the jolly old brand

I had been thinking about writing a Christmas post, but couldn’t come up with an idea. Then I realized I’d already written the post; it was just ensconced in a book. What follows is an excerpt (pages 53-56) from Chapter 7 (Brands are Driven by the Message) of my 2010 book, Brand Zeitgeist where I used Santa Claus as a “case study” on using media and marketing to maintain brand consistency over the (very) long term…

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Page 55 of Brand ZeitgeistBrands are a long-term proposition. Just a few ads or a couple of PR mentions won’t have much effect over the short term. When you step back to look at brands that have used media and advertising over the long term, the power of a brand zeitgeist can clearly been seen.

The modern day image that most people have of Santa Claus, with the plump belly, red coat, and white beard has largely been shaped by media and advertising. For centuries, Santa Claus was portrayed as everything from a gnarled elf to a tall gaunt woodsman.

One of the first major steps to creating a unified Santa brand in the mind of the zeitgeist occurred with Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s poem was published annually in numerous newspapers and periodicals and helped define the basic physical characteristics of Santa in the public’s mind:

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

In the latter part of the 19th century, cartoonist Thomas Nast built on the foundation of Moore’s poem. He depicted Santa Claus as a plump man in a red suit and further cemented other aspects of the Santa brand in the zeitgeist with things such as a North Pole residency in his drawings for Harper’s Weekly magazine.

The modern day image of Santa was firmly established starting in 1931 when Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblomto develop advertising images using Santa Claus. Sundblom further built on established canon by Moore and Nast and drew Santa as a warm and friendly human character. The Coca-Cola Santa was placed heavily in the company’s annual Christmas ads in national magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker and others.

Santa Claus is a brand that reaches almost every section of the zeitgeist. Stop almost anyone on the street and they could recite a checklist of all of Santa’s characteristics that have been established in the zeitgeist. If Santa is portrayed in the “wrong way,” consumers will reject it — i.e. skinny in a blue suit. He’s the ultimate example of a successful brand zeitgeist because everyone is on the same page as to what the brand represents.

However, there’s no way you can replicate his success with your brand. For one thing, the media atmosphere is much different today. The entire populace isn’t focused on a few big magazines and three television networks. You don’t have Coca-Cola’s media budget. You don’t have two centuries to wait for your brand strategy to kick in. Finally, let’s face it, you’re not Santa Claus.

But you can learn branding lessons from Santa on how to use media and messaging to establish your brand in the zeitgeist. Firstly, Santa has stayed true to a set of core brand assets and never drastically rebranded to keep up with trends and fads. During his busy season, he is everywhere. He’s at the mall, in parades, on TV, in magazine ads, and in your house. The brand image is inescapable. The image is consistent, clear, and repeated to the point of that the brand image of Santa Claus has been seared into mind’s eye of the public.

The Santa Claus brand was spread in the zeitgeist over the long term by using traditional media and word-of-mouth. While it might be impossible to build a similar juggernaut brand using those same methods, there’s now a new variable in the brand messaging and media equation. Until recently, Santa didn’t have to deal with the Internet.

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And that was an oh-so-clever segue into the “messaging in the digital zeitgeist” section of the chapter. If you’re interesting in reading the rest of the book, you can find Brand Zeitgeist on Amazon. Or you can become a fan of Brand Zeitgeist on Facebook.

From all of us to all of you

Ahh….the snow….the decorations….the wasted advertising dollars.

It’s the time of year that salespeople go out and bilk unsuspecting small business owners into wasting their “advertising dollars” for holiday greetings. In case you’re thinking of buying, here’s some ready-made copy…

Shotgun Concepts
:30
12/1 – 12/25
(mx fade in)
Everyone here at Shotgun Concepts wishes you and yours the very very best of the (blank). At this time of year, it’s important to remember (blank). And Danny, Frank, Lorita, Consuela, Bobbi Jo, and all the guys down in the warehouse wish you the very best of this holiday season and the happiest of new years.
(Insert recordings of owners’ kids and grandkids here)
Remember, that this is the only time we’ve advertised all year…and we’ve only mentioned the name of the business once…and you still have no idea what we do.
From all of us to all of you, Happy Holidays to you and yours and mine and his….
(long mx fade out)

Nothing like placing generic wallpaper advertising on the air during one of the most ad cluttered times of the year for great ROI.
If you’re lucky, it may beat the return on that yearbook ad you bought last April.

