Brandspeak: How to Manage the Santa Brand


Joe Pantigoso SAP brandspeak

The following guest post is by SAP senior director Joe Pantigoso.

Sometimes having a familiar example can help colleagues understand the value of consistently adhering to what a brand stands for and how it comes to life. Regardless of religion or belief, here’s an example of consistent and successful brand management that many may know: Santa Claus.

I hope it proves useful or at least gives you a smile.

Brand Promise

Santa brings joy and presents. Can you imagine a Santa that does not deliver these? Every activity of Santa’s staff—North Pole elves and tens of thousands of parents—should align with this brand promise. If their efforts, like with any employee building a brand, is not helping in some way to deliver a final outcome, in this case generating joy and goodwill to Santa fans, it’s not aligned with what the brand stands for.

Brand Purpose

But beyond bringing presents, what’s Santa’s purpose? According to, Santa Claus is the American version of St. Nicholas, a kind 4th century bishop who had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed them. It’s for this remarkable kindness that Nicholas was made a saint. So you could say that Santa’s brand purpose is to help make a better world by reminding us to be kind to each other, to be less selfish, and to think more about others than ourselves—at least for one day a year.

Brand Identity and Personality

According to Merriam Webster, Santa is a “plump, white-bearded, red-suited, and jolly old man.” An 1822 poem by an Episcopal minister is largely responsible for this American image of Santa Claus. So for Santa brand management, use of any other color than red for Santa’s suit, for example, or the portrayal of a beardless, young ripped Santa is discouraged. It simply does not align to brand identity and personality guidelines and could cause confusion and disappointment with Santa followers.

Brand Experience

Regardless of media or manifestation, a consistent Santa brand experience should remind people of the kindness and joy that this holiday symbol personifies. Like with any brand, inconsistent usage can weaken what the brand stands for and damage advocates’ loyalty and delight. “Bad Santa” might make for a funny movie but we don’t want him hanging out on every street corner, taking mall photos with our kids, or knocking about our homes in the middle of the night. Brand aligned Santa, however, is most welcome.

Happy holidays!

Joe Pantigoso is a Senior Director in Global Branding at SAP, a leading enterprise software company and top globally-ranked brand. Follow him on Instagram and read more of his columns here

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