Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Santa – The Brand
The Magic of North Pole Marketing

Important disclaimer! If you are over the age of ten, please read this as it was written: tongue firmly in cheek. If you are under 10, please believe every word!

Walking through a busy shopping center the other day, I overheard a child talking to her mother.
“Hey Mama, I need to get my letter off to Santa. What’s his e-mail address?”
“Hmm. . .” I thought. “I wonder where that idea could take us.”
Here then is a quick update on Santa - The Brand and the workings of his marketing department, North Pole Marketing.

Brand essence: Santa Claus is one of the oldest and most endearing of brand icons. Rooted in the European folk law and mythology of St. Nicholas and Good King Wenceslas, Santa’s core essence is all about gift giving and helping those less fortunate than ourselves: the universal spirit of Christmas that Santa Claus brings to millions of children all over the world. The distances, coordination and logistics involved are mind boggling but, Santa and his team have managed to adapt to changing conditions, urbanization and architecture. The change of entry point from chimneys to elevators was particularly challenging.

Production and logistics: The original North Pole toy factory ran out of capacity years ago and NPM now outsources to production centers all over the world. Partner programs, with DHL, FedEx, UPS, and others, ensure a constant two way flow of technology and know-how. It is rumored that NPM hosts an annual workshop with suppliers and partners, during the summer, to exchange new ideas and upgrade technology for the coming season.

Retaining and refreshing the brand’s core values: Movies, such as the Polar Express, reinforce the magic and splendor of the North Pole enterprise and the dramatic departure of Santa in his sleigh, piled high with gifts. This year’s Santa movie, Fred Claus, reveals a more human side of Santa and his real-life sibling issues that every child can relate to.

The Brand experience: Santa cannot be everywhere, so depends on thousands of proxies and volunteers to appear in stores and shopping centers to deliver an unforgettable experience to children. Santa likes to stay in touch and sits in whenever he can. The Santa Brand experience involves 4 core elements: Have you been a good boy/girl? What do you want for Christmas? Santa humor . . . . Ho, ho, ho! and a photo for the children to take home.

Standards and dress code have been slipping lately. Santa has had to remind his team that Nike and Reebok sneakers are not in keeping with the Santa Brand identity and could seriously degrade the experience for children.

Code of Practice: Nobody actually owns Santa. This means that anyone can use the Brand for commercial purposes. Luckily, in most cases, his codes of practice and good taste are respected. As added insurance, NPM mails out a special card every year to remind marketing communities all over the world to respect the Santa Code.

People tend to forget that Santa still likes a snack when he has finished arranging all the presents under the tree. I understand cookies and a glass of milk are still his favorites ;-)

(From my Brand Width column in The News - Mexico City, Thursday December 13th.)

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