Branding and Marketing Advice from an Industry Legend

We wanted to start 2018 by getting some advice from a real heavyweight in the world of branding and marketing.

We were after someone who had been around the block a bit, who had survived through tough times and who could prove that their marketing strategy had delivered real results.

Nobody was quite ticking all the boxes until one afternoon over Christmas, as we passed around the Cadbury’s Heroes while singing along to Slade on the office radio, it suddenly struck us. The answer had been under our noses all along.

So we e-mailed Lapland and offered double mince pies on the doorstep if the big man would spill the beans. Fortunately, he had just been thinking about hiring Vu Online to build him a new responsive e-commerce site so he was only too happy to answer our questions.*

So here are Father Christmas’s secrets to building success in the gift delivery industry.

Tip 1: Adapt to Changing Market Conditions

Having been in business since at least the 15th Century, Father Christmas has experienced plenty of changes and has had to adapt each time.

In his early marketing, under the Lord and Sir Christmas brands, he sold experiences rather than gifts. He focused on targeting a broad market using the timeless selling points of fun, laughter, dancing, feasting and drinking. For a time, business was good…

But the wily marketer knew he had to keep his eye on the ball. By closely monitoring brand sentiment, with the help of his marketing elves, he began to realise that his popularity was waning. After a customer questionnaire and a few focus groups they soon realised that their core message of drunken revelry and gluttony was alienating large sectors of the public – namely the poor.

During a tough decade which almost saw the Christmas experience wiped out by the minimalist ‘Puritan’ concept, Sir Christmas was forced to rely on a more niche market. He started adding value by giving actual gifts of gownes, hatts and handkerches to ladies (clearly spelling wasn’t his forte).

After a fair few years of the Puritans some serious buyer regret set in and the time was ripe for the re-emergence of Christmas – but without the upper class monicker. Father Christmas had arrived.

Still, the brand was still lacking something and it was not until Victorian times that Father Christmas realised what it was. Children! There was a huge market of little people just waiting to be tapped. Out went excessive alcohol (just leave me a little sherry on the doorstep, wink, wink…) and back in came gifts, sackfuls of gifts – delivered by magic – at night!

Having learned his lessons from the Puritan disaster, Father Christmas had also set up a robust competitor analysis strategy and soon became aware of the danger of a potential cross-Atlantic competitor under the brand of Santa Claus. A quick M&A deal was struck and the rest is history.

Tip 2: Ensure Brand Consistency

Despite the various changes above, Father Christmas has always worked hard to maintain a consistent brand.

With such a widespread franchise, he acknowledges that this can be difficult at times and insists on regular reviews and a strong focus on internal marketing. In the 1850s he recalls having to crack down on a group of renegade playwrights who insisted on portraying him as a hideous clown-like creature with a massive club.

He still has to pull up the occasional grotto for outsourcing personnel who either won’t wear a beard, weigh about ten stone or insist on frightening the children.

Still, on balance, the core brand identity of a generous, fun-loving old bloke with a beard has stuck and helped Father Christmas thrive in a competitive marketplace.

Tip 3: Stand out from the Crowd

One key branding decision he remains proud of is adopting the red and white colour scheme. He explained that the eye reacts quicker to red than to any other colour which is why many successful brands opt to incorporate this colour.

He denies that his decision or his subsequent weight gain was anything to do with the mysterious arrival of a lifetime’s supply of Coca-Cola at his Lapland depot.

As the only red-and-white clad, magic, reindeer-flying, free gift-giving service that operated on Christmas Eve, the Father Christmas/Santa Claus brand was in a position to dominate its niche.

However, there was just one finishing touch that Father Christmas wanted to include to make sure he would be easily remembered.

Every business needs a powerful strap-line and after much heated debate with his marketing advisors, he settled on one:


*Disclaimer: Any commercial connections with Father Christmas/Santa Claus are pure wishful thinking on our part. We apologise if anything we have written has suggested any form of endorsement. However, we do have plenty of genuine testimonials we would be happy to send to you if required.

Do you know anyone who may be interested in this project?

Click to share: