How to Celebrate a Science Brand Anniversary: 3 Lessons from C&EN’s Centennial

By C&EN Media Group

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Whether it is a holiday, a product launch, or the anniversary of a scientific milestone, science marketers love to find reasons to celebrate. Events offer an opportunity to engage with potential customers and showcase a brand. These moments are a great opportunity to show a company’s friendly and approachable side, which is rare in the often technical world of science marketing.

Brand anniversaries are among the best times to generate awareness and drive engagement. While any company can write a holiday message or a back-to-school social media post, only you can celebrate your 5th, 25th, or 50th birthday. It’s like a mini holiday just for you.

While these milestones are exciting, they can also mean a lot of work, and you don’t get a second shot. How should marketing make the most of these moments? The Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) centennial campaign demonstrates three ingredients for an effective brand celebration: careful planning, focusing on the audience, and showing your friendly side.

Prioritize and Plan

View C&EN’s Centennial ‘From the Archives’ feature – one of the ways the magazine is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

As with almost everything in marketing, setting priorities is the first step in preparing for your campaign. It is possible to use your milestone to support a variety of marketing objectives, including:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Refresh your visual design
  • Launch a new product or feature
  • Driving sales with a promotional offer
  • Increasing your social media following

…but you probably can’t do all of these. Your company leadership and coworkers will have ideas on what you should do for your anniversary. While these suggestions are probably well-meaning, you will end up scurrying around trying to make everyone happy. Setting priorities beforehand will help you constructively manage these ideas.

Once objectives have been set, you can get into the nitty-gritty of planning. Good marketing is organized wayyyyy in advance. However long you think something will take, double that time as your starting point.

One of the ways C&EN is celebrating its 100 years is a recurring feature in the magazine. “We have a feature called ‘From the Archives’ that pulls out a seminal article from each of our ten decades of life,” explained Michael McCoy, Executive Editor at C&EN. “It presents the readers with a little story behind why we thought this was an important moment in our history.” This type of activity requires plenty of preparation and research to be effective.

Focus on Your Audience

The problem with a “mini holiday just for you” is that it can be only about you. Your company may have been around for 10, 50, or 100 years, but that milestone has limited personal relevance to anyone outside your company. Yes, you can be proud of your accomplishments, but your campaign will not have much impact if it is only about patting yourself on the back.

Instead, find ways to make your milestone about your audience. The editors and reporters at C&EN knew they wanted to publish an issue to celebrate their centennial that acknowledged the tremendous changes over the last 100 years in chemistry and engineering. But instead of deciding the content themselves, they chose to reach out to their audience.

We are asking them, what do you think are the five most important events in chemistry in the last 100 years. It’s not just that we want them to feel engaged; we value their opinion. We want to know what folks who make a living with chemistry, whether they be in industry or in the academic or government world, or anywhere in chemistry.

– Michael McCoy, Executive Editor at C&EN

Maintaining a similar interest in your audience’s perspective will help ensure your milestone isn’t just about you. How can you position your juncture so your audience wants to celebrate with you? Here are some ideas:

Show Your Friendly Side

As we all know, science marketing can be stiff. A lot of our communication is about technical features, academic research, or life-threatening diseases. While that serious tone is often unavoidable, you should loosen up when celebrating your brand anniversary.

Individuals plan birthday celebrations to reflect their personalities. Sports lovers might invite their friends to a baseball game, while a foodie will book a reservation for a favorite restaurant. If your company were a person, how would they want to celebrate? Do you have any iconic products or brand assets you can use? Find ways to make your milestone campaign uniquely yours.

Click here to learn more about C&EN’s Centennial Events taking place at ACS Fall 2023.

This also means you must resist the urge to turn everything into an in-your-face sales pitch. Do you know anyone who only talks about their job? That is the vibe your company projects when they bend every message to make it about your products. Some promotional content is acceptable, but make sure there is a balance.

C&EN’s centennial reception shows how you can bring a festive vibe to a science brand. For the 75th and 90th anniversaries of C&EN, they held black-tie dinners at formal venues, which included speeches from invited speakers. While these events were memorable, they were also “ponderous,” according to McCoy. For C&EN’s centennial, the team decided to host events at ACS Fall 2023 and will aim for a lighter, and more upbeat atmosphere.

Remember, the early planning tip is essential if an in-person event will be part of your celebration strategy. Even small venues sometimes need to be booked months in advance. More significant events could require a year or more of lead time. Your whole team won’t be actively working on this every day, but you must set things in motion if you want your event to be a success.

All Good Things…

One final tip to remember – take down your anniversary marketing collateral on time. Some companies will prominently display their “Celebrating 50 Years” designs until they are most of the way to 55. This makes it seem like you have nothing new to say. Don’t use your milestone as a crutch to compensate for a lack of creativity.

All celebrations must eventually come to an end. Replace the graphics, throw out your expired flyers, and then move on to your next campaign.

Reach out to the experts at C&EN BrandLab to collaborate on your upcoming anniversary campaign. We’ll help you leverage your milestone moments into engaging content that will drive customer connections and action. Contact us for a consultation today.  

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