Monday, December 15, 2014

Tiffany & Company: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

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.


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.

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; has no ties to this company. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

What's Your Iconic Corporate History Image?

Does your central image tell your corporate story? That's the key question asks when we create covers and home pages for clients' business anniversary books, websites, and history timelines.

Our guiding principle is that the anniversary image should convey what the organization does – warmly, at a glance, and without need for written explanation. That's good visual corporate storytelling.

Companies typically go in one of four directions:

Show the founder
When you're chronicling The Pep Boys, how can you not show Manny, Moe & Jack? But unless your founder is as famously photogenic, you're better off looking for a different image. 

One exception: If your book and website are strictly for internal use, then show the founder even if he's not publicly well-known. It helps greatly if you catch him or her in an expressive pose. That approach worked for a foundation whose book we created, which had a strong image of the founder tipping his hat to the community.

Show the headquarters or key buildings 
Annin Flagmakers felt that its internal story was best illustrated by a progression of buildings: from Fulton Street in Manhattan in the 1800s, to its headquarters in the mid-1900s, to a current-day manufacturing facility. This was also a winning approach for Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply, whose main building and line-up of sparkling clean trucks were perfect symbols. Alternative: If your logo is strong, consider it by itself.

Show one or two strong historical images, maybe as a "then and now"
Consider this if your organization boasts a few gray hairs, i.e., is old enough to have a strong photo that is clearly antique in relation to today. You might want to add a modern-day equivalent, as we did for our Dominion Energy centennial corporate history book, which features a rural electrification lineman of the 1930s juxtaposed with a current worker, and our work for PARC, the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation, which contrasted the twilight of the base with current-day uses.

Show signature products or services
For The Clorox Company book, designed by Morla Design in San Francisco, showing the iconic bottle of Clorox(R) liquid bleach was a natural. Ditto metal products from the six business lines of Sandvik USA, and the smiling faces of employees at Clinton County ARC (which also included some historical photos and was designed to match the client's website), Melwood Horticultural Training Center, and Superior Linen Service.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Nathan’s Famous: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Nathan’s, a Coney Island tradition, was founded in 1916 by Nathan and Ida Handwerker, using their life savings of $300 and Ida’s hot dog recipe. Nathan’s son Murray opened several more restaurants, all of which were sold to a group of investors in 1987. The company went public in 1993. Meanwhile, the name was franchised; Nathan’s name now appears on more than 45,000 fast-food outlets across the United States. The About Us page is Our Story.


Products/Services: A
How does a web page convey the taste of a hot dog? Nathan’s Famous History page doesn’t try. It focuses instead on the people who love the brand—a smart twist on the usual business history—from Al Capone and Jimmy Durante to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy (really?), and Joe Namath. Governor Nelson Rockefeller encapsulated the mass-market appeal: “No man can hope to be elected in New York without being photographed eating a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous.”

As a visual reminder of Nathan’s 98-year history, the site offers a Historic Photo Gallery of Nathan’s original location and its Coney Island neighborhood from 1916 to the present. Bringing the product up to the minute is a page of Instagram Fan Photos. (While the pics are loading, the page is filled with hot dogs getting be-mustarded: cute!) The annual hot-dog eating contest that attracts major press coverage rates several pages that include a list of winners and a count-down clock to the next event.

Our Commandment 1 of About Us Pages is, “Know thy audience.” Nathan’s hits all the right buttons to make people associate hot dogs and good times, making them eager to go back for more.

Personality: C

Nathan’s site doesn’t mention the fact that the founding family no longer owns the business. But since the company still bears Nathan’s name, why not tell more stories about him and really take advantage of corporate storytelling? Wikipedia has anecdotes that would be charming additions, such as the fact that Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante encouraged Nathan to start the hot-dog stand. As a rule, if Wikipedia has more clever stories about your company than your company’s own website, then your website is due for an upgrade.

Accessibility: C
The brief Contact page offers links to online email forms regarding hot dogs or other grocery products, emails for four departments, plus the address and phone of the Executive Offices. This is minimal but OK.

