User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Santa's Marketing is worth copying.

Robert Tallent.
The Synergy Group.
Originally published 7th December 2012.
Updated 8th December 2015

Santa Clause and ChildSanta Clause and ChildSanta Clause is alive and well. He can teach us all lessons on Marketing and Branding.  Through the ages he is always successful and making enough money to survive for another year. He has survived recessions, depressions and just about any economic scenario. Why has his marketing strategies worked better than yours? It's simple really. It is because he uses solid, proven psychology. He knows he doesn't have to use new gimmicky techniques when he hasn't changed his marketing for decades.  His simple marketing has stood the test of time.

Everybody believes in Santa, because the big man from the north pole will rock on forever and you too can do the same if you stick to the basics. Find out if your product or service matches up by reading the article below.

Dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square . . .

Santa's core communication is simple.  It is one word - 'consistency'. Generation after generation have been exposed to one brand, one message, and the same powerful imagery.  Just like Ryanair owns the term 'low cost' and Rolls Royce owns the term 'high quality', Santa owns the word 'hope'. Every kid worth his Playstation 4, hopes he's got enough points on the well-behaved scale to justify a mountain of gifts.

Yet, most companies get tired of their own brand. They chop, change and pour thousands of euros/pounds into a bottomless pit of mindless change. Take a look at McDonald's advertising, for instance. McDonald's own the words ‘family outing’ yet, according to their new CEO Steve Easterbrook their focus for 2015 is around food and healthy eating.

Does it make sense to consistently occupy one niche? You bet it does! Families go out with their kids to McDonalds. These kids develop into budget-conscious teenagers that hang out at McDonalds. They have kids and grand kids and guess where they all end up. At the big yellow 'M', that's where!  Compare McD to Burger King.  What can you see in your mind?  Well, I can see the Golden Arches, Ronald McD, Big Mac and don't forget the Happy Meal aimed at kids.  For BK, what can I think of?  I can't think of anything.  Yet, personally, I prefer BK food and service.  But, McD marketing is winning.  Another plus point for McD is the training of their management with the Hamburger University.  I laughed when I heard of the HU first. I'm not laughing now.

Santa doesn't waver. His customers are kids. Yes, I know, the parents do the buying.  Like several marketers, he might have been sorely tempted to enter the gift market. With bad advice, he would have tried to get to teenagers, adults and everyone. To some small extent, he has entered the adult market because Santa does get presents for adults too - sometimes.  The magic works there too, equally as much as it does for the kids.  Even the tiniest of niches is huge and niches have a way of expanding by themselves. 

At the end of the day, it's the consistency that takes the jingle all the way to the bank. Too many companies lose focus and give you ten reasons why you should buy from them. Santa sticks to one: Be a 'nice' kid and you can keep hoping!  Don't be on the naughty list.  It's real simple, as my co-editor, Martin, says.

Some companies that got lost in the marketing was during the VCR days of the '70's and '80's.  You had Betamax by Sony, VHS by JVC and Video 2000 by Philips.  Some people will argue the benefits of Betamax, but the eventual winner was VHS because of good marketing. They could record for four hours and were less expensive.

Is that Santa or the International Space Station

The ISS app is brilliant.  You can see when it's overhead on Christmas Eve and the excitement with the kids is unbelieveable when you tell them it is Santas Sleigh.

Do you know anyone who comes to visit on a sleigh in the middle of the night? With reindeer and gifts? He only serves 27% of the world and manages to get around to 1.9 billion children in one night regardless what the weather is.  What a feat!  The weather was fairly poor with storm Desmond in Ireland and the UK during the first week of December.  As a bit of fun, here is a video of a weather report by Teresa Mannion put to music.  The reason why Santa stands out so vividly in our memories is because he's different. The postman does the same thing, and he does it every day.  Does he get the same credit. Not on your nelly!

It's really important to work out how your marketing message differs. Santa's core marketing term is not built solely on consistent branding (there’s that word again) but also on a very hard-nosed differentiation.  Too much communication out there fits in with what's safe. Customers have just one slot in their mind. You have to enter that slot at such an odd angle that they remember you for life.  The top five brands in the world have done it - Apple, Microsoft, Google, Coca Cola and IBM.  In The UK, the top five brands are British Airways, Apple, Virgin Atlantic, Microsoft and Visa.  In Ireland, Ryanair is number 15, Facebook is 17 and eBay is 601. BAE Systems Detica is number 962. Who are they?

Paul Byrne and Paul Hogan run INC Design and Display. What sets them apart from all the rest of the crowd is the term, Canvas Prints. Can you imagine your reaction when you hear something like that?  They can solve your Christmas present problem to give a unique and personalised gift.  The human mind is intensely curious and a marketing statement like that is pure bait. You want to know what pain relief they bring and how they go about it - especially if you're the one in pain. That's only half the story. The construction of the message elevates them from simple number crunching to brain surgery and makes them unique.

