*Santa* Brand Book 2013–A marketer’s dream

Two of my dearest friends and my husband are in the marketing business.  When I saw the *Santa* Brand Book 2013, I recognized the perfect marriage of my love of Christmas with the public relations language that surrounds me day and night.

Quietroom, a British advertising agency, has updated their *Santa* Brand Book each year since its creation in 2010.  Every page made me laugh out loud.  Here’s the cover.

*Santa* is a Concept, not an idea. It’s an
Emotion, not a feeling. It’s both Yesterday
and Today. And it’s Tomorrow as well.

When I read this opening, and the pages that followed, I was totally hooked on Santa.  Jeremy and I talk about what will make The Yule Log 365 more of a brand and less of a blog experiment launched by two friends.  Clearly, we need professional help!

Santa and Christmas – Gangnam Style

5:45 a.m.  A blur of dancing Santas on the gym television screens caught my eye.  From Australia, a group of 150 were dressed as Santas and dancing Gangnam style on the deck of the Australian naval ship HMAS Ballarat in Sydney Harbour.

The purpose was to raise awareness for a charity fun run next month, where organizers expect upwards of 5,000 Santas in Sydney and 25,000 throughout Australia.  Through this huge event, Variety, the Children’s Charity, delivers millions to help poor, disadvantaged, and handicapped children.

No podcast today!  The whole house smells like mint and chocolate because I’m baking candy cane topped brownies tonight to prepare for our tree designing party tomorrow. (My first “from scratch” brownies.  Recipe from Sugar Plum Blog here.) We’re gathering at Jeremy’s house to practice setting up our trees for the Kennedy Kreiger Festival of Trees, and we plan to have the entire group help us to record our weekly podcast.  More tomorrow!

Sad Santa? Tad Carpenter holiday cards, games and book

Roger spends a lot of time looking at new graphic art and design ideas to inspire his business at RRBrand, and in his online adventures in design, he saw a video of Tad Carpenter’s new Christmas book, Sad Santa. In the Sad Santa book, Santa is disappointed that Christmas is over, and no amount of fun will cheer him up.  I remember when Jeremy and I started The Yule Log on December 26, 2011, the excitement of starting our 365-day Christmas project chased away the usual post-holiday blues.  In Carpenter’s book, though, Santa does not take one an ambitious blog project with Mrs. Claus.

Carpenter’s work looks very familiar, and it should, because Carpenter designed the gift coin campaign for Target, labels for Snapple and concert promotions for Radiohead, The Shins, Dashboard Confessional, and frequently illustrates children’s books, posters, and ad campaigns for other major stores.   Do you remember the blog post we wrote about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  Rudolph was originally a story book that was handed out to children when they came to Montgomery Ward’s to see Santa.  Tad Carpenter creates a new Macy’s book each year–who knows?  Maybe 50 years from now, we’ll be singing a tune to one of his works!

Also for the Christmas season, he releases a card series (very cool) and other holiday items.

Meanwhile, exploring Carpenter’s site, I came to a Christmas board game that he designed which looks like fun for the whole family, North Pole Party People Game.  It’s something different than the ordinary.  I like it.

Santa Coupons

While cutting through Barnes & Noble last night I discovered a clever little holiday book.  Nestled on the shelf in the middle of the aisle was a small and narrow “book” titled Coupons from Santa.  The subtitle read “Stocking stuffer coupons to redeem throughout the year!”.  Inside the paper cover were 22 coupons to “keep Christmas spirit alive all year”.  The simple, rather plain-looking, coupons are to be turned in to the giver for various gifts in the future.  The future gifts included a batch of cookies, control of the remote, breakfast in bed, a massage, playing of a board game of choice, peace and quiet for an hour, car wash, dinner out , and more.  Some of the coupons promised more Christmas throughout the year with a holiday dinner or  movie.  All in all the collection wasn’t too impressive.  The sticker price was $5.99.  What I got from this was an idea spark for a great gift, not an urge to give that book to anyone special.

