Corporate Histories: How Honoring the Past Can Serve an Organization

I love to look at old photographs, especially ones of places I know well – my city, for instance, my neighborhood, my house. What did they look like in days gone by? What was life like for the people who lived in these places before I arrived? How did their stories contribute to the way life looks now in those very same spaces?

Human beings are drawn to all things nostalgic. Nostalgia stirs curiosity and emotion; it's comforting. Marketing folks know this. If a product reminds us of a simpler time — a happier time — we're inclined to buy that product. (Read this article that shows six major brands that use "nostalgia marketing" in the advertising of their products or services.)

Corporate or organizational histories are another form of nostalgia marketing that goes beyond advertising. A written history is an effective tool for businesses that is not used often enough, perhaps because business owners, management, and directors are not sure how to leverage an investment in the documenting of an entity's past to significant advantage.

In fact, documenting and celebrating a business or organization's heritage and culture provides many benefits for that entity. These include:

  • A written corporate history can enhance an entity's reputation within a community. When an entity remains in business for many years, it becomes part of a shared past; a written history of the entity is in many ways a written history of the place in which it resides, reminding residents that the entity is a part of their unique identity. A written history is a powerful way to bind members of the community with the entity and encourage them to continue to do business with that entity.

  • A written history can unify and instill pride in an entity's staff, members, donors or associates. People take pride in being part of something larger than themselves, something they helped to build, prosper, and grow. An awareness of the history of the organization to which we devote our time, effort, or resources reminds us of the entity's mission and helps us see ourselves as part of an important ongoing narrative.

  • A written history is a way to pay tribute to and gain publicity for milestones such as anniversaries or accomplishments of an organization. A written history can also serve to recognize and celebrate the achievements of staff members throughout the years, demonstrating the caliber of people employed and the values deemed important by the organization.

  • A written history shows customers of a business and members and donors of an organization the successes achieved and the challenges that were overcome through the years, proving that the entity is one of endurance. People want to know that the entities they give their money have staying power – that they have a proven ability to survive difficult times and flourish. 

  • A written history can be leveraged as a leadership tool. To successfully plan for an organization's future, leaders must understand and learn from its past. History contains lessons that can be used to solve current problems within an entity and motivate employees to overcome challenges. A Harvard Business Review article, "Your Company's History as a Leadership Tool," discusses ways in which major companies have drawn upon their history in this way.

Corporate histories are a valuable but underutilized form of nostalgia marketing that can help organizations and businesses gain new clients, customers, or donors and honor current ones. They also have the ability to go steps further beyond marketing by serving to celebrate milestones, instill employee and community pride, and provide leadership with a tool to shape an entity’s future. 

~ Jennifer Archer


Jennifer Archer (that’s me!) is a writer & editor and co-owner of Archer Editing & Writing Services. Archer Editing & Writing Services helps organizations and businesses gain new clients, customers, or donors and honor current ones by writing and producing heirloom-quality books that chronicle their history and evolution and preserve their legacy. We work closely with clients to bring the story of their business or organization to life in a meaningful way that will be cherished for generations to come. We have options for projects at different levels of service, outcome, and cost, all resulting in a beautiful, well-executed, high-quality book.