[Top 10 Marketing Tips from Santa Claus
Today, as I contemplated the past year while looking at my withered, drooping, dried-out Christmas tree, surrounded by wrapping paper remnants and tinsel strands, I started thinking of the marketing effort put forth each year by Santa Claus.
Yes, that’s what I was thinking about.
You’d be hard pressed to find better marketers than the team at The North Pole. They’ve been at it for around 200 years, so they’ve had lots of time to hone their techniques, and, from the looks on the faces of millions of children this time of year, I’d say they know their market.
As a marketer myself, I’m always looking to learn from the success of others. With that in mind, and knowing that I need to say a few extra-nice things about the Big S.C. to ensure my position on the “nice” list next year, here’s my take on the 10 best marketing tactics Mr. Claus has nailed.
1. Ensure location-specific branding. Santa has a global presence, so he takes the time to customize his marketing to every culture and country. In North America, he’s Santa Claus. In France, he’s Pere Noel. In Hawaii, he’s Kanakaloka. In England, he’s Father Christmas. Regardless of language or location, he tailors his image and brand to the specific demographic.
2. Master strategic exclusivity. “Christmas in July” sales notwithstanding, Christmas happens only once per year, on December 25th. This limited availability creates buzz, excitement, and exclusivity. And, he’s built up such a mania around the date that it’s impossible to match. Birthdays and anniversaries only happen once a year, too, but nothing else is Christmas.
3. Engage with your targets. Whatever the local Santa’s name, the customs change by location as well to fit the target market. In Denmark, they feast at midnight on Christmas Eve and serve pudding with a single almond. In Venezuela, people roller-skate to the early morning church services, waking children by tugging on strings tied to their toes and hung out of windows. In Argentina, people put cotton balls on the Christmas Tree to represent snow.
4. Be persona-based. While some marketers can get very specific and niche with their personas, Santa keeps is simple: naughty or nice. And, his product is very persona-based as well: coal or toys.
5. Have a human side. A good, resonate marketing message is one that connects with the audience. For Santa, although he’s rarely seen and has superhuman powers, he does come across as an everyman. Here’s an example: My infant son just got his very first letter from Santa, and it closed with Santa writing, “Well, Mrs. Claus is calling me for dinner, so I have to go.”
6. Don’t hog the spotlight. It’s good to have more than one spokesperson. GEICO, the insurance company, has the gecko, the pig, and even Ickey Woods. For Santa, he has elves, Mrs. Claus, and a host of reindeer (and, to prove the point, I bet you can name them all).
7. Use a secondary character for sidebar marketing. The story of Rudolph takes place almost entirely without Santa’s involvement. It’s a good way to send a secondary message while still sticking to the overall theme.
8. Customer service is an experience. Santa knows that the entire, end-to-end customer experience is what makes his brand so special. His letters always arrive well before Christmas day, to build anticipation. He eats cookies and leaves crumbs, to prove his presence. He wears the same outfit each year. He takes great care to wrap presents and place them under the tree, always in the same spot. He always arrives at night, always on same day, and he’s never late.
9. Go the extra mile to ensure quality. Santa has been doing this for hundreds of years, yet he still makes that same naughty/nice list every year, and he still checks it twice. Could you image the fallout on Twitter, and the ensuing PR scramble, if some nice kids got coal? You can’t take any chances when it comes to customer satisfaction.
10. Always be on message. Santa always wears the same suit, arrives on the same day, uses the same backstory, and does it year after year after year. Even when you see him in Hawaii, he’s still in his same outfit (although barefoot)!