You have undoubtedly heard the saying that one of the most powerful words in marketing is “new.” And it is. It’s human nature. We’re hardwired to seek what’s new because, after all, it might be better than something we already know. Yet too many companies want to periodically tell us their age, as in not new. As in old. As in not interesting.
I’m referring to the virtually useless practice of using an anniversary as the center of a marketing campaign. In the marketplace, it is largely a waste of valuable marketing dollars to talk about your company’s birthday. It doesn’t differentiate, and it doesn’t help your brand. Like you and everybody you know, every company has one. It comes around once a year. It may seem special to you, but the world at large cares very little about whether it’s your fifth or seventh or even your 50th.
How old is Apple? Nike? Coke? Facebook? Google? You don’t know, and you don’t care. Because it isn’t how we judge a brand. What’s new from Nike, Coke and Facebook, and especially Apple, is what matters to us.
Let me pause this rant for moment and note two disclaimers. First, internal celebrations of company anniversaries are fine. Making it to 10 or 25 years or more is something that owners and employees can enjoy and use for motivation or to add a party to the schedule. Loyal customers may feel some part of that success as well, and enjoy being invited to an indulgent soiree.
Second, if you’re in retail you already know that any reason is sufficient to build a sale around. Having already co-opted president’s birthdays, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, an anniversary sale is just as good a reason as any. Heck, have an anniversary sale, then a going out of business sale and then a new birthday sale. We’ll come if the price is right, no matter what the reason for the banners and balloons. (One of my all-time favorite sales themes is “We’ve fired our ad agency and we’re passing the savings on to you.” A campaign that, of course, was written by their ad agency, which, of course, had not really been fired.)
Put another way, building a campaign around how old you are is essentially looking backwards at the past. Nostalgia can be a powerful elixir for those close to a company and its brand. But your customers, and more importantly your prospects, are all facing the opposite way. They’re looking forward. They want to know what’s new and improved. Having some years under your belt will certainly be reassuring, especially if the purchase is a big ticket item. But there is no difference between four and five years or eight and 10 years in the typical customer’s mind.
If you still don’t agree, take a look at the big brands. Imagine Apple staging one of their semi-annual product announcements. They are very quiet and leak no information prior to the big day. Industry observers are speculating that they must be cooking up something big. Is it the TV version of iTunes? Maybe the iCar? The iBrain? The big day arrives. Tim Cooke strolls onto the stage. He is alone in the spotlight. “I’m truly excited to announce that, in honor of our 30th anniversary, we are adding an imprint of the numeral “30” to all our products and anyone who turns 30 this year gets a 10 percent discount at any Apple store.” He is greeted by the sound of one hand clapping. (Apple, by the way, will be 37 in 2014, but you didn’t know that or care, which is why they don’t talk about it.)
So please, for the sake of your brand and to get the most from your investment in marketing, don’t waste time and money talking about a birthday or anniversary of your company or brand (with above disclaimers). Nobody cares. Half the time they think you’re older than that, anyway. Don’t add a little banner under your logo that says, “20 years old and proud!” Take some money out of the executive travel and entertainment budget and throw a party. The bigger, the better. I’d be happy to join you and bring a casserole. But when it comes to telling the world about the latest news on your organization, work on a message that’s about what will be, not what has been.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal.