Monday, 15 December 2008

Reinvigorating Brand Santa

Santa has won the hearts and minds of his customers. But growth is fuelled by population expansion, retention rates are average at best. The customer relationship starts round year three and fades year 7 to year 9.

Santa is privately owned so there is no financial reporting requirement. The business model is hazy; it is not clear how Santa makes its money. To grow the business you require cashflow or substantial capital. Property lease back is a non starter; they only seem to have seasonal concessions within a variety of retail outlets. Lapland HQ is not practical for other businesses of this scale. Opportunity cost of these assets would seem to be close to zero.

The solution to turning Santa around must lie on the revenue side of the equation. Here are our recommendations.

1. Santa, St Nicholas, Father Christmas, Papai Noel, Babbo Natale – the different names dilute the brand. Choose one name and stick to it. It worked for Snickers. Whilst a name that resonates with the Chinese market is tempting we feel an English name provides the greatest global reach. SantaServices gives you brand stretch.

2. Create added value services e.g. charge for different delivery options, delivering on Christmas Day should be the premium not the standard service. Charge for returns? Provide warranties? It estimated that 15% of presents are damaged on Christmas Day.

3. Merchandise yourself e.g. replica kits for children; think laterally! What would be the equivalent of the soccer away strip? What about a light suit for hotter climates. Don’t be a slave to red.

4. Investigate sponsorship opportunities. Formula 1 would offer the best benchmark. Look for brand synergies, but obviously avoid competitors like DHL, red letters days unless there is a clear income opportunity.

5. Branding. Make sure is on all packaging and clothing. “This present was bought you to by”.

6. Embrace digital. Letters posted up chimneys is a nice touch but difficult to believe it is practical. How do you manage surges in activity? And of course it doesn’t feel very 21cn. Email has to be the way forward. Make the website work harder, a personalised web experience is essential. And of course this year we are expecting mobile technologies to take off so integrating SMS is a must.

7. Brand experience days help your best customers embrace the brand. It is probably Pizza Express No.1 marketing activity.

8. Business is over-reliant on one man; no one is going to invest in a business without a clear accession plan. Consider an X-Santa factor show.

9. Give Mrs Santa more of a role cf Cameron and Brown. Older men into children can be perceived as unusual e.g. Michael Jackson.

10. One day a year! Enormous opportunity even if we don’t go 24x7x365. Of course it is possible more frequent Christmases may be difficult to market but the core competence is distribution and logistics. Look to provide corporate outsourcing solutions.

11. Develop retention program for teenage into adult years, you know all about random acts of kindness. Put the Christmas back into CRM.

12. Appearance is everything. Looking that comfortable in the present climate does not seem appropriate. Even Puff daddy is forgoing bling in concession to the crunch. Obesity and children is a hot topic. Think about going on TV with Gok or Gillian Mckeith.

And finally, don’t get pissed in public and learn to dance Salsa.

Please feel free to add advice, Santa does read every comment. In the next few weeks we will be discussing God, Germany and WH Smiths.


  1. very good article. it shows no institution can rest on its laurels. obviously the CSR angle needs to be reconsidered, especially if outside investment is sought for expansion. what would be in the best interests of the shareholder...?

  2. thanks, it was fun. what bit are you going to apply!


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Just curious about marketing, psychology, economics, business, irrational behaviour, people, models, communications, advertising, market imperfections, b2b marketing. I work in the marketing communications industry for OgilvyOne.