December 27th, 2009
Is Santa the best marketer ever?
Think about it:
Long-term reputation management: No Tiger Woods problems here. Ever. Do you think that Coca-Cola worries that it might go to sleep one night and wake up to find a sex tape of Santa on the Web? Have you ever noticed that the whole “Mommy kissing Santa Claus” business never seems to go past a certain point (paging Charlie Sheen…)? Nope, not gonna happen. Santa is one reliable dude.
Brand promise and channel integration: No matter where you go, you receive the same disciplined message. Movies, television, email, radio, social media, Web, snail mail, music, retail… You get the same message everywhere and each channel builds upon and reinforces the others. He’s big, he’s fat, he wears a red suit and he gives you what you ask for on Christmas Eve. Not December 23. Not December 25. It’s December 24. Every year. The end.
Never any hidden charges: There are no Congressional committees convening to discuss whether Santa is taking advantage of consumers. There is no small print. You are not likely to be subscribed “accidentally” to a magazine simply by unwrapping a gift beneath the tree. Santa’s pricing appears to be entirely above board. And somehow, shipping is always free.
Brand advocacy: Think of all the parents who read stories about Santa, take their children to see Santa, tuck said children into bed on Christmas Eve with the promise that Santa will soon arrive with presents… Santa has a virtual army of adults carrying his message each and every year, in the exact way that will have the greatest positive impact on each individual child. Wow!
Long-term view of the customer relationship: Santa is committed to NPV, and everyone’s NPV is BIG. If you’re a kid, he wants you to tell other kids what he gave you. He wants you to talk to your parents and grandparents about what you want. He wants you to bring your friends to meet him. And when you grow up, he encourages you to invite him into your home and buy extravagant gifts in his name. Santa: the ultimate “cycle of life” promoter.
Customer targeting and personalization: If you ask Santa for a bicycle, you’re going to get a bicycle. You might also get socks, but if a bike is your preferred method of transportation, you won’t get a wagon by mistake. Further, Santa is very likely to build the bike in the exact color you specify.
A message of “giving back” that’s attainable and not too sanctimonious: Be nice, get your gift. Be naughty, and you’re on your own. No chest-beating, no lectures, no threatening. Everyone knows the rules, and the rules don’t change.
Attributes powerful enough to overcome controversy: Santa has a problem that I don’t think any other brand has ever experienced – that is, some people don’t even believe he exists! You may not like a brand like Reebok, or Microsoft, or Hanes, or whatever, but you wouldn’t think of denying their very existence on the planet. And yet, the core attributes represented by Santa transcend even this existential challenge. Even those who “know” he doesn’t exist still enjoy the gestalt of the brand. Name me a pizza chain or a department store or TV manufacturer who can say the same.
I could go on (ultimate loyalty program, no channel conflict, efficient manufacturing, distribution and customer service support…), but you get the idea.
Though another Christmas has past, perhaps we should all look to Santa for guidance in 2010. After all, his operation is well-loved, profitable, always in growth mode and he never loses customers. I’d be happy with that.
For more marketing thoughts and ideas, check out my second blog at Marketing Observations Grown Daily.
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