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Coach Wallet Zipper

The Santa Brand: How Does Santa Stack Up Against The Pillsbury Dough Boy?

An Entrepreneur's Guide to Getting Noticed in a Noisy Marketplace

My daughter, the one I affectionately call Daughter Number 2, recently challenged herself to participate in a high school Debate Tournament, following in her mother's footsteps. The topic? Be It Resolved that Santa Claus is a Dangerous Concept Which Should be Abolished. So, 6 AM, the morning of the debate, I'm surfing the net for stories of bank robberies and kidnappings by men in Santa suits. It didn't take long before I got sidetracked onto something even better― a bunch of articles on The Santa Brand. (Let the kid do her own research!)

Gotta admit, it never occurred to me before, but Mr. Claus fits most of the criteria I set out in my upcoming book "Step Into The Spotlight! -'Cause ALL Business is Show Business!" (Publication Date: April 2008), criteria for developing a dynamic business persona using showbiz techniques.

In show business, actors, directors and playwrights spend a lot of time on character development. In business, we call this building a brand. A business persona, just like a character in a play, needs a unique look (white beard, rosy cheeks, an enlarged perimeter), a unique costume (Red Suit, much better for branding than Banker Blue), a unique name (Santa Claus), a clearly defined personality (Jollier than the Jolly Green Giant), a strong philosophy (You gotta be nice, not naughty) and the guy's gotta know his lines and stick to the script ("Ho, Ho, Ho!").

Santa does all that. And the guy's consistent. You never see him in a blue Hawaiian shirt, even if he's hanging out at the Honolulu Hilton in December. Try leaving your scarf or gloves or umbrella at a Chamber of Commerce Networking Breakfast. Would everyone immediately know to whom it belonged? They would if you forgot your red velvet hat with a dangling white pom-pom!

The Pillsbury Dough Boy, The Maytag Repairman and The Man from Glad also each have a consistent look and OK, the Dough Boy is irresistible. But none of these characters have the emotional connection with their audience that Santa has. And it doesn't matter how many times you've seen Santa's show, you'll be sitting in the front row again next December. The Maytag and Glad guys stand for dependability, but Santa's not only dependable, he stands for hope as well, ask any kid on December 24.

Speaking of kids, why is it that we let our kids sit on the laps of strange men in department stores? Why is it that year after year, chubby red suited guys get away with "naughty" deeds like robbing banks and kidnapping kids? Why? Because Santa is such a strong brand that not only kids, but adults, lower their guard and trust the guy. We even leave the guy milk and cookies by the fireplace and encourage him to break into the house when we're all asleep. Even the Grinch Who Stole Christmas eventually succumbed to his charm as did the journalist who wrote "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus". What does he stand for? Goodness and kindness and "pull out your wallet".

Santa even knows how to work publicity. Many would disagree, but my philosophy has always been that it's hard to burst onto the scene if you've been hanging around on stage all along! Santa doesn't try to get ink 365 days a year. He lets Cupid have Valentine's Day, lets the chicks and bunnies arm wrestle over Easter, leaves Thanksgiving to the turkeys and only then, bursts onto the scene after the stuffing's been stuffed away.

But we're talking business. You're probably thinking, "Yeah Tsufit, but can the guy make money?" Yah Man! Actors are always asking their director "What's my motivation?" and the classic joke answer is "To get paid". Santa knows how to bring in the bucks as well as the next guy, better even. But there's one question nobody seems to be asking. Who's he making money for?

The major downside of the Santa Brand is that, unlike the Pillsbury Dough Boy or the Man from Glad or the Maytag Repairman, Santa will work for anyone. (You'd never catch the Maytag guy hawking computers on the side.)

I recently snuck out of a marketing seminar to visit the Coca Cola Museum in Atlanta and learned that although the Claus-ster's been around for ages, Coke gave the guy his current look, Coca Cola Red suit and all, way back in the 1930's and put him to work selling The Real Thing. But like Kleenex became just another tissue and Zipper became just another fastener, Generic Red Suit Santa started raking it in for anyone who wanted a piece of the action.

It's nice that he lends his name to charity and stands on street corners pulling in bowls of dollars for the Salvation Army and unwrapped new toys for unfortunate kids. But that's where I'd draw the line if he were my brand. In Showbiz, unique characters are the show's best currency. If the character of Ugly Betty started showing up on Grey's Anatomy and The Gilmore Girls and Desperate Housewives, it wouldn't be long before she'd lose her draw.

The lesson here? Develop a clear living breathing persona for your business, but make sure it's your brand, one that has a unique look, philosophy and connection with the crowd so people will pull out their wallets for you too. Before you know it, you'll be rolling in more dough than the Doughboy!


About the Author

TSUFIT is a coach specializing in helping entrepreneurs & keynote speakers & authors captivate their audiences. To receive all the articles in this series, enter your name at

More info on TSUFIT at © TSUFIT 2007

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