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6 Marketing Lessons from Santa

How did Santa become so popular? Here's a list of his brilliant marketing strategies and tips on how your business can become popular like Santa!
Written Dec 12, 2011, read 1586 times since then.
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Whether he meant to or not jolly old St. Nick created one of the most recognizable and beloved brands in the western world; one that children have adored and parents embraced for centuries.  Santa Claus has endured wars, depressions, scrutiny (is he real or not??), imposters who tried to tarnish his image (ala The Grinch), and even opposition from certain religious groups. 

So how the heck did he do it? How did Santa Claus build such a phenomenon, despite the obstacles and challenges the world threw at him? And what lessons can businesses owners learn from him for building our own brands?

I’ve identified some key things that Santa does to solidify his brand, create raving fans, build trust and grow his Christmas Empire! Here they are, along with the lessons we can learn from his success:

Marketing Lessons from Santa

1.  Santa is painstakingly reliable. Most of us awoke every Christmas morning, year after year, to find a plate sprinkled with cookie crumbs, an empty milk glass, and a bounty of presents; all bearing witness to Santa’s  late night visit. Despite snow storms and freezing temperatures, or dad losing his job, moving to a new house, or fighting with our brothers too much, Santa never let us down. Santa is the epitome of reliability.

Business Lesson:  How reliable is your business? Are you letting customers down?  Like expectant children on Christmas mornings, our customers have high expectations and it’s our job to deliver – or risk losing them.  Make it habit to ask customers if they’ve ever felt let down by your company, what areas you can improve upon, and what products or services they’d like you to offer.  Being painstakingly reliable builds trust and people buy from companies they trust!

2.  Santa surprises and delights us!  Who doesn’t think of Santa and smile? Why is that? It’s because he always surprises and delights us! Whether it’s flashing a jovial smile and belting out a jolly “Ho Ho Ho”, delivering that Barbie doll we’d been obsessed with for months, or making a surprise appearance with a bag full of goodies at a holiday party, happiness and smiles follow Santa wherever he goes.  

Business Lesson:  Can you say the same about your brand? Does your business leave a lasting smile and happy thoughts? Do you surprise and delight? If not, study your competition and your industry, talk to people, and find out where others let customers down. Then do something that no one else in your industry does.  Find that  “something extra” can you add to your product or service.  Customers love the unexpected, so what can you do to surprise – and delight them.

3.  Santa encourages us to write.  Everyone knows Santa loves getting our letters – and even reads every single one of them! And what does he ask of us?  Nothing but a list all the presents we want him to deliver on Christmas morning!

Business Lesson:  Imagine if our customers felt comfortable enough to send us a list of their wants, needs,  and desires– don’t you think that would help us understand  and serve them better? What can you do to encourage your customers to stay in touch with you?  Since we don’t have our own North Pole address, I’d recommend things like suggestion boxes (on, or offline!), surveys, and service follow up calls.

4.  Santa rewards good behavior.  ”Have you been naughty or nice?”  Your answer could mean the difference between that diamond necklace you’ve been eyeing or a big ole lump of coal 

Business Lesson: Businesses can build their brands by rewarding “good” behavior too! Did a customer buy more than usual? Reward them with a discount or an extra freebie. Did a customer refer you or leave a raving Yelp review? Send a special present or gift certificate to say “thank you.” Rewarding good behavior not only shows the customer your appreciation, it encourages them to do it again!

5.  Santa has elves and  8 reindeerSanta wouldn’t be Santa without his team. Do you think he’d be able to read all of our letters, be painstakingly reliable, or jolly and delightful if he didn’t have a team to help him all his Christmas responsibilities?  Of course not, so then why do you expect to be able to take care of all of our business responsibilities yourself?

Business Lesson:  If you don’t have the time to provide the level of service you want, surprise and delight customers – or market and build your business then it’s time to get your own team of elves and reindeer! No one ever built an empire alone… and it may be time for you to hire some help!

6.  Santa is one-of-a-kind!  Santa has an image like no one else:  long gray beard, velvety red suit, and shiny black boots. Santa has a catch phrase, “Ho, Ho, Ho”.  Santa knows his target market are children. Santa also knows these three things set him apart from the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and moms and dad -  and he used that to build the Santa brand to be the unmistakable symbol it is today!

Business Lesson: Take a look at your business, what can you do to make your business stand out from the crowd? Do you have a unique image? A symbolic uniform? A bright red sleigh pulled by 8 tiny reindeer (Ok, a fleet of bright red trucks will do!)?  A quirky catch phrase? Find your uniqueness and do something big to stand apart from the competition!

Summary:

The bottom line is this: Santa “gets” marketing – he built one of the most recognizable brands that ever existed by doing these 6 things. Sure, we may never be as popular as Santa but by following his example, we can certainly create our own little world of magic! Happy holidays! Ho, Ho, Ho!!!

Learn more about the author, Carolyn Higgins.

Comment on this article

  • Biznik Director of Community 
Seattle, Washington 
Matt Lawrence
    Posted by Matt Lawrence, Seattle, Washington | Dec 13, 2011

    Great stuff Carolyn.

    I admit, I was a bit skeptical at first (ahem, Scrooge) - but you nailed down some great business lessons.

    And my favorite was #3, encouraging us to write. I think that encouraging customers to write in to us as owners is important, and so is a focus on what we write to them.

    Whether it's finding the voice to send an email message to all of your customers at once, or a tweet, how we write conveys the overall tenor of the business.

  • SEO Consultant 
Jersey City, New Jersey 
Elvis Arias
    Posted by Elvis Arias, Jersey City, New Jersey | Dec 13, 2011

    I enjoyed your article Carolyn, especially lesson #4, rewarding good behavior. I think that this is a very important concept for business owners because it reflects a sense of acknowledgement and gratitude towards your customer for being loyal to your business, therefore rewarding them with a discount would be one of the many ways of saying thank you.

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Dec 13, 2011

    Hi @Matt - of course I couldn't agree with you more on your point about finding a voice to write to our customers and potential customers.

    You know I believe in the power of blogging and article writing- And Biznik is a great place to publish them and get great exposure to my target market!

    I'm glad you overcame the whole Scrooge thing and found value in the article! :-)

    Happy Holidays, -Carolyn

  • Speaker/Marketing Consultant 
Toronto, Ontario Canada 
Marc Gordon
    Posted by Marc Gordon, Toronto, Ontario Canada | Dec 13, 2011

    Love it! Great article.

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Dec 13, 2011

    @Elvis - thanks for reading and leaving your comment! And yes, rewarding is important to business and I think many times we forget to do that. Thanks for pointing it out again! :-) Happy Holidays, Carolyn

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Dec 13, 2011

    @Marc - thank you! :-)

  • Information Systems Engineer, IT solution provider 
Ciudad Autónoma Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Argentina 
Diego Gurpegui
    Posted by Diego Gurpegui, Ciudad Autónoma Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Argentina | Dec 14, 2011

    Very good article Carolyn! I found it very interesting how you related the popular and innocent/childish image of Santa with marketing and came up with some (very useful) business lessons. Happy holidays!

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Dec 14, 2011

    Hi Diego - Thank you! And Happy Holidays to you as well. :-)

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