Monday, January 19, 2015

Piggly Wiggly: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate History.net

In 1916, Clarence Saunders opened a revolutionary grocery store in Memphis, Tennessee: instead of having a clerk fetch items, you picked out your own groceries, put them in a cart, and took them to the front of the store to be checked out. Independent franchisees now operate over 600 Piggly Wiggly stores in 17 states, mostly in the Midwest and South. The company, headquartered in Keene, New Hampshire, is an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers. Its About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: A

Products/Services: A
Piggly Wiggly’s About Us page is a great example of how much business history can be packed into a single page. It starts by describing Piggly Wiggly’s history as the first true self-service grocery store. Separate headings cover the origin of the lilting name, a list of Piggly Wiggly firsts, a bio of the founder after he left Piggly Wiggly, and a summary of Piggly Wiggly today. All this is laid out in paragraphs of manageable size and illustrated with logos old and new, plus two archival photos. Our Commandment 5 of About Us Pages is, “Honor they readers and their attention spans.” Piggly Wiggly does that with a page of fact-filled, easy-to-read corporate storytelling. Well done!

Personality: A
The connecting link for independently run Piggly Wiggly stores is the concept created by Clarence Saunders, who’s appropriately given a lot of space on the About Us page. Although Piggly Wiggly is now affiliated with the mammoth C&S Wholesale Grocers, Clarence Saunders’ DNA continues to make Piggly Wiggly distinctive—no mean feat as the brand approaches its 100-year business anniversary in 2016.

Accessibility: A
The Contact page (available via a link at the upper right) has an online email form for corporate headquarters, plus an easy-to-navigate directory for those who want to contact a specific store.

TAKEAWAY
A single page that includes the right content with an enticing layout and illustrations can be very effective.

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, January 12, 2015

Happy 110th anniversary, MTA

Commemorative MTA MetroCard

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, those folks who bring us the New York City subways and buses, is celebrating its 110th year. MTA's commemorative website is robust and well-organized, as befits an organization with professionally managed archives. CorporateHistory.net president Marian Calabro was filmed there when she gave commentary on pneumatic subway pioneer Alfred Beach for The Travel Channel's program "Mysteries at the Museum." It took awhile for non-pneumatic subways to develop; the first predecessor line of the MTA officially opened on October 27, 1904, so the 110-year party has 10 months to rock on.

IRT map 1939 (copyright MTA)
Cool things about the MTA anniversary site that any organization can emulate:
1. Loads of pix and memorabilia, including maps, many also uploaded to Flickr 
2. Google translate button appears on every page, a courtesy that helps a worldwide audience
3. MTA wasn't afraid to celebrate 110 years. Why wait until 125?

Things that can be better:
1. Timeline is not labeled as such (it's under History of the Subway), is overly detailed, and only extends to 2012, a very weird omission
2. There's a link to MTA Arts & Design, but when clicked, this unwelcoming message pops up: "There are currently no Open Calls to artists. Please check back again." Why not run a yearlong 110th anniversary call for art instead?
 
 
 

Monday, January 5, 2015

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

Kidde was founded in 1917 by Walter Kidde, who in 1918 pioneered the first integrated smoke detection and carbon dioxide extinguishing system for ships. The company, headquartered in Mebane, North Carolina, rapidly became a leading manufacturer of fire detection and suppression equipment. It was acquired by United Technologies Corporation in 2005. The main About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: C

Products/Services: B
Kidde’s main About page gets right to the point: “Founded by Walter Kidde, a pioneer in early smoke detection and fire suppression, Kidde is the world’s largest manufacturer of fire safety products.” Well done: it’s surprising how few About Us pages express such basic business history information promptly and pithily. The page continues with a well-written and well-laid-out overview of the company’s history, goals, and relationships with clients.

Bravo, too, for giving a very company-specific goal on the Core Values page: “At Kidde, our mission is to provide solutions that protect people and property from the effects of fire and its related hazards. And for more than 90 years, industry leaders, the military, airlines, firefighters, businesses and millions of homeowners have turned to us to do exactly that.”

The page on Walter Kidde includes an effective combination of a brief timeline followed by a narrative that explains his goals and accomplishments. The Kidde History page offers a company timeline with 24 items, a reasonable number that doesn’t overload the visitor. One minor quibble: the entries for the 1960s and later focus on mergers and acquisitions; why not include some information on the company’s innovations?

