If the claims being made by the Simon Property Group are true, there are some signficant experiential marketing opportunities being missed across the United States. Simon is involved in 247 shopping malls across 37 states, and is making some pretty hefty claims as the result of its new Arbitron “Simon Malls Shopper Profile“. This from the press release:
Americans are five times more likely to visit a Simon Mall than to attend a ticketed sporting event, including Major League baseball, NFL football, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, NASCAR, Major League soccer, NCAA events, major tennis events and the PGA combined.
There are some other startling claims, that should probably be taken with a grain of salt:
Simon’s one-month reach exceeds national newspaper weekly reach.
Simon’s net reach is comparable to, or exceeds, major weekly national magazines.
Of course, some of the results do seem self-evident:
Teens and 18-24 year olds are more likely to make their purchasing decisions while at the mall while older shoppers tend to decide before they get to the mall. (see So Your Daughter’s a Mall Rat)
72% of Simon M1s distinctly recall seeing mall advertising in the corridors.
75% of Simon M1s are aware of audio in the corridors and walkways and awareness of signage is high.
Four out of five Simon Shoppers would find a kiosk with sales and promotional literature to be useful.
Am I the only one that finds something funny about the marketing agreement between American Idol and Pop Tarts?
I always thought Kylie Minogue or Christina Aguilera were pop tarts. Here’s one definition of tart. And here’s an even worse definition of pop tarts.
It’s going to be 27 degrees (C) in Ottawa today, with the chance of rain. An alert retailer would know to move the umbrella stand to the front of the store, to display the ice cream bars more prominently, and to highlight the selection of iced drinks.
In department stores fans will likely move quickly, as might raincoats – but not those leftover winter parkas.
In Britain, the Met Office is working with the British Retail Council to tailor its forecasting services to meet the needs of retailers.
Iris, an interactive web-based weather solution, is designed to serve the needs of retailers and the whole retail supply chain. The programme gives weather information up to 10 days in advance. Its users can incorporate their own thresholds to highlight when consumer demand is likely to increase or decrease for their particular products.
Another weather sensitivity analysis (WSA) service from the Met Office is designed to integrate with companies’ sales forecasts. This can lead to improvements in demand predictions and, in turn, better on-shelf availability and less wastage.
The Met Office claims Safeway has achieved an annual benefit equating to £4.8m from its weather services. One ice-cream promotion by the supermarket sold as much of the promoted brand in one week as it usually does in an entire year.
“It is very much about the timing of promotional ability,” says [the BRC spokesman]. “It is also about the timing of information, so if it is going to be a wet weekend and a low footfall is expected, a retailer could hold off on advertising.”
Some retailers point out that seasonal items like fans or sweaters are hard to speed through the supply chain in response to weather forecasts, but grocery stores see a real need:
Tesco buyers use long-range forecasts to adjust stock levels. Before the snowy spell earlier this year, it stocked up on soup, vegetables and tinned products. “The important thing for us is that we have the right products in-store,” says a spokesman. “The weather charts are of huge importance to the business,” says the spokesman. “It’s no good having lots of lettuce in a cold snap, but in a hot spell, salads and strawberries are in demand.”
Full story in In-Store Marketing (sub. req.)
Case study on how Safeway grocery stores in Britain use weather forecasting. (.pdf)
You’ve likely seen excerpts from oral histories prepared by the US Works Progress/Work Project’s Administration (WPA). You ‘ve more likely seen the black and white photos taken as part of this multi-year chronicling of life in urban and rural America in the late 30s and early 40s.
The NYT (sub. req.) has prepared a slide show of newly released Kodachrome prints from the WPA. Many can be seen for the first time in ”Bound for Glory: America in Color 1939-43,” a new book just published by the Library of Congress and Harry N. Abrams.
There are other colour photos in collections sponsored by the Farm Security Administration during the same timeframe.
Take a look, and notice the stunning scarcity of brand names, images and promotions.
Hmmm. Maureen Orth, a Vanity Fair writer who’s out promoting her new book, spoke to Berkely J-school students last month. She had some sage words of advice for them – considering she has interviewed Michael Jackson four times over the last decade.
“While you can lament the idea that we’re living in this era of celebrity and personality, it also behooves the journalists here to get beyond the superficial and the spin and do the legwork and the research and the hard, hard work that takes to get the real story.”
