Monday, August 3, 2015

Union Square Hospitality Group: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate History.net

Danny Meyer’s first restaurant (opened when he was 27 years old) is the award-winning Union Square Cafe, which has held the top spot in Zagat’s New York City restaurant guide nine times. Under the name Union Square Hospitality Group, Meyer also runs the Gramercy Tavern, a catering service, and restaurants at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney, among others. Together these have won 26 prestigious James Beard Foundation awards. And let’s not forget the ubiquitous Shake Shacks. The main About Us page is Company.

OVERALL GRADE: B

Products/Services: B
The above-the-fold graphic on the Company page is (how rare!) full of solid business history content: when the company opened its first restaurant and its first Shake Shack, number of Beard Awards, number of employees with the company for more than ten years, and so on. It’s concise and attractive. Adding links to pages with more information - for example, a list of Beard Awards received – would be a great idea.

The text below the graphic gets a slow start with an abstract discussion of what it means to enrich lives. For the sake of fickle web-surfers and those of us who appreciate corporate storytelling, why not start with the second paragraph: “We’ve created some of New York City’s most beloved and celebrated restaurants ...” ?

We appreciate the clever text of the timeline (History), which has catchy phrases such as “elegant and fiercely seasonal cuisine.” But once the corporate history has made our mouths start to water, why not offer us links to the websites of the restaurants mentioned on the timeline?

Personality: B
Our Commandment 3 of About Us pages is, “Reveal thy personality.” Danny Meyer, founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group, unfortunately isn’t given much space on the Company and History pages. There is a page is devoted to his book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, with a sidebar that offers a thought-provoking quote of substantial length from Meyer (bravo!). Digging into the People and Leaders pages, we found a good bio of Meyer. But ... we assume that as the founder, it’s his ideas and his drive that have led to the award-winning quality of his restaurants as well as his focus on philanthropy (see Community). Why not have him explain in his own words why he made these choices and where he plans to go from here? That would make for compelling corporate storytelling.

Accessibility: C
The Contact page (available from the footer) offers a mailing address, phone, and email address, with social media icons). This is adequate.

TAKEAWAY
Even if you’re proud of the stellar team your company has assembled, don’t be afraid to let the founder’s or leader’s personality shine through in your About Us pages: it’ll give visitors a much better sense of what makes your company tick.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy 75th, Col. Sanders

Colonel Sanders is out of retirement after 21 years. KFC has given him a cool new 75th anniversary website of his own, in which the Colonel (at six stages of his life) talks about Cuban donkeys, strums a mandolin, and of course fries up some chicken. The animatronics are cute, with SNL alum Daryl Hammond playing the Colonel. Business anniversary tips:
1) It's refreshing when the Founder as Great Man is presented with a sense of humor.
2) It's fun to have a person or character narrating the corporate timeline.
Great work by agency Wieden+Kennedy.

Monday, July 20, 2015

L.L. Bean: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate History.net

L.L. Bean was founded in 1912 in Freeport, Maine, by Leon Leonwood Bean, to sell a single product – the “Maine Hunting Shoe.” The company now has about 5,000 employees, and annual sales of $1.61 billion. Its headquarters is still in Freeport, Maine, and it is still privately owned. The main About Us page is Company Information.

OVERALL GRADE: A

Products/Services: A minus
The Company Information page looks at first like a raging bore: long, dense, and with headings that are less than enticing (“Current Corporate Information,” “Products,” “Manufacturing,” etc.). In fact, however, the page is great corporate storytelling. It explains what the company does, and where and why and how. As a series of bullet points this sort of information would be unreadable. It’s fascinating here because we’re given a backstory (for example, the reason behind each expansion) and provided with several engaging quotes from past and present leaders of the company.

One quibble: many people read on their phones, where it’s easy to be interrupted and to lose one’s place on a very long page. A simple solution would be to split this page into separate pages for Products, Manufacturing, etc. – with copious links between pages, so that visitors would still be guided to read them in a certain sequence. Our Commandment 6 of About Us pages is, “Honor thy visuals.” Shorter pages on a specific topics could be made even more interesting by including photos from L.L. Bean’s century-long history.

There are numerous, excellent photos on the timeline, 100 Years and Counting. It’s cleverly compiled so that reading the blurb on each decade gives a visitor a short company history. The focus is on L.L. Bean, Inc. – as it should be - but enough national events are listed to set the context. There’s even an option for customers to share their own L.L. Bean stories – a great idea. Unfortunately, during our four visits to the site, the interactive aspect wasn’t working, so we’re not sure we’ve seen all of it.

High marks to the Newsroom page, which puts company press releases front and center, but has a sidebar, “As Seen In,” with links to products featured in sources as diverse as Redbook, Elle, and Field & Stream.

A downgrade: Yes, the company commissioned a centennial anniversary book, entitled Guaranteed to Last: L.L.Bean's Century of Outfitting America, by Jim Gorman. (CorporateHistory.net was not involved with it in any way.) Alas, there’s no reference to it on the history pages. To find it, we had to enter “book” in the product search box. If you’re still selling your corporate history book, why not make it easy to find?

Personality: A
The Company History page is also long, dense, and excellent. It begins as the story of an outdoorsman with wet feet, and tells how he solved the problem with the original “Maine Hunting Shoe.” Bean’s early trials and tribulations – 90 of his original 100 pairs were returned – establish the company’s dedication to quality and customer satisfaction. This is business history at its best.

