At this time of the year, as our thoughts turn to brussels sprouts and advent calendars, rather than budget reports and advertising campaigns, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the lessons we can learn from one of marketing’s lasting success stories. He’s a perennial brand, a true family favourite and one that is embraced by generation after generation: Father Christmas.

Leveraging scarcity of supply to generate demand.

Let’s face it, when it comes to the ‘one night only’ limited availability thing, Old Saint Nick absolutely has it nailed!  Talk about creating desirability.  And he goes even further; he sets conditions on whether he will visit.  Have you been naughty or have you been nice?  That’s the kind of conditionality perhaps only adopting a rescue dog can lay claim to – coupled with the exclusivity of buying a luxury car. If we could generate the kind of demand for our organisations that comes naturally to St Nicholas, we’d be laughing too (Ho! Ho! Ho!).

Reputation management; building trust.

In this age of data breaches and public scandals, trust is a much sought-after commodity.  If you can establish a reputation as being trustworthy and maintain it over decades, you are doing something right.  And you must have heard patient Mums and Dads explaining to timid tots or sceptical six-year olds that the Father Christmas who’s knee they are about to sit on isn’t (actually) the real Santa. Because the real Santa is so busy at this time of year, this is one of his helpers who looks a lot like him.  We believe in him so much that we’re even prepared to make excuses for him!

Word of mouth promotions – the best PR ever.

On top of all of this, what is Father Christmas’s annual marketing budget?  Zero – nothing.  Yes, the Man in Red doesn’t need to spend a penny on advertising or promotions because we do so much of it for him.  There are hundreds of films, songs and adverts featuring our favourite festive visitor, all eulogising how much we’d like to see him at Christmas.  All good marketers know that word of mouth is the best advertising you can get.  (And we haven’t even touched on the brand value of his iconic red and white suit – although some sources suggest that it wasn’t Mrs Claus but a far larger organisation who actually designed that outfit!)

So, if you haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions yet, here’s one for you:
Be more like Father Christmas next year!