History is telling stories, and business history stories make for great marketing. If you’ve got anecdotes about the founder, or the company’s growth, or a great comeback story, tell the world!

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; has no ties to this company.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dodge's 100th Anniversary Campaign: What Works & Doesn't

Dodge celebrated its 100th anniversary in the best way an auto brand probably can: with centennial editions of certain makes of cars. Its TV ads grabbed me during the summer, the ones in which old Dodges morph into new models on wide country roads. Now that Dodge's total business anniversary and corporate storytelling campaign is five months old, what works and what doesn't?

Core message: consistent. "The Dodge brand is tearing into its centennial year as America’s mainstream performance brand, celebrating its 100th anniversary on July 1, 2014. With the purification of the brand and consolidation with SRT, Dodge is getting back to its performance roots with every single model it offers." "Tearing into" and "purification" are odd ways to put this core message of "Focused on Its Performance Roots," and you have to be a Car Guy or Gal to groove on the SRT part. But Dodge carries through the message consistently, and they unveiled it right on time, which means that they started early. These are two basic essentials that every company can emulate, even the smallest business.

Web timeline: tough to navigate. I think it's time to retire so-called parallax timelines, and I say that as someone who has written and project-managed a few myself. The layers are just plain clunky. Dodge's timeline is divided into nine chronological chunks, but each one is sprawling. I'd rather browse an e-book ... they provide a much tidier container.

YouTube videos: fun to watch. I'm a sucker for the historical simulations of the brothers Dodge ("Their spirit lives"), but to my surprise I also enjoyed the "Don't Touch My Dart" spots. Obviously I'm not alone, since the various videos have collectively racked up millions of views. 

Media information: sprawling. Reams of PDF downloads include 20-page chronologies, 37-page lists of Centennial events, and brand overviews, many of them divided into past, present, and future . . . again, this is why books are much neater containers. But kudos to Dodge for archiving, organizing, and making public this vital info.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Crain Communications: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Crain’s is an American publishing conglomerate headquartered in Detroit, with 14 locations worldwide. It publishes trade magazines (Advertising Age, Autoweek, Plastics News, and many others) as well as papers such as Crain’s New York Business and Crain’s Chicago Business. Founded in 1916 in Louisville, KY, by G. D. Crain, the company – still privately held – has been run in succession by Crain’s widow and sons. The main About Us page is here.

The main About Us page is well laid out, giving teasers and links to separate pages on Our History, Our Philosophy, and Our Leadership.

Products/Services: C
Our main complaint about Crain’s About Us pages is that they have the feel of a collection that has been growing over time (good!) but has not been revised for consistency (bad!). The number of employees is variously listed as 825 or more than 1,000; the age of the company as over 80 or over 90. (In fact, Crain’s will celebrate its 100th business anniversary in 2016.) The company’s long-standing motto, “Readers first!,” is mentioned in the teaser to the Our Philosophy page (and emphasized on the Careers page), but not mentioned on the Our Philosophy page. Our Commandment 9 of About Us pages is, “Worship clarity,” which includes checking grammar, punctuation, and yes, facts.

Also: logos or mastheads of the many Crain publications would liven up the small, dense blocks of text on most pages.

Personality: B
Our History emphasizes that Crain’s is a family-run business, with only three chairmen and presidents since its founding—a potential theme for corporate storytelling that this company doesn’t quite exploit. Continuing that tradition, five members of the Crain family are listed on the Leadership page. The bio of Rance Crain, which focuses on his experience in publishing and his role in the company, is very good. The bio of Keith Crain, on the other hand, sounds as if it was written for a third-party site where the philanthropic activities are more important than work at Crain’s. A bio of a company leader on an About Us page isn’t just a bio: it’s a chance to show where and how a leader is leading.

Accessibility: D
The Contact Us page lists Crain offices worldwide, with mailing addresses and phone numbers, but no emails or names. This is substandard.

Few things make you look as unreliable as conflicting information on your website. It’s particularly egregious for a company in the publishing industry, where fact-checking should be the norm. Review the business history of your site regularly for consistency.

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; has no ties to this company.