Doc Martyn’s Soul: In Good Company

Not many businesses make it to seventy-five years old. Times change, products go in and out style, competitors rise and devour, businesses stagnate, and industries conflate. Making it to this age is way more impressive for a business than it is for a human anymore. Making it to 400+ is downright alien! The oldest surviving business in the US started in 1613 and is, naturally, a farm. The oldest publisher in the US is Wiley, founded in 1807. Obviously, UNP has a way to go yet to match Wiley’s 208 years, but seventy-five is still seventy-five. In fact three-quarters of a century is so in this year that UNP shares its diamond jubilee with some seriously impressive brands. Coach, Jeep, and M&Ms are all bedecked in carats in 2016.

As part of the soul searching that accompanies any grand milestone, I looked at these three companies to see if there were any consistent traits, particularly on the marketing front in how they are celebrating their legacy.

All three of our fellow 75ers have new, 75th anniversary branded products on the shop floor this year. These products range from the brand new to the relaunched to the facelifted. Each company is using its anniversary as part of its overall marketing strategy, but defining that strategy with specific branding that projects its heritage and longevity and tradition.

Coach, for example, has new products based on designs they have rescued from the vault. They’ve scoured the classic designs of the past and found four that needed an anniversary to be resurrected. Coach is also focusing on their skills and knowledge, showcasing the inherent benefits of doing something so successfully for so long. Videos, blogs, commentaries, etc., make up part of the 75th section of the website giving fans and consumers a behind-the-scenes look.

Jeep has new 75th anniversary designs; the Wrangler featuring most prominently, which makes sense given its heritage as the company’s first vehicle. The anniversary designs feature special logos and livery that hearken back to the company’s 1941 origins. Jeep, too, is using website real estate to teach consumers about the history of the brand with photos, videos, and insights from company executives. They’ve also invited Jeep owners to tell their stories through social media posts and #MYJEEPSTORY. Jeep drivers are a dedicated bunch and in conjunction with the dealerships also using the hashtag there is a strong social presence to this 75th celebration. Jeep has been branding its vehicles with the 1941 logo for a few years now, building towards 2016, and it would seem the combination of the company’s heritage and tradition with true fan worship has created a diamond jubilee of which to be proud.

M&Ms are vastly different from luxury bags and tough, off-road vehicles. Turns out, though, candy has staying power, too. Many of the candy brands we love and consume have been around for a long time. M&Ms are, like the Wrangler, a WWII product. It seems that what the Greatest Generation enjoyed is here to stay. But M&Ms are a little harder to corral into a nice package of the “finest traditions of excellence” or “craftsmanship developed over the course of seventy-five years.” The little chocolate-filled candies are currently marketed by animated M&Ms using a cute and funny approach, which is at odds with the appropriated heirs and graces of anyone or anything closing in on eight decades. Even so, M&Ms have new things planned for this special year. New flavors, colors, and packaging, a birthday ad, and a #MMS75 social campaign are all making an appearance this year because even when you produce quickly-devoured chocolate drops you still only turn seventy-five once.

UNP, too, has social campaigns ongoing. #UNP75 is beginning to take hold. Blog posts are coming thick and fast and include historical profiles, significant books, and staff stories. We produced a book (history of the Press, naturally). A new website is on the way. Anniversary logos and designs feature throughout our marketing campaigns. We’re creating 150 new products, but then again we do that every year so I suppose that’s a stretch. We don’t have the name recognition of Coach, Jeep, and M&Ms but we’re not all that different either. We’re wearing our age proudly, we have loyal fans, we’ve learned a lot over the course of those years, and we’re using our grand, old status to help define our brand and to give our readers what they want more, quality books for another three quarters of a century.

Martyn