In marketing, a corporate anniversary is a celebration of a firm's continued existence after a particular number of years. The celebration is a media event which can help a firm achieve diverse marketing goals, such as promoting its corporate identity, boosting employee morale, building greater investor confidence, and encouraging sales. As a public relations opportunity, it is a way for a firm to tout past accomplishments while strengthening relationships with employees and customers and investors. The duration of the celebration itself can vary considerably, from an hour or day to activities happening throughout the year. Many businesses use an anniversary to express gratitude for past success. Generally, larger corporations have the means to stage more elaborate celebrations.
An anniversary can advertise a firm's staying power and longevity. A report in the New York Times explained the marketing logic:
Anniversary campaigns are part of a trend inspired by the economy that could be called comfort marketing, as advertisers invoke misty, water-colored memories of the past to woo consumers into buying products in the present. A major aspect of comfort marketing is what brand managers call authenticity: reminding shoppers who seek value in the provenance of merchandise to suggest a product is worth buying because its quality has been tested for decades.
Marketers choose variables relating to anniversaries to meet specific promotional objectives. While the length of time celebrated by an anniversary is often divisible by five, such as the 10th, 15th, 25th, 50th, or 80th anniversary, there are no hard and fast rules. For example, Google celebrated its 13th anniversary with a special "doodle" for its main search page which showed a colorful image of "cake, presents and balloons." Generally, anniversaries are chosen to coincide with marketing initiatives, such that "any coming of age will do," according to one view. An anniversary can commemorate not only a firm's founding year but the introduction of a successful company brand, a merger, a patent, or some other milestone. There are a wide variety of marketing gimmicks and appeals which can accompany an anniversary celebration: sweepstakes, contests, thank you letters, special product editions, parties, guest speakers, birthday displays on websites, giveaways, new product introductions, publicity stunts, sponsorships, fireworks, live musical performances, commemorative packaging, anniversary rings, promotions, signs in retail stores, donations, scholarships, temporary price reductions or discounts, reflections on past accomplishments, special ad campaigns, new logos, and so on.
Planning an anniversary can take years. In some cases, special marketing consultants and event planners have been hired to coordinate the effort. Large corporations typically work closely with their corporate advertising agency as well as their marketing and sales departments to plan sometimes elaborate campaigns, often with a special theme to mark the occasion. For example, Starbucks marked their 40th anniversary with a redesigned logo and media campaign. Guinness Brewery celebrated its 250th anniversary with a global advertising effort. In 1972, Time magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary with events throughout the year:
So we are 50 years old, and we intend to celebrate. We are planning a series of events for the months ahead—some small and rather personal and sentimental—others on a bigger scale. In all, we hope to reach a lot of people to whom we owe thanks: not only our working colleagues within the company but also the legions of readers and believers who through the years have helped us grow.
Goya Foods, on its 75th anniversary, donated a million pounds of food to help fight hunger and announced scholarship programs as well as held parties in different locations.
There is flexibility in terms of choosing which dates to use when determining an anniversary. The start date is often the month or year when a firm was founded, but this can vary considerably, and exceptions are the rule; for example, Lego toys celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008 –– exactly 50 years after the time when the founder's son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, filed a patent for the iconic plastic bricks in 1958.
Difficulty in measuring success
Measuring the success of any advertising effort, including an anniversary celebration, can be difficult. Sometimes an anniversary generates negative publicity, such as the tenth anniversary of the merger between AOL and Time Warner, which was largely seen as a colossal business blunder. A report in The Guardian suggested that corporate anniversaries do not always lead to "happy returns":
Sometimes, when a brand pins all its advertising and marketing on an anniversary, it can give the impression that it doesn't have anything robust to say about its business; that the only way it is different from its competitors is that it has been going longer. ... The problem is, apart from the odd column inch in the press giving the company free PR, it is not immediately obvious what is gained through anniversary celebrations. Telling your customers you are of a certain age creates nostalgia and makes people think about your brand; on the other hand they would probably prefer you to spend money giving them a discount.
- Kevin Maney (June 16, 2011). "5 lessons from IBM's 100th anniversary". CNN Money. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Alex Hawkes (31 October 2011). "Chevrolet celebrates 100th anniversary..." The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Michael Cavna (September 27, 2011). "GOOGLE BIRTHDAY: Doodle celebrates company's 13th anniversary". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
... Google celebrates its 13th birthday ... main-page “Doodle” ... colorful logo ... cake, presents and balloons.
- Hedley Donovan, Andrew Heiskell (October 2, 1972). "An Anniversary Letter". Sports Illustrated and CNN. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
....So these next few months mark the 50th anniversary of the company. ..
- ANDREW ROSS SORKIN (October 7, 2011). "DealBook Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
... 10 years later, I felt it was time to tweak my title in DealBook’s nameplate to better reflect the enormous contributions of the reporting and editing team.
- STUART ELLIOTT (April 9, 2012). "Brands Cheer Their Virtues With Anniversary Candles". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
...The glances backward also include giveaways, events, sweepstakes, commemorative packaging, promotions and retail elements like signs in stores. ...
- Variables include number of past years to celebrate, place for the celebration, budget, and so forth.
- Patrick McMahon (February 3, 2012). "Southland blimp maker Worldwide Aeros turns 25". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
... a new cargo aircraft being built for the Pentagon ....
- Jodie Jacobs (August 29, 1993). "Fell's: 80 Years Old And Still Offering Values Store Is A Highland Park Tradition". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
Excited about planning their company's 80th anniversary party for Sept. 11, the two brothers sat around a display-cum-conference-table upstairs in what was at one time the suit department.
- Lucy Barrett (18 January 2009). "Do birthday ads lead to happy returns?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
... slapping birthday logos on packaging and websites...
- "10th Anniversary of the AOL-Time Warner Merger -- regarded by many as a colossal mistake". The New York Times. January 11, 2010. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Leo Cendrowicz (Jan 28, 2008). "Lego Celebrates 50 Years of Building". Time. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
...January 28, 1958, that then-Lego head Godtfred Kirk Christiansen filed a patent for the iconic plastic brick...
- STEPHANIE CLIFFORD (June 30, 2009). "Guinness Goes Global With a 250th Anniversary Ad Campaign". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
... Guinness is marking its 250th anniversary with a celebratory ad campaign ... its first global advertising effort.
- Cora Daniels (June 9, 2003). "J.C. Penney Dresses Up CEO Allen Questrom wants young women to shop in his stores. His strategy: sell clothes they might actually wear". CNN Money. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
Under the old regime, top executives proudly wore the company anniversary ring.
- Stacy Jones of The Star-Ledger (June 26, 2011). "Goya Foods celebrates 75 year anniversary, looks to future". nj.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
...Latino cuisine company celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, ...
- Kayla Webley (July 16, 2010). "A Brief History Of Online Shopping". Time. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
Now, on its 15th anniversary, Amazon can raise a toast to being one of the largest online retailers in the world, ...
- STUART ELLIOTT (March 7, 2011). "Who Will Drink to 40 Years of Starbucks?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
... Starbucks, a campaign to mark its 40th anniversary ... The campaign is to be focused on what Starbucks calls moments of connection with customers...