Ward Alles

What’s really on display with company history walls?

By Ward Alles on May 24, 2017

Dos and Don’ts for Corporate Historical Branding

I can’t tell you how many company tours I’ve taken in my 25 years in advertising.

At least half of these tours have included a stop along some sort of display or history wall. That “wall” could be located in the lobby, a main corridor, the corporate board room, the cafeteria. Wherever.

These companies all seem to place significant value on providing the historical context around their respective brands. Especially if they’ve celebrated significant anniversaries (25 years, 50 years, 100 years).

But few create their walls in an exceptional way.

So, as a branding firm that often fields these types of assignments, our questions are:

  • Why a history wall?
  • What is your history wall supposed to communicate?
  • And who is it targeting?

But we don’t stop there. We also probe a bit deeper:

  • If we are going to all the “trouble” of digging up your company history, who else would be interested in it? The media? Your trade or professional associations? Your city?
  • How do we broadcast the contents of your company history … outside of your four walls? (Is this good web content? Is it time for the perfect-bound coffee table book?)
  • And who could we enlist to help broadcast (socially) the various stories within your history wall besides just your marketing team?

We absolutely appreciate and agree with the sentiment behind doing corporate historical branding. But we’ve seen it done poorly and we’ve seen it done well. Our goal (as always) is to place you squarely in the “done well” category.

Dos for Corporate Historical Branding

  • Make “the wall” a true destination. This is your company we’re talking about! Show your passion. Your pride. Your commitment. Create a display that reflects the remarkable nature of your organization. In other words, make an impression.
  • Start and finish with why. Always point back to your brand’s (company’s) purpose. The reason you exist – BEYOND making money. Focus on how you help people and make THAT the real story.
  • Keep it themed. Tell everything in a consistent, connective way. Want to go decade by decade? Great. Tenures of past presidents? Fine. Major innovations or milestones? Sure. A mix of all? Maybe, just be careful. Things could get muddled and unclear by trying to do too much.
  • Go back in time. Maybe it’s just us, but we love “old advertising.” Sometimes digging through the archives of your old company marketing materials provides great visuals for your display. Marry those up with a timeline of “what was happening in American history” and you get a real sense of where you were as a company … and where you are headed.
  • Focus on people. Both the employees who deliver the brand promise … and the types of customers who benefit from it. (Chances are, your employees will be seeing this display far more than any visitors!)
  • Show progress. Your history wall should show the advancements you’ve made in your mission. Patents. Innovations. The introduction of new technologies and services. Your mission will never be complete, but it should definitely show successes and relevant evolutions.
  • Give it dimension. Show actual product or original equipment besides just photos. Consider interactivity (manual or kiosk-based) where more in-depth information or answers can be provided for the curious.
  • Think multimedia. Can you add video, sound, light, motion (rotating products)? What about using new technologies like Virtual or Augmented Reality?
  • Get professional help. This display should look phenomenal (large, bold images … with smaller inset photos to support). It’s part of the “red carpet” treatment for new customers, patients or employees. See “true desination” above for details.

Don’ts

  • Be copy heavy. Keep it tight, light and bright. And write to the 6th grade education level.
  • Make it too museum-like. We’ve seen too many “history walls” filled with rather dry black and white building and product photos. Snooze-ville if that’s all you do.
  • Forget about human interest stories or cool side bar content. Some of that “little stuff” ends up being the biggest (most shareable, most sociable ) stuff.
  • Let this just be the president’s “little legacy project.” No one man or woman makes a company. A history wall should reflect all of you. It should be about the problems you collectively solve in your corner of the world.
  • Accept “good enough” or cheap thinking. Why would you do anything less than great?

Your company’s purpose and passion are all on display in your “history wall.”

Such a high profile branding project has the potential to be a proud destination on any company tour. But just as significant, it has the potential to reach audiences outside of your organization if you think about it both strategically and creatively.

Below is an example of a historical wall we helped design for Charter Manufacturing. We hope it inspires you!

Ward Alles is a Brand Consultant and President of Core Creative.