If you want differentiation you need look no further than the guiding light of Santa's sleigh - Rudolph, with his shiny nose. Can you even remember the names of the rest of the eight reindeer?  In Twas the Night before Christmas, you may remember them as "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixem!"

One very important point, however, is that the marketing message isn't just different, but also customer-oriented. Paul takes the problem of finding a unique gift that will be seen forever and Rudolph provides a beacon for clearer navigation.

The story goes that Rudolf was rejected from the herd. It tells of the experiences of Rudolph, a youthful reindeer buck who possesses an unusual luminous red nose. Mocked and excluded by his peers because of this trait, Rudolph manages to prove himself one Christmas Eve after Santa Claus catches sight of Rudolph's nose and asks Rudolph to lead his sleigh for the evening. Rudolph agrees and is finally treated better by his fellow reindeer, for his heroism.  Santas marketing also has to compete with the the fact that a bright red nose was then closely associated with chronic alcoholism and drunkards.

Give and You Shall Receive

"If you don't have a benefit for the customer, just being different is going to get you nowhere."

How many of you are out there networking like crazy? Trying desperately to fill in your steadily depleting bank reserves? You want more, more more!  Take a look at Santa's style.

He's into giving first. If you probe deep into your mind, you'll find the people you like best are those who have given you their time, their money or their knowledge. You trust them, and it's very hard to say no when they ask you for a favour in return.  Look at DPNlive.  We are giving you free articles, news and information and advertising space (for a small fee).  And we will always give you free articles, news and information.

Look at Google and Facebook for instance.  They started by giving you stuff for nothing.  Free searches on the internet and free communication with your friends.  In fact, if you look at it, they could not have started their businesses by selling from day 1.  They had to build up an audience before they could sell.  Googles sales for 2014 were $66 Billion and they are only in existence for 17 years.

Fear and Trust

The deepest core of human emotions is fear. Every single product or service, without exception, is sold on the basis of a problem. If there are no problems you wont have a business.  Fact.  The only known antidote to fear is TRUST. When trusts raises its head, fear disappears to the land of nod. The more you pile up the trust, the more you can do business.

Wouldn't Santa be able to sell you just about anything? Would he be able to cross-sell and up-sell product? Santa could knock on your door next summer and you'd be more than happy to have him join your barbeque.

As a bit of fun, here is the same video put to music by some smart guy today

It's up to you to build up the trust one block at a time. Identify your clients and see what you can give them. Give them more than they ask for.  It could be information, time or even a poster for the office wall.  It's the old 'What's in it for me?' theory - WIIFM. If you can't find something interesting for their minds or bodies, they won't want to see you.

An example of how NOT to do business is in the video to your right. RTE (Irish TV) carried out an investigative report and it aired on 7 December 2015.  In short, three county councillors offered their services for a fee in order to secure planning permission for a wind farm business that was setting up. That is illegal for an elected person to use their position in that manner.

Play Santa. It works.

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth . . .

He wants you to be able to say “Sister Susie sitting on a thistle! Gosh oh gee, how happy I’d be, if I could only whistle" 

Santa knows his customers and you need to be on his list.  "He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're awake, He knows if you've been bad or good"

Then, there's you. Look at your biggest customer. You probably know the company name and your contact in the company.  When is his birthday? Does he like Indian, Chinese or Thai curries or fillet steak? If he likes curries, how hot? What is his partner's name and what about birthdays? When was his last big event in his life? What does he think about you? What doesn't he like?

You're guessing, I know you are! You can't be dead certain because you didn't ask and you didn't write it down in your diary.  When you call to them the next time, you should refer back to something small that was mentioned.  They will be surprised that you remembered.  Instead, you were too busy making a sale to look out for the little things.  You've lost the plot completely.

The reason why Santa's marketing works is because he intimately knows your individual needs. If you want a drum kit, he knows whether it's acoustic or electronic. If you want a Playstation 4, you don't get an Xbox.

Santa knows because he's interested in giving. Google gives, Facebook gives.  Yes, they receive too and make billions, but they give first. To give, you have to know exactly what the receiver wants or your gift is not worth diddly squat.

Some people worry about invading personal privacy. Bulls**t, I mean Humbug! When was the last time you got upset because a supplier turned up with a big chocolate cake (your favourite) for your birthday or with a rare stamp for your daughter (because she loves collecting stamps)?

Santa invades our privacy gently and uses it to give, not to take. That's why we don't mind it. The taxman on the other hand, uses our information to take and therein lies the principal difference.

