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Mar 13, 2007 4:00 PM  CST  

Corporate Anniversaries in the Spotlight - Anniversary Celebration Ideas 

By Chris Jones, MCA-I Minnesota, Past President MCA-I

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Looking for gift ideas for that all-important corporate anniversary? How about a breathtaking celebration – or a coffee table book – or a movie? Like the glow of candles on your birthday cake, celebrating anniversaries is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on your company or organization.

Tell the world about that unique moment in time.  Connect the past to the future.  Leverage the occasion creatively. A well-crafted anniversary campaign can have an impact on branding efforts, generate goodwill, strengthen image, improve public relations, and even boost employee morale.

From a commemorative documentary presentation and email blasts, to gala parties and volunteer service, there are many ways you can help honor your company’s special day.  Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

Entertain and illuminate
Who doesn’t want to watch a movie about themselves?  A documentary film or DVD is a great way to capture a huge amount of information and condense it into an entertaining story.  Just like a Hollywood blockbuster, a corporate history can include dramatic moments, conflicts, triumph over adversity and, if you’re lucky, humorous escapades.  Corporate documentaries can range from feature length movies on DVD to mini-shows appropriate for a trade-show booth.  Consider these examples:

America's Dream Highway informed millions of people in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. about the accomplishments of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary. This film captured the hearts of the public and was aired repeatedly on public television stations for two years after the anniversary.

Landmark Center: A Work of Art Serving People was created to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the St. Paul Minnesota Federal Building, now known as the Landmark Center.  It turned the history of a building (boring) into the story of Minnesota’s youth – complete with growing pains, scandals, nose-snorting humor and inspiring artistic achievements. This program is sold in gift shops and shown repeatedly, by demand, on Minnesota Public Television.

America Takes Flight was created to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flight and commemorates the National Air Tours which took place from 1925-1931. This program was created for a non-profit organization, Aviation Foundation of America, but reached a much wider audience This program is currently showing on PBS affiliates in the U.S., can be purchased directly from the website, and spawned a series of mini-video clips on the web, a poster, and clothing items

Throw a Party
Special anniversary events can range from casual employee-only parties or celebrations for special customers to gala affairs open to the general public.  The specific type of event you choose depends upon your corporate culture and your goals.  Is this a family event or are you looking to generate media coverage?  Is it a one-location event or do you want a traveling road show?  Does this event take place at a special venue or at company headquarters?  Special events are a common anniversary activity and can be designed to be much more than simply sharing cake and coffee in the office cafeteria.

Write a Book
How about publishing a book to celebrate your anniversary?  Think about how many words you would like, and how you want to tell your story.  Books can range from elaborate leather-bound collector's items, to highly illustrated coffee table books or even simple pamphlets.  Is your anniversary publication geared for employees, for customers, or for posterity?  Publish your book as a PDF on your website. America Takes Flight is not only a DVD and VHS documentary, it is also a book that can be purchased or downloaded from the web. For its 150th anniversary, Pfizer published a book to commemorate its achievements. Disney also took a look at its first 100 years. All of the books are loaded with pictures, fun quotes and interesting stories.

Coordinate Sales & Marketing Materials
Tie everything together to capitalize on your anniversary year.  Annual reports, news releases, calendars, product spec sheets and web sites should have a unified message and serve to enhance your brand. Rolls Royce dedicated a portion of their website to celebrate their 100th anniversary (and enhance their image). Grand Marnier created a special centennial liqueur Centenaire.

Coke has gone all out with each Coca-Cola plant creating its own 100 year commemorative Coke bottle. But creative ideas don’t have to be spendy. The University of Manitoba’s Chemistry Department created a 100 year commemorative Elements. Use anniversary logos to recognize your past while still giving a nod to your future.  The Society of Automotive Engineers is celebrating 100 years with this simple logo and tagline “Leading Our World in Motion”. 

The teamsters proclaim “A Strong Legacy – A Powerful Future” in their web-banner.

Posters can also be eye-catching and educational.  Posters can help raise employee motivation levels, foster pride and validate the company in the eye of its customers. 

Make News
A corporate or organizational anniversary can be a perfect time to use the media to your organization's advantage.  News articles, magazine features and VNRs (video news releases) can all help promote your brand as well as your heritage.  Put your CEO in the spotlight with an “exclusive” interview with TV Radio, print, trade magazines etc.  Find a newsworthy hook to your anniversary message and tie it to a new product rollout. Commission a study on industry trends or a survey on where the industry will be in five years.  And then use your discoveries to get your company in the public eye. 