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Liar Friday

Just now, someone popped into the office and said they’d heard some shocking news…
“People are shopping today”

It ranks right up there with the hard hitting headline of…
“The sun came up this morning”

It reminded me of a post I did last year about the lie of “Black Friday”.

And while we’re at it, the true date of Cyber Monday is also a lie.

BONUS::While in the Wayback Machine looking at the Nov-05 archives for the link to the Black Friday post, Mr. Peabody and I found these two other holiday posts. Enjoy. After all, what is Christmas without bringing out the old decorations?
Holiday Marketing Tips
Salmon Flavored PR

Black Friday

I’ve heard the fake statistic too many times today already not to post this…

The day after Thanksgiving is NOT the biggest shopping day of the year.

You hear this alot from people you know…as well as lazy news outlets who don’t check sources because the day after Thanksgiving seems busy with everyone clamoring at 5am for the next Baby-Wets-Sock-Em-Tickle-Me toy. But it’s just not true. While everyone may be out, they aren’t buying.

As far as retail sales go, the 2 weekends before Christmas show the largest sales figures and the highest sales day is usually either the last Saturday before Christmas or December 23.

Don’t believe me? Believe Google. Search http://news.google.com/news/search?q=%22biggest+shopping+day+of+the+year%22
or here’s a screenshot if you’re not searching on Friday http://twitpic.com/r6s85

Salmon Flavored PR

Apparently, I’m in the mood for holiday marketing posts.

As in years past, the Jones Soda Company has just announced their usual holiday PR gimmick…putting out an oddly flavored “holiday-themed” soda such as Turkey&Gravy or Green Bean Casserole.

This year it’s Smoked Salmon Soda.

The very thought of that makes me want to throw up. In fact even Jones CEO, Peter van Stolk, says he can’t make it through an entire bottle.

But the purpose here is not to drink the soda. It’s the gimmick and the free press they get for doing something outrageous. (I’m blogging it, right?) In fact, this time of year is a great time for a PR coup (See points 4 and 5 in my Holiday Marketing Tips post below. The Jones PR stunt is very similar to the Neiman Marcus catalog example.)

The entire Jones marketing philosophy from weird flavors to drinkers snapshots on the label has been very kitschy, very quirky, AND very successful. Jones is also a great example of how consumers help shape a brand as well. For such a small company to mushroom (probably the next flavor) onto the national stage shows a great PR push.

However, the holiday flavored soda gimmick also shows the inherent problem with all PR gimmicks. What do you do next that can get attention? It’s like a kid who shows off and everyone looks at him…he enjoys the attention and then does something else…and then something else…and then accidentally breaks a lamp.

The Turkey/Gravy flavor got LOTS of media mentions for Jones. Since then, the other holiday flavors have not. Trying to be more outrageous with each step eventually fizzes out (Soda pun intended.) The salmon flavor is outrageous, but what’s next? The good news is that Jones is being distributed nationally and is very successful so they’ve ridden the PR train to where they needed to go.

I just hope they don’t break a lamp.

LINK:: Fast Company had an article about Jones earlier this year.
LINK:: News story about the Salmon Soda.

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I gave up. Here’s a gift card.

Around this time of year, gift cards are a big business. A survey by ValueLink estimated that 64% of American adults (139 million people) either bought or received a gift card in 2004, up from just 37 percent in 2002. It’s also estimated that nearly 15% of all holiday sales are in the form of gift cards.

In marketing, gift cards are great. They provide buying incentives for consumers in the doldrum 1st quarter. Sure. The gift card money is already there and you’re just exchanging goods for it. But when someone comes in to use a gift card, they usually spend much more than the value of the card.

But what about the general good taste of gift cards?

I urge you to read this article by MSN Money contributor Liz Pulliam Weston which has some great insight on the social implications of gift cards such as:

A gift, ideally, says, “I thought about you. I considered your likes and dislikes, your needs and wants, your dreams and desires, and found you this token of my esteem that I hope will delight you.”

