Steelcase 100th Anniversary Insights:

Michael Merk, Director of Corporate Communications and lead for the 100th Anniversary campaign for Steelcase.

The following is an abstract of the Steelcase presentation at The Corporate Anniversary Forum.

Michael understood that heading up the Centennial would be a once in a career opportunity and a moment for Steelcase that was not to be wasted. Jim Hackett, President & CEO, understood the strategic importance and set the direction, which was about “optimism and positioning Steelcase for the future.”

The first step, more than 2 years prior, was to get a clear mandate from executive management, who participated in strategic workshops. The result was alignment of core objectives and messaging, which ensured necessary funding later on.

Cross functional leaders convened regularly for 8 months to conduct research, share opinions, ponder, ask questions and analyze alternatives.

Guiding questions included:

  • How could we use the anniversary strategically?
  • How could we drive engagement around the world?
  • How could we align with critical audiences?

Steelcase resisted the usual and engaged new creative sources and experts who reinforced that Steelcase creates great experiences wherever work happens. Their unbiased perspectives led to the organizing concept: Unlocking Human Promise.

The Centennial theme also emerged: 100 Dreams, 100 Minds, 100 Years.

100 Dreams. Steelcase involved 100 children from around the world who shared their dreams for the future by creating moving artwork and participated in interviews for the film One Day directed by Daniel Junge.

100 Minds. Steelcase invited 100 thought leaders from every sector to share their smart ideas and dreams, too, for a better future. They included great minds such as Richard Saul Wurman, Founder of TED to David Kelley, Founder of IDEO to Deepak Chopra.

100 Years: Chronicled iconic events of innovations and progress in the film Our Story

The organizing principles to drive engagement were:

  • Tactical Framework
  • Imagine the Future
  • Celebrate Insights and Ideas
  • Tell a story
  • Build community
  • Design Principles
  • Spring board approach – anniversary is the beginning not the end of 100 years
  • Start from the inside out
  • Anniversary will live in existing events
  • Applicable to anybody anywhere

7 Valuable takeaways:

  • The walk-in calendar was a powerful organizing tool used for all stages of planning and implementation. It made it easy for anyone to quickly understand what was happening when.
  • Media was priceless!  Steelcase received Triple Play Media exposure with front page stories on NY Times, Forbes and WSJ.
    Lisa Alonge Anniversary University The Anniversary Forum
  • Steelcase unveiled their anniversary theme at TED, which provided great exposure.
  • The anniversary provided a unique opportunity to send one message to all audiences in a short time. For Steelcase this was a valuable way to test their communication ecosystem.
  • Getting a gift to every employee around the world at the same time was the most challenging logistic.
  • Make the anniversary a human message.
  • Inviting the local press for early roundtable conversation about the Steelcase journey proved invaluable in acquiring new content about Steelcase.

Interview with Michael Merk at The Corporate Anniversary Forum