Leave a Legacy
Plant some trees on a boulevard in honor of your business’ anniversary.  Create a daffodil garden in a park.  Donate a piece of sculpture.  Create a student scholarship.  Start a foundation.  Giving back does more than spread good will -- it spreads your corporate image, creates brand awareness and fosters employee pride.  One example of this legacy approach is the law firm of Coudert Brothers LLP, which is working with Legal Services for Children, Inc. (LSC), a not- for-profit organization based in New York City, to develop an educational outreach initiative to assist parents of public school children in helping them understand their rights and choices with respect to the No Child Left Behind Act.

Talk it Up
If you're looking for something to say about your company or organization's anniversary, think about collecting oral histories. Retirees are a valuable source for historical information and their perspectives provide personalized windows into time.  Gathering current oral histories of both leaders and line-level employees also serves to capture feelings and impressions that may not be documented elsewhere.  Use oral histories to bring the past to life and serve future generations.

Involve the Community
Use your anniversary to get involved in the community.  Sponsor a float in a parade.  Raffle off a truck.  Open up the factory for family tours.  Work with local schools on a curriculum tied to your company’s history or technology.  Remember that your community can be local, state, global or cyberspace. To celebrate 50 years of WD40, the company conducted an online poll called the “Great State Debate”, to determine consumers’ favorite WD-40 uses in each of the 50 states.  The 2000 winning uses can be found on their website. For each vote cast, 50 cents was donated to Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rehabilitating homes for low-income families.

Show off your Stuff
Put your company's anniversary achievements on display!  Create a large-scale permanent museum at corporate headquarters or a small, more focused exhibit installed in an employee-only area.  Make a traveling display for off-site locations. Create a display for the local library, public square, civic center or park building.  Put those old cameras, coffee mugs, buttons, pins, ashtrays, cookbooks and trophies to use.  Get permission and then get creative!

Be Inventive
Creatively tie your anniversary to your organization's mission.  Does your company manufacture something?  Make a commemorative version of your product.  Does your company market something?  Bundle 20 items for a 20th anniversary or bundle 100 days of something for a 100th anniversary.  Does your company provide a service?  Offer 10 days of service at a 10% discount for your 10th anniversary. Be inventive. Prince may sing about a Little Red Corvette but now you can get a Commemorative Corvette in a variety of colors and options.

Engage Employees
Word of mouth starts at home so don't forget your in-house resources when it comes to honoring your company's anniversary.  Engaging employees in your anniversary celebration can pay off for years to come in employee retention, innovation and satisfaction.  Survey employees for anniversary brainstorming ideas.  Hold a contest to determine the items that best characterize your company's progress over the last 20 years.  Create a time capsule and have employees predict how the company will look in the next 20 years.  Take a commemorative photograph with all employees at one location, or pose them in the same position as an all-employee photograph taken 50 years earlier.  Start an annual employee appreciation day.  Publish history articles on the company Intranet or newsletters.  Hold a company history trivia contest with one-day paid vacation given for each winner.  Hold a karaoke contest with the best new company lyrics to a familiar melody and have the finalists perform their creations at an anniversary event.

Look around your office right now to see evidence of the long-lasting power of a company's name on token gifts.  The note pad embossed with your printer's logo … the cup emblazoned with the name of your videotape supplier … the calendar gift from a favorite charity.  Why not at anniversary time?  There are more choices of these doo-dads than we care to name, but suffice it to say that there are a lot of companies out there specializing in the creation of commemorative objects.  From key chains and velvet paintings to coffee mugs and wheel flaps, you can probably find something special that directly relates to your company’s anniversary or milestone.  Select one vendor or select several.  It’s up to you.  And recipients of your gifts will appreciate the thought.

Be Web-Wise
Here are a few more examples to prime your creative pump.

  • Involve your audience
  • Try an interactive timeline
  • Educate the public
  • Enhance your image and your foundation
  • Celebrate all year long
  • Remember the audio
  • And don’t take yourself too seriously

As an individual, you may be at that stage in life where you would prefer to stop counting birthdays.  But before you let your company or organization's special occasion slide by without notice, think again.  Use your company’s anniversary to help the world recognize its achievements and put the spotlight on this significant milestone.

And happy anniversary!

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For additional information on this Member Articles article, please contact:

Chris Jones
(952) 470-2268

Source: Chris Jones

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