Quotes from the founder and from later leaders liven up the text, as do occasional fascinating factoids. We learn, for example, that by the 1930s, L.L. Bean’s mail-order business comprised more than 70% of the volume of the Freeport post office, and that the flagship store has no locks, because it’s open for business 24/7.

The list of awards at the end of the Company History page would get more attention if it were on a separate page, with logos, but it’s great to see so many confirmations of L.L. Bean’s status collected in one place.

In a lovely change from celebrating one’s centennial and then forgetting about company anniversaries for 10 or 25 years, the Company History page ends with highlights of L.L. Bean’s centennial year. Here you’ll find quick bullet-point references to the aforementioned centennial book, as well as the timeline—but these should be hyperlinked.

The Leadership page is top-notch. Why? Because the bio of the founder and his three successors all focus on the values that drive them as leaders of L.L. Bean, and on the results they achieved there. Even the philanthropic activities and hobbies mentioned reflect the values of the company: for example, membership in the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy. Our Commandment 3 of About Us pages is, “Reveal thy personality.” We’ve seldom seen that done better than on L.L. Bean’s site.

Accessibility: A
How many times have you flinched from phoning a company’s Customer Service line because you were worried that the representative wouldn’t be able to speak English? L.L. Bean’s Customer Service page begins with a characteristically forthright note: no matter how you communicate with the company (there are options for Phone, Call Me, Chat, Email, and more), you’ll be speaking with a person in Maine: “because Maine is more than just an address – it’s part of who we are. It’s tough winters, Yankee ingenuity and a unique character you just won’t find elsewhere.”

TAKEAWAY
Your company may not have the size or the hundred-hear history of L.L. Bean, but it’s unique in who founded it, where it’s been, and where it’s heading. Make your About Us page reflect that uniqueness with great content, well told.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company, although we have been satisfied customers for years.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Healing History

Belated kudos to Communication Design Inc., which produced the marketing materials for the Healing History conference hosted by Initiatives of Change USA in Richmond, VA. In CDI's words, "The theme of building bridges became the basis of a cohesive brand identity centered around an iconic illustration of diverse figures working together to support a common cause--crossing a great divide." 

The conference coincided with key anniversaries of landmark civil rights events: the Emancipation Proclamation, the end of the Civil War, the Selma to Montgomery March, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Given the truly momentous events that have happened since the conference -- the tragedy of Charleston and the removal of the Confederate flag by South Carolina and other states -- the importance of the Healing History effort takes on added urgency.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dockers: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate History.net

Dockers, established in 1986, is the division of San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. that’s devoted to khakis and casual accessories. It’s a leading brand of business casual clothing for men and women. We were curious to look at Dockers because it’s part of a larger company, but has its own brand. The main About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: C minus
The biggest flaw in this set of About Us pages is that we found them via a Google search, and can’t find a link to them on Dockers’ own site.

The main page has two headings, each with a distinctive tagline: Our Products (“Well-crafted comfort to help conquer the day,” with links to pages on size and fit) and Our Company (“A rough and tough work ethic is deeply rooted in our family tree”). Below these are links to Contact Us and Careers. It’s a simple, clear layout that works almost as well on a desktop as on mobile. (In fact, these pages are among the least offensive mobile-friendly pages we’ve seen, in terms of layout, because the header images are much less high than wide. Hence on a desktop screen, they don’t fill all of the prime above-the-fold real estate.)

Products/Services: A
Under the Our Company heading on the About Us page are links to About Levi Strauss & Co., History and Heritage, and Social Responsibility.

About Levi Strauss & Co. has a pithy statement linking the current brand to the long corporate history of Levi Strauss. One minor glitch: this opening statement says the first blue jeans were created in 1853. Further down the page, under “Our Values,” the “Originality” blurb gives the date as 1873. Our Commandment 9 of About Us pages is, “Worship clarity.” An error such as this leaves the impression that someone isn’t minding the details.

The Timeline (“History and Heritage”) is good corporate storytelling. It focuses on the long history of khaki pants at Levi Strauss, then offers nostalgic glimpses of pop culture (Seinfeld) and advertising history (“Nice pants!”). Haute couture and culture are represented by names such as Alexander Wang and Vanity Fair. Each timeline entry has an intriguing headline, a short blurb, and an archival image – all large enough to see easily. Having done a timeline or two ourselves (such as this one for California’s State Compensation Insurance Fund) we appreciate the design and content of the Dockers example.

Personality: D
The Timeline is excellent for showing where the company has been, but not for showing what its current goals are. No information or links are given for the company’s leadership. Mentioning Levi-Strauss as a parent company doesn’t fill this gap, since there are no links to Levi-Strauss’s leadership team, either.

Accessibility: E
The Contact Us page (accessible via the main About Us page or the Help link in the footer) is elegant in layout but quite confusing. The options are “Find a Store” or “Get Help.” Clicking “Get Help” sends us to a page with the options “Contact Us,” “Send Feedback,” “Find a Store,” or “Top Reads” (a FAQ). But clicking either “Contact Us” or “Send Feedback” takes us right back to the Contact Us page. So in fact, the only ways to reach Dockers are via the 800 number in the footer and the online email form that is (we eventually noticed) below the fold on the Contact Us page.

Our Commandment 8 of About Us pages is, “Remember to make yourself and your organization easily accessible.” Dockers, do you really want to hear from us?

TAKEAWAY
Have a fresh pair of eyes (or two or ten) look at your About Us pages for obvious errors, including whether those pages can be easily discovered and whether visitors to the site can contact you easily.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.