A gift card says, “There! Checked you off my list.”

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Holiday Marketing Tips

I originally published this article last year…(so be forewarned, there are dated references) But as I heard the 1st Christmas song on the radio yesterday, I thought it might be a good time to post it here. BTW…a PDF of this article and several other published articles are always available on my website.

Holiday Marketing Tips
The bulk of retail sales for the year happen during the holiday shopping season. Depending upon the sort of business you’re in, estimates range from 40% to 70% of the year’s profits coming from holiday shoppers. With those types of numbers on the line, it’s imperative that your marketing work during this time of year. Unfortunately, it’s also the hardest time of year to market. Consumers are being bombarded with messages and are also preoccupied with the stresses of the holiday season. Your marketing MUST stand out above the clutter. Here are some tips that will make this season merry and bright for your business…

1) ALWAYS remind them of the brand – Take the time to reach out and talk to your customers. Send targeted e-mails to your internet database (What?! You don’t have a database?!), use the telephone, direct mail, or whatever works best for your business. You want to get your name in front of your customers for top-of-mind brand awareness during this time when they are ready to buy. Offer incentives with these communications for better results.

2) Plant seeds for the long cold winter ahead – Take a look at your dedicated customers and offer them an incentive to buy from you by offering a discount or perhaps a free gift. When you offer holiday discounts, make them good into the first quarter when you’ll be looking for sales. After-holiday-shopping is an overlooked opportunity for many businesses, as customers want to spend gift cards or money they received as gifts.

3) Get Personal – Ensure that customers remain with your for the next eleven months as well. Take this time to thank them for being a loyal customer throughout the year by sending them a holiday card or e-card. Gifts are not out of line for major customers either. Office Depot currently has a spot featuring Donald Trump where he says that holiday business gifts are not a thank you. They are insurance for continued patronage the next year. The personal touch with a gift or card will help to bolster business. Just be careful with cultural concerns with gifts and cards. Don’t wish a Merry Christmas to a Jewish customer who is looking forward to a Happy Hanukkah.

4) Leverage the power of PR – Got a new item or do you sell one of this year’s “must-haves”? Send press releases and keep contacts with media for holiday gift guides and feature stories. The media will be looking for the “local angle” when everyone is clamoring for a Tickle Me Elmo or other hot item. The story will remind consumers that they can find this item at your business reaping a huge PR win. It’s free advertising and much more effective because it comes with an implied endorsement from the media. It’s also not interruptive media. Consumers will be looking for information when they read these guides and stories and will be more receptive to the message.This will work at the last minute for small businesses and local media. If you’re manufacturing a product and want it in magazines or national media, start your PR pitch in June or July.

5) Standout – “Be remarkable” should be your marketing credo throughout the year. However, you should also remember it during the holiday season to get some free PR. Best practices include Neiman Marcus’ annual Christmas book. This year they feature a $1.45 million bowling alley, a $1.7 million submarine, and a $10 million zeppelin airship in their catalog. No one is buying these items. (in their right mind) But you will see a galore of news stories about them and that will drive enough people to Neiman Marcus to buy lots of clothes, home items, and other more mundane items that people can afford.

6) Create partnerships – Partner with a local restaurant, hotels, or other retailers to create marketing synergy. Give your customers coupons of special offers from your partners and they do the same. It will open up new markets that you may be unable to reach.

7) Holiday Events – Open houses and other special events will showcase your business without the pressure of a purchase commitment. Team up with a local charity, a children’s choir, or other appropriate group to make your business a holiday event center rather than “just a store”.

8) Deck the Website – Be sure to promote your website at all your holiday events, in all ads and press releases, and other marketing pieces during the holidays. Place added value on the website by offering an internet only discount or gift. Keep the content fresh by offering holiday information, news, or tips pertinent to your business. Most important, make certain your site is ready to receive visitors by checking that all links are working properly and you have enough space to handle additional traffic. You don’t want to lose customers (money) when they get tired of your page loading or numerous crashes.

In the end, holiday marketing is just a continuation of the best marketing practices you should already have in place. Always look out for the way to stand out among the clutter and look slightly into the future for trends and everything will fall into place.

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