Make this coupon collection on your own.  With a little creativity, some ribbon, and access to decent clip art of some construction paper you could be the best gift giver ever.  When you personalize the coupons they would mean so much more.  Instead of the generic dinner out, it could be a specific dinner out.  Maybe the first place you ever ate together, maybe the fancy little treat bistro, or a place you’ve never been to, but always wanted to visit.  Replace the breakfast in bed coupon with a specific menu of exactly what the recipient would enjoy.  Don’t include generic household chores, but rather specific tasks that you know the recipient would love to not do.  We have covered this idea in previous posts on the Yule Log, but seeing this book laying there reminded me of the joy of a personalized version.  (another bonus is that the actual cost of this gift comes later in the year, not right at the holidays!)

Collectible #3- Coca-Cola “Stuff”

These collectors are some of the most dedicated to their pursuits, and they have had nearly a century to work on it.  Who am I referencing?  Coca-Cola Christmas collectors of course!  There are thousands of collectors of Coke memorabilia and many of them choose to focus their collection specifically on the items surrounding Christmas.  There are lots of different Christmas items to collect.  If you’re not sure how it all started or how to get started, then read on.  One huge claim to fame for Coke at Christmas is the role their advertising had in creating our modern idea of how Santa Claus looks.  (That claim comes from the Coke company itself)

Coca-Cola has had Christmas advertising since the 1920s.  The Santa they used early on was bases on drawings by the famous newspaper illustrator, Thomas Nast.  Nast’s depiction was a stern and strict elf like Santa who wore browns and greens before Nast switched his coat and robes to a red color.  In 1931 Coke decided it needed a new look for its advertising and worked with artist Haddon Sundblom to create such an image.  Sundblom kept the red coat from Nast (contrary to urban legend that red was selected because it was the color of Coke’s labeling).  The jolly image he created was based on the description of St. Nick provided by Clement Clark Moore.  This jolly, happy, and kind soul delivering goodies to kids of all ages became the look of the Coke Christmas advertising, and according to them, the image we embraced as a nation for Santa Claus.  Coke celebrated 75 years of this advertising in 2006.

Early on the ads focused on getting people to see Coke as a drink for all seasons, not just warm weather.  Sundblum’s ads debuted in the Saturday Evening Post in 1931.  The ads showed Santa delivering toys, reading letters from children, and taking a break to drink a Coke.  Sundblum painted the ads for 33 years.  Initially he used a live model to create his works.  After his death he used himself and painted based on the reflection in a mirror.  By the end of the 40s he painted all his works from photographs of the scenes he created.  The paintings quickly moved from magazine ads to store displays, billboards, posters, calendars, even dolls.  Today we see ornaments, plates, figurines, and so much more!  The original paintings by Sunblum are some of the Coke corporation’s most prized possessions.  They have been displayed in museums around the world, including the Louvre.

All those advertising items are the core of the Coca-Cola Christmas collectibles.  The Santa Claus ads were joined in the 1940s by Sprite Boy.  Sprite Boy’s name came from him being a sprite (elf), debuting in 1942.  Sprite, the beverage, didn’t premiere until the 1960s.  Santa and Sprite Boy were joined in the holiday work by the Coke Polar Bears in 1993 as a part of the “Always Coca Cola” campaign.  Serious collectors keep close watch on all the changes and developments.  Like all the collectibles we have discussed there is a society for these devotees also.  Cavanagh’s Christmas Collectors Society is for those who collect Coke.  For your $25 annual fee you receive an exclusive figurine, newsletter, catalog, history, membership card, and access to member exclusive deals.  Coke’s dedication to advertising at Christmas grew to include commercials, films, and seasonal jingle.  Check out this clip to hear one of the most loved Christmas creations by Coke.

Cheap-Suit Santas: the happier version of Krampus?