Read an excerpt of her book here:
The book is an informal tour of what I call the Celebrity-Industrial Complex: the media monster that creates the reality we think we see, and the people who thrive or perish there. My challenge, as a reporter in this environment, is to bring the story back alive, accurately, to find the key that unlocks the personalities, the story, or the crime. I don’t mind digging in grubby places. My early experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Medellin, Colombia, prepared me to fit in at any level. I am also more than willing to pore through thousands of pages of court documents, or whatever is necessary. Often there are scores of highly paid obfuscators in the path of the story. They increase the thrill of the hunt. Willing subjects with high-paid lawyers often get court records sealed; law-enforcement authorities cover their mistakes; any number of spinmeisters or fawning acolytes steer reporters clear of the truth. That is their job. Mine is to find the reality behind the façade.
Oooh. I can almost see the spinoff now: Law & Order: Hollywood. Maureen Orth played by Tyne Daly.
Via NewYorkerish and PopCulta.
You know us Canadians. We’re like beavers. We busily set about our work, doing constructive and uncontroversial things in our own idiosyncratic ways- until provoked.
The CBC is running a promo campaign touting the popular selection of the Greatest Canadian Ever. We can all name off Canadians that might be worthy of this distinction: Wayne, Alanis, Sarah, even Celine … but Mark Baese wants your vote, and he’s got a typically Canadian closing line:
I have my thumb on the pulse of Canada’s tech industry, and I work in the media, so I’m abreast in current events. I’ve also been involved with political wrong-doing, but I’m honest now – I swear.
I’m your all-around average Canadian, and together we’ve helped shape this country… Take some time and place your vote for the people of Canada – Vote for Mark today! I’m Average!
Two Democratic political consultants and a UCLA psychiatry prof have joined forces to fund a project exploring how the brain reacts to the stimuli from political ads. (NYT, Reg. req.)
How have they measured the reactions of their eleven test subjects so far? With an M.R.I. machine!
In the experiment … , researchers exposed [a subject] to photographs of the presidential candidates, commercials for President Bush and John Kerry, and other video images, including the “Daisy” commercial from 1964. In that advertisement, promoting Lyndon B. Johnson against Barry Goldwater, images of a girl picking petals from a daisy were replaced by images of a nuclear explosion …
“Brain imaging offers a fantastic opportunity to study how people respond to political information,” said Jonathan D. Cohen, director of the Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior at Princeton. “But the results of such studies are often complex, and it is important to resist the temptation to read into them what we may wish to believe, before our conclusions have been adequately tested.”
The NYT notes that others have looked into this area, including neuromarketers. Read Montague, the director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Baylor College of Medicine, has conducted similar research.
”I keep joking that I could do this Gucci shoes study, where I’d show people shoes I think are beautiful, and see whether women like them,” says Elizabeth Phelps, a professor of psychology at New York University. ”And I’ll see activity in the brain. I definitely will. But it’s not like I’ve found ‘the shoe center of the brain.”’
Or the left-leaning/suburban mom/suv-owning/tough on crime center of the brain either.
Siemens has invested $16 million in designing, building and moving a 14 car train to target markets around the world. The promotion is intended to provide trade customers with an opportunity to view product lines and speak to technical experts about the range of Siemens products.
Jammed with technology, the 14 rail cars house 224 plasma screens and monitors, 189 DVD players, four servers, nine miles of electrical cables and almost two miles of data lines,
The train has been featured at major trade shows in Asia, Europe and North America. It has stopped in central locations like Grand Central Station and on sidings near major customers. Siemens has supported the effort with a detailed website and has drawn visitors in with giveaways like Masters golf packages, Alaskan cruise/train advertures, golf clubs, and Bose theatre systems.
For interest’s sake, here’s the website for the Chinese tour, the swing through Portugal and the site in Germany. And here is related advertising.
But is this effort worth the investment?
As the NYT notes, Siemens has good reason to expect the trouble is worth it. In Spain, where the train made its debut, Siemens’ market share for energy and automation products spiked 3 percentage points, to 16 percent, after the train went through.
There are ancillary benefits as well. Vendors have capitalized upon regional appearances of the train to reward current customers and reinforce their sales programs: for example, one NY lighting company encouraged customers to be their guest on a visit to the train.
Rock the Vote is launching a mobile campaign aimed at getting voters 18-30 engaged and involved in this fall’s election. As Wired reports, it will
… offer information on candidates’ stances on issues. Users also could request voter-registration forms. And the service will offer a candidate matchmaker quick quiz, which asks users for their opinions on major issues and tells them the candidate most in tune with them. Users also would be able to query their phone to find their polling place on Election Day. And … [receive] get-out-the-vote pleas recorded by rock stars.
