Santa Claus not in Jeopardy after Centuries of Careful Brand Management

One of the world’s oldest brands is still soaring. Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Chriskindl, or Père Noël is geared up to bring gifts to the homes of good children everywhere. So many have asked what are the secrets to sustaining a strong brand over the centuries. This post will attempt to shed light on this superior feat of brand management.

Santa Claus dates back to the 4th century Greek Christian bishop known as Saint Nicholas of Myra, from Lycia, now known as Turkey. He was known for giving gifts to the poor. The roots of the modern day Santa trace to the Dutch figure of Sinterklass, called “De Goede Sint” –  translated as “The Good Saint”. He is known for bringing gifts to the homes of good children.

Deep brand equity research has indicated that Santa Claus in his various forms is jolly and plump, dresses in robes, has helpers, can fly through the air in a sled pulled by either reindeer or horses, and is focused on well-behaved children. Whether he brings candy or presents, he represents a strong value-based brand philosophy that doesn’t seem to waiver.

Should you ask, here are the immutable brand principles Santa Claus employs and smart marketers should practice every day:

1. Be consistent. Think about it, Santa’s timing never changes. He arrives on the same day each year without fail. He wears the same clothes and doesn’t surprise us with fashions of the season. He is always jolly and focused on his work.

2. Do not compromise brand values. Santa believes in and promotes children that have been well behaved. He doesn’t wander from this central value, but acts on it each year. His annual “Naughty or Nice” research has become a central part in his decision-making.

3. Stay focused on the mission. Nowhere in the literature is there an instance that Santa has missed a delivery date. He understands the importance of meeting consumer expectations, and seems to always delivers. He brings joy and happiness to children everywhere.

4. Conduct significant consumer research. For about a month every year, Santa actually travels around and sits in convenient public places and “listens” to his customers (who sit on his lap and reveal valuable information). He doesn’t rely on secondary research, but wants to understand, right from consumers mouth, the critical insights that he needs to address to sustain his brand.

5. Keep the brand on everyone’s radar. In North America, Santa has worked out a tracking agreement with NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), the Canadian-American military organization responsible for air defense, to regularly report his progress as he travels from the North Pole.

6. Identify appropriate touch-points to promote his brand. Santa and his brand team have figured out which touch points most efficiently connect with his key customers. Parades, department stores, shopping malls. There are even postage stamps with his likeness. He knows it is important to understand the most important touch points to efficiently build correct brand perceptions.

7. Study consumer feedback. Not only do children send letters to Santa at the North Pole, but many leave letters to him near the fireplace. Some even email. He reads every one and has the most perfect understanding of how his prime customers feel, what they want, and what questions they have for him.

8. Don’t jeopardize the person as brand. Santa has never pulled a Tiger Woods or Lindsay Lohan. He is secure in keeping to his principles and not wavering. Simply put, Santa Claus is Santa Claus. You’ll never find him down at the local pub, albeit he does like his Christmas grog.

What a perfect brander. There are many lessons that can be learned by carefully observing a brand that has been around for hundreds of years and continues to be an important part of our lives.

While I’d like to keep writing, I hear sleigh bells on my roof. That’s my signal to sign off and take a long winter’s nap…

Merry Christmas to all!