Krampus and Krampus related information leave me a little unnerved.  I prefer my Christmas holiday with adjectives like blessed, merry, bright, and happy.  As I was reading Jeremy’s post yesterday, I followed some of the links.  As a joke, I even started to send him a Krampus e-card, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I want my Santa sanitized.  I want him to be good.  No alcohol, no tricks before my treats.  I’m unhappy that the letters of SANTA, re-arranged, spell SATAN.  I have just realized, though, that there are plenty who would take our innocent idea of a Guinness Book of World Record Santas crossing the Bay Bridge (see Podcast #16 on April 16th) and turn it into an opportunity for mischief.

Large gatherings of bad Santas started first in 1994. A group of pranksters dressed up in Santa suits and began partying in downtown San Francisco.  This local group, purportedly protesting holiday consumerism, became known as the “cheap-suit Santas,” whose antics spread along the California coast. Each holiday, bus-loads could be seen singing parodied Christmas carols, bar-hopping, and engaging in public displays of Santa silliness.  Popularity of these gatherings has spawned Santarchy, Santa Rampages, Santasms, and Santafadas, among others.

Organized anarchy has limits.  Last year, Santarchy, DC posted a songbook (to be downloaded on your smartphone) and rules for behavior.  I like rules.  My favorite is: “Santa does not make children cry.”  Even though this is an event that creates mayhem, the posted suggestions are designed for Santa to stay on the right side of the law.  If you are attracted to this sort of holiday party, check out locations near you at  santarchy.com.

We’re not too far along in our Santa planning, but I can tell you that our record-setting gathering of Santas will not be on Saturday, December 15, 2012, when Ocean City will be hosting a Santacon. Their board for the event names several potential gathering places (bars) and the message, “Don’t forget to invite Krampus!”

What about the elves?

Lately Natalie has been making much to do about the Holiday helpers posing as Santa at the malls.  But we all know that these guys are nothing without their trusty elf assistants.  The loyal and hard-working elves make the whole Christmas experience at the mall possible.  Who do you think sets up those elaborate displays featuring trains, cottages, tress, and more?  It’s the elves!  Who gets the kids to smile and stop screaming while sitting on a total stranger’s lap?  The elves!  How does that picture that costs you $14.50 get taken, printed, and thrown into a cute cardboard holder?  Magic?  Only if you mean the magic of the elves.  The Christmas mall elf as an arduous work life.  These are no Santa’s workshop elves, protected from the masses of children at their North Pole compound.

The mall elves are not trained and pampered like the mall Santas.  Research found no formal training centers or certification programs.  There are no designer outfits to be found or national fashion protocol.  Officially you are known as Santa’s assistant and expected to fill one of many levels of help for the guy in the chair.  You might be the greeter- the one to “encourage” passing parents and children to stop in and visit.   This job is the hard sell- convincing a family not intending to visit Santa to stop what they are doing, get in a line and wait to pay for a photo they don’t want- FUN!  Or you might be the helper.  This is the elf that talks to the mom and the kid and then funnels the info to Santa (you didn’t really think he knew every kid’s name and particulars did you?).  Helper elf has lots of pressure to get it right.  Next up os the photographer elf.  This elf has the unbelievable difficult job of snapping the perfect pic while the child screams, squirms, and cries through the visit.  Last elf up is the cashier elf who has to try to up-sell you to the deluxe photo package including frame and decorative ornament.  Regardless of which position you are assigned, you have fussy parents, line management, crying kids, and candy canes to navigate with the non-stop 60 minute loop of Christmas music playing over it all!  Finally the most difficult job of every mall elf- explaining to the curious 5 or 6 year-old how this man isn’t the real Santa, but one of his “helpers”.  Good Christmas mall elves are the true protectors of the magic that is Santa Claus.  Who’s up for being an elf this fall?

Santa School

In Disney World , the characters are trained to be Cinderella, Beauty or Goofy.  They must attend school to become the living versions of the Disney characters we all know and love.

How about Santa?  He needs training, too!

The oldest Santa school is in, appropriately,  cold Midland, Michigan.  The Charles W. Howard Santa School was established in 1937.  Howard was a Macy’s Santa and served as a consultant on the 1947 hit Miracle on 34th Street.