How does this mesh with Joe Trippi’s observation to the NYT that
…cellphone text messaging didn’t work the way we had hoped. We really went after that hard. It went, but just didn’t really do anything … ?
Maybe Rock the Vote has focused on the two elements essential to the success of an SMS campaign: immediacy and personal relevance. Companies and marketers in Europe, India, Malaysia and Japan have discovered that sales can be increased if SMS messages are properly targeted and provide value to the consumer.
In England, Orange is launching a promotion giving customers who text a company number two-for-one movie tickets. Some retail chains in Japan are experimenting with texting coupons to registered customers – as they walk past individual stores. In Canada, beer companies had consumers sign up to receive exclusive invitations to parties and events.
MTV, Motorola and Rock the Vote seem to recognize that young voters will need an active exchange of information, targeted to their needs but offering tangible benefits. Who wouldn’t want a voice mail from, say, Bono, to keep on their mobile phone?
SMS isn’t really an organizing tool – yet. But it could provide that extra push for young voters to maintain an interest in the election and actually turn out in November.
As for Trippi’s plans – he had unnamed but glorious ambitions, but they were shortcircuited by reality:
… Trippi’s plans for SMS extend beyond just the surface and may have an impact on the election in ways unseen. Though he is unable to discuss the details, he [told imediaconnection last August], “We intend to use text messaging strategically in key caucus states.”
Here’s a recent Poynter tid-bit on SMS use in elections around the world.
BTW – the Rock the Vote campaign’s privacy statement is pretty lame.
There’s quite a storm of media coverage in Canada over allegations of contract fixing, illegal commissions and possible fraud among a number of government departments. This entire embroglio developed from an effort to increase advertising and sponsorship opportunities to promote the “brand’ of Canada in Quebec following a separatist referendum in 1995.
One of the organizations involved was the national passenger rail company, VIA Rail. In 2002, a mid-level marketing manager complained to management about the unusual fees being charged for some events being sponsored by VIA. The manager, Myriam Bedard, eventually quit her position under pressure.
In recent weeks, the Prime Minister has been asking staff who have details about the scandal to step forward. This prompted Ms. Bedard to send a letter to the PM, alleging that she had been fired for speaking up.
How did VIA’s Chairman (and former Chief of Staff to the former PM) respond? “She wants to take advantage of the situation,” Pelletier told La Presse on Thursday. “I don’t want to be mean, but this is a poor woman in a pitiful state, a woman with no husband that I know of. She’s feeling the pressure of being a single mother with financial responsibilities. Basically, I find it pitiful.”
The guy picked on the wrong woman. Myriam Bedard is a two time Olympic gold medallist in the biathalon. And the Prime Minister backed her up today: he fired the Chair of VIA Rail.
“The comments made last week by Mr. Pelletier regarding Myriam Bédard were totally unacceptable,” said Prime Minister Paul Martin. “I asked people who had knowledge about possible wrongdoings to come forward. And when they do, I expect them to be treated fairly. This was clearly not the case. My government came to office with a commitment to change the way things work. The actions we are taking today reflect that commitment.”
In the extremely insular and self-reflective world of Canadian culture, Myriam Bedard was the subject of one warm and fuzzy feature ad – which could be seen as part of the overall “branding” and sponsorship program.
Paco Underhill’s been working hard to promote his new book, “Call of the Mall.” He’s been popping up in local features across the US and Canada. Just try looking at this list of placements. His secret? Making his story, his book and his work relevant to local audiences. In Toronto, he took reporters from two separate papers on tours of area malls to make his point. (Here’s the Toronto Star: the National Post makes you pay).
Oh – and he reinforces his local message by sucking up to the reporter and the town, BIG time.
“One of the things that’s extremely attractive about Toronto is that it’s one of the most cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic communities in the world,” he pointed out as soon as he walked through the main entrance. “This is not common in America at all. Toronto and Vancouver are very special. If you go to Chinatown in New York City you won’t find something like this.”
So, that’s cool. We’re one up on New York.”
In LA, he “… took a break from promoting his newest volume … to amble around Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, Calif., pointing out merchandising gimmicks and blunders.”
