June 4, 2013
Anniversary Campaigns Worth Celebrating
Recent studies indicate that the average life expectancy of firms in the S&P 500 is only 15 years. It is also well documented that most small businesses fail in the first five years in operation. So it’s fair to say that if an organization makes it past these milestones, it means something – and presents the perfect opportunity to share with key stakeholders and the media how and why a company has thrived, and the scope of its broader impact. In celebration of CooperKatz’s own 17th anniversary in May of this year, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on the advantages of developing an anniversary program and revisit some of our favorite client campaigns.
Anniversaries encourage us to reflect on the past, relive an important moment in the present and look ahead to the future. Our personal lives are filled with a wide range of anniversaries – both happy and sometimes sad. In business we also mark key milestones. Yet the external PR potential of these celebrations is often left unrealized.
Recent studies indicate that the average life expectancy of firms in the S&P 500 is only 15 years. It is also well documented that most small businesses fail in the first five years in operation. So it’s fair to say that if an organization makes it past these milestones, it means something – and presents the perfect opportunity to share with key stakeholders and the media how and why a company has thrived, and the scope of its broader impact.
In celebration of CooperKatz’s own 17th anniversary in May of this year, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on the advantages of developing an anniversary program and revisit some of our favorite client campaigns.
There are many approaches to celebrating a major corporate or organizational milestone. Here are three examples of the opportunities afforded by an anniversary campaign:
- Reward customers and recognize employees. Anniversaries lend themselves to both internal and external engagement. It is an ideal moment to thank employees and customers for their continued loyalty, while encouraging increased involvement and driving potential “buyers” to take action.
For example, previous CooperKatz client, Petfinder.com, inspired perhaps one of the most fun and memorable anniversary events organized by our team. We conceived and pitched a “TODAY Show” segment that celebrated Petfinder.com’s 10th anniversary by surprising 10 different 10-year-old children with a puppy adopted by their parents through the website. It was a delightful way to call attention to the important work of the company by highlighting the joys of pet adoption for both adopters and animals.
For its 100th anniversary, the Association of National Advertisers showcased the stature and evolution of the marketing industry by creating the “The Marketers Constitution.” Developed in collaboration with CooperKatz, this document outlined 10 vital tenets embraced by the industry, and then identified and honored “heroes” for each of the tenets at ANA events throughout the year. Throughout the year the ANA also ran 10 “Top Ten” bylines in Advertising Age incorporating anniversary messaging. Doing so allowed the ANA to recognize members and reemphasize its industry leadership.
- Educate audiences about your influence on industry and culture. As PR folk, one of our core responsibilities is to help people better understand brands and companies. Anniversaries present the perfect moment in time to revisit a company’s history and uncover its impact on its industry, culture and society as a whole.
As Carrier approached the 100th anniversary of the invention of air conditioning, the company wanted to raise public awareness of Willis H. Carrier. So our team established Carrier as “The Father of Cool,” positioning him as an unsung hero of American invention. The goal was to inform the public of Willis Carrier’s critical role in influencing where individuals live, how buildings operate and how industries have evolved.
More recently, the team built on these awareness-building efforts for the 110th anniversary, employing a national and local media strategy that tailored the meaning of the anniversary to each key audience. Information on the invention was mentioned on The Weather Channel, leading meteorologists across the country to talk about the occasion. National outlets such The New York Times, “CBS This Morning” and “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” highlighted how the product changed our lives; and radio stations in numerous cities discussed local “firsts” such as AC installations in homes and buildings across the nation.
Much like Carrier, CooperKatz client, Otis Elevator Company, leveraged both the 150th and 160th anniversaries of the invention of the safety elevator, to inform the public on how the elevator transformed urban development and city landscapes globally. The CooperKatz team targeted consumers to educate them on how elevator technology changed the way we live and travel every day, as well as architects, building owners and engineers to highlight the technological advancements over the years and how the company is innovating for the future. Through a robust media relations campaign, the team elevated brand awareness and recognition through placements in The New York Times, CNN, WIRED, Scientific American and more.
- Spotlight critical current issues. Remember that the announcement of an anniversary alone is not necessarily enough to garner media attention. It is critically important to connect the milestone to a broader issue or trend, to enhance its newsworthiness.
The National Fire Protection Association identified a public service opportunity related to the 60th anniversary of its furry friend and mascot, Sparky the Fire Dog ®. The NFPA aimed to use this occasion to enhance its public fire safety education efforts and further engage its network of firefighters. Our team executed a multi-tiered media strategy that included partnering with third-party organizations such as Scholastic, and engaging the firefighter community through a “Voice of Sparky” contest that awarded the winner the opportunity to participate in a radio media tour. The campaign resulted in media coverage that tripled from 2010 to 2011, an increase in Sparky’s Facebook fan base by 184 percent and an expanded reach into markets across the country.
For Petfinder’s 15th anniversary, the organization wanted to focus on the numerous adoptable pets in need of homes and to drive potential pet adopters to animal shelters. The team executed the first “Adopt-a-Less-Adoptable Pet Day” that involved blanketing the Internet with information about adoptable pets for a 24-hour period. This was paired with a nationwide “Big Birthday Adoption Event,” an initiative to encourage local shelters and rescue groups to hold simultaneous adoption events in their communities. The campaign was recognized with a SABRE Award in 2011 for its success in increasing new visits to Petfinder.com from referring sites by 9.9 percent and finding homes for 15,000 pets in three-days of events across 1,500 shelters and animal rescues.
While each anniversary is unique, all of these case studies successfully connected the milestone to the public and the news cycle. In order to truly bring an anniversary to life, a campaign will ideally employ internal outreach, traditional media relations, digital / social media strategies and marketing elements.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming an anniversary will be written about simply on the strength of the date alone. Take the time to do your research and provide substantive information about the company. In doing so, you’ll find an anniversary can be a powerful tool to bolster your reputation, instill pride in your employees, reignite consumer enthusiasm and set you up for many more anniversaries to come.