Thomas Valent, current dean of the school, first studied under Charles Howard.  The 3-day course teaches beard and hair care, the importance of changing gloves frequently, St. Nicholas history, and how to work with children with special needs.  This is just a smidgen of the instruction that centers around the privilege of being a Santa.  The three-day class, this year on October 18, 19, and 20 costs $415 for new students.  Registration is now open.

In a parody of the mall Santa and Santa school, Homer Simpson becomes a mall Santa and must attend Santa school in “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” or the The Simpsons Christmas Special was the first full-length episode of The Simpsons.  It originally aired on December 17, 1989.  I’m putting viewing this episode on my Christmas-must-do list.  I suspect all I need to do is check with my sons, or Jeremy, who can most probably quote segments already!

Santa Claus, CEO!

I’ve been getting a good bit of feedback after my last post on the leadership secrets of Santa Claus.  Seems like people like what Santa does as a businessman, so I did a little more research into the corporate lessons that Santa has to offer.  There are more than you might expect.  There are many articles and posts all detailing lessons Santa’s followers have to offer.  There are lessons about management, ideas about motivation, thoughts on marketing, and more.  All credited to the example set by Big Red.

There’s another book and workshop series dedicated to Santa.  Santa, CEO by David Soulby combines the business of Santa and Christmas in a satirical tale of corporate credit and profit at all cost decisions.  There are companion workbooks and web-based helps to guide the reader to learning Santa’s way.  Check out the site and find out more- Santa, CEO.

If you find yourself still doubting the draw of St. Nick as a business icon, even Forbes magazine credits his skills.  They rank some of the titans of industry as Santa disciples.  Industry giants like Steve Jobs and Dave Thomas are compared to the success of Jolly Old Nick.  Read all the details in the article Lead Like the Best CEO Ever: Santa Claus.  

Santa- Ultimate Leader?

I wanted to get back to our more random bag of blog posts this week after about a month of themed posts.  I had some good ideas in my files and even got a great new idea from one of our readers, Liam.  All of these will be used but didn’t seem what I wanted for today.  So I asked for some help from our intern, Hildy.  Her response was “All you’ve been talking about is leadership lately, can’t you find something with that?”. Hildy hit it right on again!  She is the true secret to the Yule Log success.  In the next 10 days I will be facilitating a leadership training day and attending a 3-day leadership conference.  So what leadership lessons can be learned from Christmas?  Plenty!

Digging through my shelf of books I remembered I had The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus.  This little gem is published by the Walk the Talk Company, focused on leadership and values-based business practices.  The sub-title reads “How to get big things done in YOUR ‘workshop’… all year long”.  Intriguing right?  I mean Santa runs a world-wide business with billions of customers all wanting basically the same things, on the same delivery schedule, and with little support.  Santa is the ultimate successful CEO, eat your heart our Lee Iacocca.  Santa has devoted followers and thousands of imitators- a true sign of admiration.  What are the secrets to his success?  The book reveals them in 8 “gifts” to the reader.  Simple guidelines to steer you and your organization to inevitable success.  Each “gift” has a chapter outlining the secret with three ideas to summarize the meaning.  The eight gifts are:

  1. Build a Wonderful Workshop.
  2. Choose Your Reindeer Wisely.
  3. Make a List and Check It Twice.
  4. Listen to the Elves.
  5. Get Beyond the Red Wagons.
  6. Share the Milk and Cookies.
  7. Find Out Who’s Naughty and Nice.
  8. Be Good for Goodness Sake.

You can order books, workshop kits, and more from the Walk the Talk website.  Maybe this is just the hook you need for your next corporate or business professional development series!  If you’re not quite up for books, workshops, and training seminars no worries there is a link for you too.  Santa has also posted a short video outlining his leadership secrets on YouTube.  What do you think?  Does Santa hold the secrets for true business success?  Post your thoughts for all to see!