What about the Mall of America? It’s “just the ordinary done at a huge scale. They need to go back to the drawing board and do what every mall across the country needs to do: transition from landlord to place maker.”
In San Francisco? He “… appears more excited to be in the Stonestown Galleria than one might expect, given the amount of time he already spends in shopping malls.” Stunning, considering how many malls he’s visited on this promotion tour!
Underhill’s PR advantage lays in the very nature of his work: shopping is an experience shared by every man, woman and child, from every region and every demographic group. Whether it’s a holiday from reality or simply a chore, we all have opinions about shopping and how it can be improved.
His book promotion tour makes it obvious Underhill knows how to customize his story to fit the local environment – and how to develop the hook to ensure a nice long local story. Most of the articles referenced here are over a thousand words.
Envirosell, the consulting company that profits from all this research, has a website similarly designed to drive consumers and potential customers to the specific analysis and information, not general corporate bumpf. The site is full of case studys, recent articles featuring Underhill, pointers to upcoming seminars, and descriptions of ongoing research.
But what are some of the lessons learned from his study of malls? As he told the Toronto Star, “one of the ironies of our shopping culture is that most stores and malls are owned and run and designed by men, and yet we somehow expect women to shop there,” says Underhill. So I wanted to know how malls would look if they were designed and built by women. “They would have better bathrooms. They would have change rooms that made sense. They would have more benches for parking the husband or boyfriend.”
The New York Observer had a more realistic take: “It helps that Mr. Underhill understands the absurdity of his job: “No wonder we look at the mall—at the ambition of it, at the reality, at that already obese teenager stuffing her jaw with a drooling Cinnabon—and we can’t help but wonder: Is this the best we could do?” Unfortunately, he weighs down his narrative with clunky dialogue that distracts from the flow of interesting information. He also constantly reminds us that he’s writing mostly for his potential consulting customers—the Gaps and Starbucks of the world. (This criticism was also leveled five years ago against his first book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.)”
Following on yesterday’s comments about P&G marketing – you don’t have to be a consumer goods behemoth to explore new marketing tactics. You don’t even have to be in the largest consumer economy on earth.
As P&G and other marketers keep emphasizing, you need the best information available. You have to research the customer, their needs, the factors that drive their purchasing decisions, and the best channels to reach them.
In India, CPG companies are exploring how SMS technology can reach a number of demographics on behalf of very different products.
When launching a new flavour of gum, Wrigley’s included free packs with a leading publication and solicited feedback on the product and price by SMS.
Hindustan Lever, the local subsidiary of the international CPG company, has been using SMS for years. A 2001 campaign sponsored a Vengaboys tour, and consumers responding by SMS were rewarded with pub passes. A 2002 campaign worked around the FIFA World Cup. Their take-away? SMS “can pinpoint target groups demographically. [Hindustran Lever] uses SMS for brands that need to balance ‘cost-per-contact’ with effectiveness of contact.”
“The usage is different as well: Mobile at work, mobile at college, mobile-on-the-move, mobile-after-dark,” says [one Indian promo firm working on SMS campaigns]. This means SMS isn’t necessarily confined to one economic segment of the Indian economy – the middle class and urban professionals.
But SMS isn’t the only innovation. CPG companies in India have discovered that packaging and promotions really affect their sales, especially if they are dealing with demographic segments that can’t afford the larger, more feature-rich products. In fact, the move by companies of all sizes to offer miniature packets, vials and “sachets” of products like shampoo, tea, detergents and gum has led to incredible sales numbers – and a price war.
It’s cheaper to buy a strip of sachets on a regular basis than family packs. On an average — and this is a stunning piece of statistic — the unit price of large packs is twice that of sachets. … P&G is selling 500 gm of Tide at 80% premium to sachets on a comparable basis. …
And this trend to “personalization” of packaging is being transferred to similar economies. P&G is developing smaller, less sophisticated versions of Tide for the Chinese market (less stain removal, no fragrance, less enzymes – in other words, June Cleaver’s Tide)
Richard Branson is a master publicist and skilled marketer. He has built several Virgin companies on a number of continents, each a brand to be reckoned with in its industry.
In the past, he has ballooned around the world (in a giant Virgin balloon, of course), went skydiving, dressed up as a bride and took his fight to market leader Air Canada’s biggest market by playing street hockey underneath the CN Tower with a team of pee-wee players.