The major flaw of the four Kidde About Us pages is lack of illustrations. The one and only image is of Walter Kidde. Our Commandment 6 of About Us pages is, “Honor thy visuals.” A company with a 98-year history surely has a rich archive of historical photos and advertising material that could be put to good use in corporate storytelling.

Personality: C
Our Commandment 3 of About Us pages is, “Reveal they personality.” Since this company still bears Walter Kidde’s name and still produces products in the same line, the stress on the founder’s innovations and goals is very appropriate. Still, information on current management--a message from the CEO, for example--would be welcome.

Accessibility: D
The Contact Us page has a “Find Answers Now” button that dead-ends in a blank page. The FAQ seems to have been shifted to tabs that appear on the page with the online email form (via the "Email a Question" button on the Contact Us page). Yes, visitors may stumble onto the right page--but making them stumble leaves a bad impression. Our Commandment 9 of About Us Pages is “Worship clarity”--which includes triple-checking links so you don’t look careless.

At the end of the Contact Us page is a telephone number, but no mailing address. Kidde is part of United Technologies, but there are no links to the United Technologies contact page, either.

TAKEAWAY
Great corporate history should be supplemented with great images and current information. That’s doubly important when a 100-year business anniversary is on the horizon, as Kidde’s is.

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, December 29, 2014

Saint-Gobain's 350th anniversary

Congratulations to Saint-Gobain, based in France, as it enters its 350th year in 2015. The company describes itself as "the world leader in the habitat and construction markets." It "designs, manufactures and distributes building and high-performance materials, providing ... solutions to the challenges of growth, energy efficiency and environmental protection."

Unlike companies that wait until the last minute, Saint-Gobain's website already has a 350th anniversary section that features: 
  • an English-language version (if only more US companies were similarly bilingual!)
  • a nonverbal video (thundering music, no words--makes sense for a global company)
  • cool historical art like the images shown here (though the timeline navigation is a little clunky) 
I hope Saint-Gobain will add a little more corporate storytelling to its excellent framework as its business anniversary year unfolds.

Here in the US, the year 1665 was notable for a visit from a British royal retinue, which demanded that the colonies pledge allegiance to the King. Plymouth (then a colony), Connecticut, and Rhode Island did so; Massachusetts refused. I knew there was a reason I love MA. Anyhow, here at CorporateHistory.net, we look forward to following Saint-Gobain's history site into its anniversary year, and we wish everyone a happy, historic 2015!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tiffany & Company: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate History.net

Breakfast at Tiffany’s made the grand store at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan a household word, even among those who don’t aspire to one of the company’s diamond engagement rings. The original “fancy goods” store was established in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany, who soon turned the emphasis to jewelry, then made the name famous by purchasing the French crown jewels and giving reign to the astounding design talent of his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany’s is now a publicly owned company headquartered in New York City. The main About Us page is The World of Tiffany.

OVERALL GRADE: B

Products/Services: B
Tiffany gets high marks for visuals, but middling marks for ease of use. The images on  The World of Tiffany page sprawl over a lot of screen real estate. For the sake of luring visitors to view other pages (Pioneers of Design, Dazzling Discoveries, Magical Windows, etc.), it’s more effective to have a collection of smaller photos that allow a one-screen overview.

The left navigation bar on the main page has numerous choices without an obvious sequence. It’s difficult to find one’s way back to memorable pages – for example, the one showing the gorgeous diamond necklace worn by Audrey Hepburn when promoting Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Sometimes further information on a piece pops up with a mouse-over; sometimes (as on this page) not. Our Commandment 7 of About Us pages is, “Remember to keep the navigation easy.” The photos are the jewels of the Tiffany pages; their setting needs some polishing.

In other respects, the Tiffany’s site is a good example of corporate history as marketing. The video on founder Charles Lewis Tiffany (great archival photos!) segues at the end into a promotion of Tiffany engagement rings. The Timeline has great visuals, too, although it’s short on text.

Personality: A
The “personalities” on this site are the company’s founder and the its famous designers, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Jean Schlumberger, Elsa Peretti, and Paloma Picasso. Each designer has at least one heavily illustrated page, with an emphasis on innovative style and spectacular pieces. Well done!

Accessibility: D
There seems to be no way to contact the Tiffany’s except through its retail stores and customer service.

TAKEAWAY
Even if your visuals are amazing, don’t neglect the other basics, such as enticing text and well-thought-out navigation. And if your business history overlaps cultural history, as Tiffany’s definitely does, leverage that. Include some corporate storytelling on every page.

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.