December 12th, 2010
Is Santa the best marketer ever? Perhaps.
Consider the evidence:
Long-term reputation management. No steroid use or bogus investment schemes here. Ever.
Take Coca-Cola with its 80-year investment in the big guy. Do you think that Coke worries that a YouTube video will surface, showing 7-year-old girls making lead-laden toys in the Korean outpost of Santa’s Workshop Inc.? Not likely.
And then there’s the third rail: do you think that Mrs. Claus has ever found “hundreds of texts” between Santa and that dumb blonde the Easter Bunny married? Or that’s she’s had to accompany her husband to the hospital for alcohol poisoning (paging Charlie Sheen – again)?
No, no and no. Santa is one reliable dude. And he appears to do what’s right even when no one is looking.
Brand promise and the “continuous connected experience.” No matter where you go, you get the same reinforcing message from and about @SantaClaus. Movies, television, email, social media, online video, radio, snail mail, retail – it doesn’t matter. He has a booming voice, he’s fat, he wears a red suit and he brings good stuff.
And the other thing is… even if you bop from one medium to the other, you won’t lose your place. Forrester calls this the continuous connected experience. Santa is suggesting you be prepared to deliver your own in 2011.
Engagement. Is there any experience more anticipated than Santa’s arrival? And how about expectations met and exceeded? That’s unless you’ve been bad, of course, in which case you should consult the Terms and Conditions.
Accurate, On-Time Delivery. Neither WikiLeaks, nor Chilean mining disasters, nor 0% interest rates will keep Santa from delivering the goods on Christmas Eve. Not December 23. Not December 25. It’s December 24. Every year. And the idea of getting your neighbor’s gift by mistake is simply inconceivable.
Supply Chain Management. You have to admire the man’s ability to manage his vendors, handle inventory, move the merch and turn on a dime. Your kid decides at the last minute that she wants a Wii instead of the bike that Santa has already bought and loaded on the sleigh?
The Wii will be under the tree, for sure.
Never any hidden charges. There are no Congressional committees convening to discuss whether Santa is taking advantage of consumers. There are no pending FTC rules in the pipeline. No small print. Just because you get one set of skis, doesn’t mean that you’ve “agreed” to receive a new set every month (along with the bill). No nickel and diming. No charge for the second bag.
Santa’s pricing policies appears just perfect, in every product category ever invented. And shipping is always free.
Brand advocacy. Think of all the parents who read stories about Santa, take their children to see Santa and tuck said children into bed on Christmas Eve with the promise that Santa will soon arrive with presents. Even adults will sometimes tell each other what they want from Santa. The dude’s got an army of advocates carrying his message each and every year, and everyone’s happy to do it.
Wow! That’s gonna be a lot of “Likes” on Facebook. A lot.
No invasive pat-downs. Do you remember leaving cookies and milk out for Santa, and then sneaking down the stairs just in time to see him putting your presents under the tree? Well, when he saw you, did he beckon you over, force you through a machine and feel up your naughty bits? Or when he came down your chimney, did your parents do these things to him before letting him into your living room?
TSA does not stand for “Total Santa Aggression.” Personal respect is important to ol’ Kris Kringle.
Returns and Exchanges. No problem. While one of Santa’s elves may ask you to accompany him to the mall, that’s a small price to pay for better loot.
Long-term view of the customer relationship. Santa is committed to lifetime value. If you’re a kid, he wants you to tell your parents and your grandparents and your teachers all about what you want. He wants you to post what he gave you on Facebook. He wants to take a picture with you and your friends at the mall. And when you grow up, he encourages you to invite him into your home and buy extravagant gifts in his name.
Santa: the ultimate “circle of life” promoter.
Customer targeting and personalization. If you ask Santa for an iTouch, you’re going to get an iTouch. You might also get underwear and dental floss (paging my childhood), but he will be sure that your music itch is scratched. And if you state a preference, Santa is also highly likely to deliver an iTouch in the color of your choice. With the accessories you mumbled something about last March.
He invites you to be a vital part of his brand and help make the world a better place. Be nice, get your gift. Be naughty, and you’re on your own. No anonymous troll behavior on the Web, no TMZ stories, no threatening or yelling. Everyone knows the rules, the rules don’t change and there are big rewards for all. Or not.
Brand benefits powerful enough to overcome controversy. Santa has a problem that few other brands ever experience: that is, some people don’t believe he exists! You may not like Red Bull, or Microsoft, or Kim Kardashian, or whatever, but you wouldn’t think of denying their very existence on the planet. And yet, Santa transcends even this existential challenge. Even those who say they “know” he doesn’t exist still enjoy the gestalt of the brand. Name me a pizza chain or a department store or search engine who can say the same.
I could go on (ultimate loyalty program, no channel conflict, customer service support…), but you get the idea.
I did think of one problem area this year: money management. In his zeal to delight his customers, Santa does sometimes buy things he can’t really afford. His heart’s in the right place, though, and I think a little executive coaching might do the trick. I am confident that he will want to change once he understands the problem.
And so, as yet another December passes, perhaps we should all look to #Santa for guidance in the coming year. After all, his operation is well-loved, profitable, always in growth mode and a new, devoted customer is born every minute. I think most of us would be happy with that.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Marketing Executive Networking Group’s blog, MENGBlend.
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