficiently deliver a meaningful milestone program.

And going to an advertising agency, design studio, packaging specialist, public relations agency, event planner and web developer suggests a host of integration problems, much less turf fights and spending conflicts.

That's where the Kullberg Consulting Group (KCG) comes in. Through our new service, Marketing Milestone, we develop an individualized, one-of-a-kind, meaningful marketing program to help you celebrate your company's or brand's anniversary.

KCG is a strategic alliance of 59 senior level marketing communications professionals who own their own businesses, but come together to work on KCG assignments as needed. They represent all disciplines of marketing communications, with combined experience working with over 585 companies in 21 major industry groups.

Importantly, we use only the marketing professionals you need to reach and impact your constituents. And, because of our unique structure, the work is done by senior experienced professionals. This means not only efficient start-up, but also an efficient cost structure that isn't burdened with "big agency" overhead.

How strongly do we believe in the power of anniversary marketing? We launched Marketing Milestone on our own company's tenth anniversary.

With "growing the top line" the number one challenge facing CEO's in 2004, according to a recent survey in Chief Executive Officer magazine, how fortunate you are to have an upcoming milestone to separate yourself from competition.

Properly promoted, the significance of your company or brand milestone can't be matched for a minimum of twelve months. An important edge.

So yes, you should aggressively market your anniversary. It can be a powerful tool to project your future.

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Gary Kullberg founded and manages the Kullberg Consulting Group. He is a well respected marketing and marketing communications professional, who has practiced his craft in New York and now, Rhode Island, for over thirty years.

He can be reached at 401.886.5001 or

How to Develop A Marketing Milestone Program
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