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Not just another bunch of Herberts……..

August 2, 2011

One way of telling your firm’s history on the web is to get the local school to do it.

This approach has some advantages.  The internet is all about engagement with wider communities and empowering them.

Visitors to websites can also pick and choose what they want from the content  – a quick dip, a deeper dive or complete immersion. And leave their own comments or share their opinion with others via social media.

This runs entirely against traditional marketing philosophy – we give out the message and you consume it.  No discussion. Take it or leave it.

In 2010 the  Suffolk-based Herbert Group, manufacturer of weights and measures equipment, celebrated its  250th anniversary.  They enlisted the help of pupils from the local school in Haverhill – the Samuel Ward Arts and Technology College.

With some professional help, they managed to produce a stonkingly good site.

It has wit, a bit of style, and makes good use of video, photography, audio to tell a very engaging story of the of the firm’s origins in London’s Watling Street in 1760. The lexicographer Dr Johnson (below left) might well have walked past the shop.

Dr. Samuel Johnson. (detail)

Image via Wikipedia

A bit gruesome at times – suggesting Jack the Ripper might have used a Herbert knife.  There’s a picture gallery of 19th century shop life – even the scales used to weigh babies at Barts Hospital – and human interest in family squabbles, including the black sheep son who went off to fight in the American Civil War.

Unlike other standalone anniversary sites, it has been well maintained since its launch and still looks good. The pupils clearly enjoyed the project – demonstrating a flair for digital history which I hope they can take further.I’m sure it has also worked well for the company. A rich digital heritage like this reinforces its  brand and shows that it has is survived tough times and interesting times over the centuries.

The Herbert Group only moved to Haverhill relatively recently and the last 25 years of the company’s history were excluded from the pupils’ remit for study. They clearly wanted to keep a little distance between the current operation and its past, although due prominence is given to the history site on the home page of the Herbert Group website.

Keeping that distance allows the history site to be more engaging – for example in providing external links which is anathema to most company websites who don’t like visitors leaving.

It also allows the company’s site in its retail section to revert to modern marketing speak with “The Herbert Group have been supplying scales and weighing solutions since 1760″

Ouch! Poor old Johnson would be squirming in his grave at the linguistic inanity of “weighing solutions.” Somehow, I don’t think it made his dictionary.

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