Santa Claus – Branded perfection?

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

8 December 2010

The image of Santa taps into deep emotion

santa clausHo Ho Ho. Christmas is a sleigh two or ride away as kids of both big and small prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus.

I had never really considered this before, but Santa Claus may be the perfect brand. If you have read this blog you know that I am bit of a fan of Apple’s brand – its simplicity, its single mindedness, its pursuit of being a reflection of its target audience. For a consumer brand, I believe there is no equal to Apple. As an emotional, social brand, Santa may have Mr. Jobs beat.

I do not care if you are a Grinch, a Scrooge, a child, an adult, a shop owner or an Apple owner. Santa Claus means something to just about everyone in nearly every country in the world.

“Santa Claus, he represents to many what’s good about being human. That’s a powerful emotional trigger.”


The key for the most powerful brands is ability to see yourself in it. Brand is like a highly polished mirror reflecting back to you what you are, believe you are, or aspire to be. Santa is the every-person’s brand. Kids see themselves as the recipient of Santa’s goodwill and generosity (as long as you are not on the naughty list). Parents see themselves as the catalyst or surrogate for Santa’s “visit.”

While the true meaning of Christmas has really nothing to do with Santa Claus, for those who celebrate this special time and those who do not, Santa crosses and overcomes racial, religious, and cultural barriers  in ways that few other icons can. What is most interesting to someone who studies human behavior is that the ability to overcome these things is not related to Santa at all, just the belief in what he represents to them.

That speaks to the final key to having a successful brand – understanding the power of belief. Beliefs are extraordinarily powerful emotional triggers that are far too often forgotten or overlooked in traditional marketing today. Nonetheless, they are a treasure trove of influencers of consumer behavior.

Think about this scenario for a moment. Have you ever had a discussion/argument with a friend or some other person in which each of you were diametrically opposed in your views?  I have no doubt that each of you spend countless moments arguing your points in the most rational “Churchill-esque” manner possible with counterpoints and hard data to support your positions.  But in the end, did one or both of you say, “Yes but I still think…” or “You make a good point, but I still believe…”

This is the ultimate power of brand, to infuse the power of belief into the fabric of the brand itself. As demonstrated in the above scenario, the belief does not even have to be factually true. It just has to be believed. As long as it is believed, we, as humans, will fill in all of the rational arguments necessary to make that belief tangible and not easily broken through the eloquence of another’s argument about their equally tangible and not easily broken belief.  When brands attach themselves to a belief, they win because choosing a different brand is akin to emotional suicide.

Santa Claus, he represents to many what’s good about being human. That’s a powerful emotional trigger.

See more posts in the following related categories: Advertising Apple Brand Branding Santa Claus


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