These days, though, Branson is the target of promotions and gimmicks. He’s thinking about extending the reach of his Virgin Group to serve domestic US air routes, and cities across the US are embracing outrageous PR and marketing stunts to woo him to their airports.
In San Francisco, a Judy Garland look-alike, drag queens and a tall blond in Virgin-red surfer trunks met his development team upon landing. (Here’s a snapshot of the political firepower, celebrities and stunts a city like SF will call upon to win a new airline and new jobs.)
On the other coast, Boston sent over live lobsters outfitted with Virgin luggage tags. Oh, and offered $1.5 million for employee training.
“Being able to brand with Virgin is important for Boston because it could change perceptions of old revolutionary Boston and show we are cutting-edge … which is very valuable for us,” said Susan Elsbree, spokesman for the Boston Redevelopment Corp.
Northern Virginia is on the list as well, but they’re being close-lipped about their strategy.
How has Virgin USA reacted to all this attention? “We didn’t have expectations of a dog and pony show,” admits Antonio Hofbauer, corporate development manager for Virgin USA. “We have been surprised by the level of activity and the efforts from different agencies and politicians.”
In case you’re wondering how Richard Branson remains so creative and energetic, here’s a recent Fortune article chronicling a few days of his life (sub. req.).
The new Yankelovich Youth survey is out today. Its’ assessment of “Echo Boomers” – kids aged 12-17 – reveals that their trust of advertising in all formats is declining.
Especially intriguing, considering this group’s daily use of electronic media and connected appliances like PDAs and text pagers, is the finding that “echo boomers” trust internet ads the least (18%, down from 25% in 1999).
“This generation is about authenticity, authorship, and autonomy,” [Yankelovich Senior Partner] Clurman said. “They want to customize and to have a non-passive media experience.”
MediaPost speculates that invasive internet advertising, like pop-ups and pop-unders, may be to blame.
Maybe its just lame advertising campaigns, poorly laid-out, poorly targeted and poorly delivered.
In a recent Revolution, a “master class” dealt with the details of planning an online advertising campaign. Adam Freeman, head of commercial development at Guardian Unlimited, noted that advertisers really haven’t caught on to the potential of their new “Surround Sessions” advertising format, which provides advertisers with total control of an individual visit, rather than a CPM rate.
“I thought advertisers would want to build a sequential message with different levels, using different creatives as they followed the user through a session. But most have gone for repeating the same message several times or they try to control the user’s time and environment …”
The key to online marketing isn’t irritating software solutions, rich media presentations or suspicious come-ons: it’s effective planning. Just like any marketing plan, your product has to be presented to the customer through retail, online, and direct mail advertising. And it has to be backed up by well-coordinated public relations efforts.
Guardian Unlimited recognizes that agencies and suppliers need to push for better planning and implementation: “…The onus is on us to give advertisers and agencies an understanding of our audience, and the value of what we deliver for them. We want them to value it properly and appreciate it. And if they do, they should be happy to pay for it,” he adds.
Do you want further proof? Micky Pant pushed the Terry Tate viral ad and movie campaign for Reebok. Terry, the “office linebacker,” generated a lot of online and offline buzz, including over 20 million downloads. But, as Ad Age pointed out, sales are driven by more than online promotions:
Reebok International’s “Terry Tate, office linebacker” campaign, lauded for its sharp humor, in the last year has become a pop-culture phenomenon. But as a sales catalyst, Terry Tate seems to be as flat as the office workers he leaves in his wake. Instead of the office enforcer, it’s Reebok’s real-life endorsers driving shoe sales. “[Terry Tate] is a funny campaign,” said one VP of franchises for an athletic-shoe store chain. “But Jay-Z and 50 Cent sold the sneakers.”
As they might say in the grocery business, 7 – Eleven owns the “high-margin, high inventory turnover retail institution” corner of the market.
Which means it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the world’s largest convenience store chain is jumping on the Atkins trendwagon. Concerned about your weight – but not quite concerned enough to make sensible choices when shopping at the grocery store? Stop at 7 – Eleven for Atkins Bakery bread, Atkins Crunchers chips, Morning Start bars, and Advantage meal replacement bars and shakes.
“Atkins is long past being a fad,” said Kenneth Fries, 7-Eleven category manager for snacks. “What first was considered a fad and then a trend has now crossed over to become a lifestyle for millions of people. An estimated 25-30 million are following some kind of low-carb weight-management program. Fortunately, now you can have your cake and bread, and eat it too.”
That’s right – the spokesman for the new Atkins menu is called Fries.