Dave Smith, a client of mine runs the inflatable village in Rathbeggan Lakes just outside Dublin in County Meath on the N3.  When he brought me out, they were preparing for Santa Claus. They cut down logs, cleaned them up, drilled holes in them, prepared holly & ivy, got candles & tinned snow and have them ready for the kids to make their own yule logs under supervision.  All this is while they are waiting to see the big man in red.  You see, an entire family at a time go in and the man with the white beard is able to talk to the kids by name, know exactly what they want and what they got last year.  Whether they were naughty or nice and how well they enjoyed their presents from last year.  You see, the parents have to fill in a form when they arrive.

Once a Customer, Always a Customer.

Santa Doesn't Lose Customers. Period.

One of the primary reasons why he's able to achieve this amazing feat is because he knows his customer's customer. His customer is the kid and each kid has a parent or guardian who buys the pressies.  In a few years the kid grows up and his customer's customer is the parent who has the amazing power to get their children to be nice not naughty, if only for a short while. The cycle goes on and on and on and . . .

Since the concept works in their favour, they do all the advertising. Without TV, radio or the internet, Santa's message gets a grip on millions of kids around the planet. These kids grow up and the marvel of Santa is handed down through the generations.

Another product that took off without advertising, if only for a few months, was the Pet Rock back in 1975.

While It's OK For Santa, how would this work in the real world?  You sell print.

As a printer, you have several answers. A customer calls in to you to get 1000 A4 leaflets printed.  1000, not 2000.  Now you tell the customer, that if they take 2000, they can get them for an extra €20.  So they buy 2000.  You also give them a voucher for €20 to use as they please in your company.  Now, you know they can’t buy anything for €20, but greed says they will come back to spend it, and at the same time spend maybe a €100 with you.  Now the €20 has cost you nothing.  You can also sign them up for a loyalty programme, giving them 10% off everything they buy if they buy €500 off you in the next 6 months.  The FMCG market in Ireland call this an LTA. At the same time, you find out the day and date of their birthday and send them another voucher inside one of your specially printed cards for their birthday.

This is how you make a customer Permanent.

Step 1: You ask the right questions to find out my need.

Step 2: You up-sell the product giving me excellent value for money.  It has to be VFM to me, otherwise it won't work.

Step 3: A gift voucher with a validity date, ensures an additional purchase. Or even better, the chance for me to pass it on to another person thus 'creating a customer' for you.

Step 4: Tying my fickle consumer into a loyalty scheme. You want me to stay with them forever.

Step 5: You recognise my birthday making me feel special.

Santa's steps may vary, but in essence he ties you into a solid loyalty program that is near impossible to get off. It's 'customer get customer', rather than 'advertising gets customer.' It's cheaper and it works!

In conclusion here are the main points why Santa's customers keep coming back. These concepts may sound old, even clichéd, but have been proven time after time to work well. Test them against your company and brand to see where you can learn from the man from the North Pole.

1) Solid branding:

Consistency is the key – there’s that word again. This applies everywhere from networking meetings, advertising to any sort of communication that goes out. Keep hammering home the same unique message and put it up front. The weather changes all the time which is why we can't trust it.  In fact, we can get all 4 seasons in the one day!

If you must change, it's because your old message isn't doing a complete job.

2) Differentiation:

Santa knows he can be a courier with a difference. You, too, can create your own legend. Nike used ‘Just Do It’. Apple tells you to "think Different". L'Oréal says "because you're worth it" Ronseal says that "it does exactly what it says on the tin".  Coke threw in the concept, ‘Rum and Coke’, indelibly burning the word classic into our consciousness. Sameness is in your mind. No matter how many brands exist on the market, your product has a fingerprint of its own. You just have to dig deep to find it.  Also, remember the bit in the yellow box above.

3) Build trust by giving first.

Life is all about sowing, then reaping - but sowing comes first. Remember Google and Facebook.  If you don't give first, you will only get limited results. The more you stop thinking of yourself and focus on what the customer needs instead, the more you are trusted. Business is all about trust. You have to be trusted.  If you don't have it, you're yesterday's dinner.  DPNlive is, at present, sowing before we reap.

4) Know your customer...

Like you know your passwords, data collection and its optimum usage will get you right into their minds and keep you permanently rooted in. Every time they see you, they should think you are Santa coming to town.

5) Reactivate dormant clients.

They are all volcanoes. Sitting there with the power to erupt mightily. Figure out who they are and how you can work in tandem with them. Forget your product or service. That's a given - It has to be good because you’ve perfected it. Find out the 'everything else' factor and you will keep them for life.  That ‘everything else’ they need to ease a pain.

Like Santa does...

Happy Christmas

Copyright © 2015, DPNLIVE – All Rights Reserved


As a final Thank You for reading this far, I've decided to give you my favourite Christmas song for 2015.  It's Dame Shirley Bassey and Blake. Nobody can wish you a better Happy Christmas than her.  I bet you'll know the song from the first word. Give it full volume and full screen, sit back and relax for 5 minutes.

Business & Finance - Business & Finance - Expert Advice

Newsletter Signup

Signup to our newsletter