2014 marks a significant birthday in my life—all 14,610 days of it. That’s right. Some would refer to this milestone as now being “over the hill,” but I prefer it to be the “starting line” for the rest of my life. Even so, having this 40th birthday under my belt made me reflective, and inspired me to dig through the proverbial mementos of my past in my parents’ attic. I found dusty vintage hat boxes and one of a kind antique tins that my mother never threw away, filled with vintage pictures of a bygone era—pre-braces, frosted bangs, shaved head, pegged Z Cavariccis, XXL Buggle Boy Sweaters, stacks of skateboards, tins of Legos, Topps Garbage Pail Kids, and Wacky Pack stickers. Digging more I came across countless relics of fads from a consumer’s past. It reminded me of how strong a legacy brand has to be in order to withstand the test of time.The brands that we were all raised on and that have transcended generations are the ones that have evolved through the years without losing their relevancy. Every year a handful of these unique brands celebrate their centennial history in some way, shape or form. Whether through advertising, social media, traditional media promotional giveaways, events, sweepstakes, commemorative packaging or on and off-premise activation, utilizing the right touch points can make the difference between just another birthday party and a multi-faceted celebration that leaves a lasting impression on consumers’ hearts and minds.
Recently, a few of my favorite brands have created this type of authentic connection with consumers.
Morton Salt Co.: When it Rains, it Pours
2014 marks one such birthday for Chicago-based Morton Salt Co. You may remember its iconic young girl wearing the yellow rain slicker and umbrella with the tagline, “When it rains it pours.” For 100 years, America has celebrated life’s moments with the Morton Salt Girl—from birthdays and holidays to the every day. This year, Morton Salt is inviting America to celebrate her.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of its debut advertisement in the 1914 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, the salt company is refreshing with specially designed birthday packaging (replete with fireworks), a refreshed girl and logo, parties (Morton will throw 100 parties for consumers in 100 cities over 100 days this year), and partnerships (Chicago’s Wrigley Field, which also celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, is on tap to host a “Morton Salt Girl Day”). The birthday girl will also be prominently featured on Morton’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages, as well as on her very own microsite.
For those of us who appreciate design subtleties, Morton Salt is also marking this milestone year with the first of many new product innovations: Morton® Garlic Sea Salt, an industry first, and Morton® Sea Salt, Roasted Garlic Sea Salt, and Black Peppercorn Grinders in stylish, tabletop-ready glass bottles. These products will be available nationally in 2014.
For history buffs, the name Amedeo Obici may ring a bell. If not, maybe you’re familiar with the brand he created over 100 years ago, Planters. The nut brand has also been celebrating its anniversary (not just this year but for the last seven years, which Planters referred to as “Fresh-tennial”). The company kicked off festivities by rolling out a limited edition portfolio of can designs by nationally established artists who they commissioned. The series celebrates four areas of American culture— “Boardwalk,” “Baseball,” “Circus,” and “Times Square”—and the unique role that Planters has played in making them worth celebrating.
More recently, Planters created exhibits and collaborated with local communities that played integral roles in Planters’ history. Maybe you’ve seen the Peanut Fest Parades in your hometown with Mr. Peanut as the Grand Marshal, or the Peanut Pals, a nonprofit organization with more than 500 collectors of Mr. Peanut memorabilia, which is hosting various “swap meets” around the country.
Mr. Peanut himself is actually just shy of his 100th birthday, and Planters likewise has been using this milestone as an opportunity to become more socially integrated with its consumers. In anticipation of the birthday celebration, Mr. Peanut’s fans were invited to vote on how his outfit should be updated to keep his look fresh, whether by adding a bow tie, pocket watch or cufflinks. This was a great way to allow consumers to get their own skin in the game and feel their personal connection with the brand.
For road trippers, Planters also introduced the Nut Mobile, which embarked on a cross-country trip stopping at festivals and fairs. Fans were able to take an interactive journey down memory lane using green screen technology to insert themselves into significant moments and events throughout Planters’ and America’s history over the last century. Atlantic City got involved in the action. They carted in a life-sized Mr. Peanut to greet visitors and actually renamed part of their boardwalk, “Planters Way.” Planters has made connections with their fans literally every step of the way.
The luxury automobile brand rang in its 100th birthday with a yearlong program of centennial celebrations throughout the UK patronized by tens of thousands of eager owners and enthusiasts in Kensington Gardens, London.
The program featured “a unique display of some of the finest British sports cars ever made—which included a timeline of highly significant Aston Martin models as well as displays dedicated to the brand’s 50-year love affair with James Bond, its proud motorsport heritage and much else besides—drew exhibitors and visitors from across the UK, and far beyond.”
They hosted specially designed driving tours across Europe as well as a host of unique events at the brand’s headquarters, which represented the largest single gathering of Aston Martins in history.
A brilliantly executed unveiling of the CC100 speedster concept car designed for the centennial also matched the cutting-edge technology and expert craftsmanship that Aston Martin stands for. The new model was transported by helicopter and landed gracefully on the rooftop helipad of Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai.
What better way to celebrate a global automotive icon. James Bond could not have done it better if he tried.
Over the course of 100 years, society, technology, and consumer behaviors have inevitably changed, and in order to last another hundred years, the brands we love will need to work even harder to attract and maintain a loyal customer base. When a brand comes across the rare opportunity to celebrate its legacy with a well choreographed, multi-faceted branded experience, not only is it able to connect with its most loyal consumers, but it may just open the door to a whole new generation of enthusiasts. And what better way to do that than by throwing a really good party.