But the Atkins diet isn’t just causing heart palpitations among convenience store marketers – imagine the stress over at the American Institute of Baking! People just aren’t buying rye, hot cross buns, wonder bread, croissants or bagels anymore. The most recent Fortune discusses the impact of the new low-carb diets on everyone’s favourite sandwich component: After peaking at 147 pounds per person in 1997, U.S. consumption of wheat flour fell to about 137 pounds last year. Bread baskets in restaurants across the U.S. remain unmolested.
But what can stop this decline? Milk, pork, beef have their tag lines. Radio, print, outdoor and TV campaigns remind you to pick some up on your way home, as part of a balanced diet. The industry is worried enough that they recently convened the first meeting of the National Bread Leadership Council.
Their first strategy has been to work along some tried-and-true public relations principles. Perhaps a catchy tag line would bring people back to
bread, an audience member suggests. “We’re on that. We have ‘Whole grains at every meal,’ ” replies Kirk O’Donnell of the American Institute of Baking. Mmmm! Crunchy bread! Maybe with some muesli and yogurt!
The NBLC also released a survey that revealed a majority of Americans have
negative impressions of the Atkins diet and the impact of carbs in your diet.
They’ve simply got to correct the “crisis of consumer misperception,” as one NBLC spokeswoman puts it. Ah. The old “let me speak slowly so you’ll understand me” gambit. Always proven to shift consumer opinion and preferences.
Who immediately comes to mind when you think of bread products? Fred the Baker, sweating over a tray of glazed treats at your local Dunkin Donuts (retired, by the way)? Betty Crocker? Aunt Jemima? Hmm. A perception problem definitely exists.
Maybe the bread industry should confront this challenge with a combination of marketing, public relations and old-fashioned hucksterism. After all, 7 – Eleven isn’t facing down an industry-rattling change in consumer attitudes. They’re being opportunistic, seizing onto an opportunity to establish a position in a lucrative niche market. And they’ve done it by identifying products and tastes that would appeal to their traditional clientele.
Really, this is an old lesson. How did the Kellogg’s convince thousands to eat the baked corn flakes they developed at their health retreat? The first impulse to market was demand from customers – then they built demand among the wider population through gimmicks, public relations and old-fashioned marketing.
Subway has recognized the challenge as well. They’ve spent years convincing North Americans that submarine sandwiches full of processed meats are “healthy foods,” but I was a little surprised to see their recent ads for Atkins Wraps. Other companies are preparing Atkins Bakery Bread, and low-carb desserts. One ingenious entrepreneur even marketed low-carb, low-fat doughnuts (he’s going to jail now).
How’s bread holding up? “We don’t promote ourselves as well as the beef and dairy folks,” says O’Donnell later on in the hallway. “It bothers me a little.” (In case you didn’t notice, November was National Bread Month.)
Update: Seth Godin just published an anecdote about meeting up with an Atkins devotee at a grocery store – who didn’t pick up the Atkins chips because they had too many carbs. He notes that the power of the idea – that carbs are bad – in this case outweighed even the influence of the Atkins advertising wave.
The Advisory Committee’s finalized the marketing plan. You’ve finished the design and production on the new graphic identity and are ready to jump into the rejeuvenation of the Santa Claus, Inc. brand.
Your first stop? An international trade show, of course. But is your marketing team ready? Have you picked the right people to staff the booth? Do they have past experience with trade shows? Do they know how to “work the crowd”?
Many first-time exhibitors work with an experienced contractor; someone who knows how to sweat the details of working in a high-pressure and time-sensitive environment like the Javits Convention Center.
At Santa Claus, Inc., our trade show activities require special preparation. Here are some handy hints:
1) The union considers the sleigh a movable booth, and as such, additional fees will be imposed.
2) The sleigh can’t be pulled by your normal reindeer – instead, you must hire union reindeer at $325 an hour. No less than 14 union reindeer at any time, minimum of 4 hours work per. Of course, only eight of them will actually be working at one time, so you have to book additional booth space for a “grazing
3) While other companies will be handing out pens, mousepads and stress balls, remember that the handing out of any “presents” in any form will be considered distributing, and you must apply for exemption from the event sponsors – and getting that idea by the Disney folks will be impossible.
4) Cookies and milk will no longer be left out for visitors – instead, you need to fill out a purchase request from the trade show’s authorized caterer. They are $36 a dozen, and taste like sawdust (so the reindeer will like them).
5) Be careful about what promo material you bring. Any presents left unclaimed and out in the open will be inspected by police and may be destroyed. We lost 2500 Tickle Me Elmos that way last year.
6) Dress appropriately. There are many stairs, steps, and backstage hallways – you might be advised to wear comfortable shoes, based on your weight. For the Elves, this means support hose with the padded feet.
7) Commuting from the North Pole is a non-starter, even with the sleigh. Since Santa, the Chief Elf and the marketing Advisory Council will want to hit the hospitality suites every night, you will have to stay at the trade show overnight. You might consider taking a room at a local hotel. Use the code “SNTCLS” for conference rate – which is only 125% of the rack rate.
8) Look around you. Look at the guy at the workbench next to you, sewing the Strawberry Shortcake doll together. Is that elf really a “people person”? Are any of them? Consider hiring special trade show “models” who can smile for hours on end. They also get paid less than elf scale.
Thanks to Peter Shankman for his work on this!
Memo: To all Regional Managers
Issue: Recent Incidents involving Seasonal Character Hires
As you may be aware, some stores in the chain have recently suffered embarassing public relations incidents because of poor hiring decisions – particularly in the selection of Santa and associated Elf characters.
In the Texas region, a part-time Santa recently decided to ride the bucking ronco brought in as part of a cross-promotion with a local country radio station. While there were no injuries – among store patrons – the store’s lifesize Nativity Scene now only has two wise men and Joseph looks remarkably like last fall’s standalone pop-up for Tiger Woods-brand clothing.
In upstate New York, our seasonal Santa met some overly friendly “elves” at the “gentleman’s club” next to the mall. After a free lunch and some extended imbibing, our seasonal hire drove the young ladies home in a “borrowed” service van from the appliance department. 35 mail boxes and a deer later, he was arrested.
Once again, let me remind you of the personality traits and behaviour we expect from our key seasonal Character, Santa:
Guidelines for portraying Santa Claus
Jolly, not sarcastic
Friendly, not saucy and suggestive
Engaging, not overly touchy-feely
Chipper, not liquored-up
Red velvet hat with white cotton or fur ball
Red velvet coat with white trim and cuffs, not red velvet coat with biker colours
White shirts, not mesh shirts
Red velvet pants, not leather pants
Black boots, not cuban heeled boots
“Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!”
“And what is your name, little boy/girl?”
“What would you like me to leave under the tree this year?”
Santa does not say:
“Ho Ho Ho! Daddy’s Home!”
“And what is your name, mommy?”
“How ’bout I make a special delivery?”
Santa’s helper is:
Dressed like an Elf
Santa’s helper is not:
Dressed like a Santa Groupie
When leaving the Display Area, Santa says:
“Pardon me, kids! I’ve got to check on the reindeer”
“I think Mrs. Claus has my coffee ready.”
“I have to go check my list for who’s naughty and nice.”
When leaving the Display Area, Santa does not say:
“Watch out kids! The Sleigh’s double parked and Santa doesn’t want another ticket!”
“Excuse me kids! I’ve gotta shake the weasel!”
“Me and the Elf have some important business to discuss.”
Please remember these guidelines when hiring Seasonal Characters.
A/National Manager, Cross-Platform Marketing
Let’s face it – it’s not easy being the embodiment of all that is good and merry about the world. You spend all year in the freezing cold, surrounded by elves, pushed by SuperToy conglomerates to come up with faster and better toys, and then you get grief because you can’t find My Little Pony nderpants. And that’s just the presents for the adults.
No, it’s not an easy job, whether you’re the real Santa Claus or one of his earthbound minions, chosen to spread his festive spirit for $5.30 an hour throughout the shopping malls, street corners and office parties of the world.
And there are many, many ways you could screw it up. Without deep concentration and careful planning, you can easily slip from the Guy in Charge of All that is Good in the World, to That Scary Fat Guy in the Red Suit who Ruined Christmas. That wouldn’t be good.
So, without further ado, we present: PR For Santa: The Basics, written by Andrew McKay.
1. Don’t forget your roots
Sure, the “I’m from the North Pole” shtick may work when working the bar at the Holiday Inn Express, but you can easily be exposed by deeper questioning if you don’t have your facts straight.
So here’s the scoop: you represent St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, travelers, bakers, merchants, and most importantly, children. Santa was born in Asia Minor eighteen centuries ago. He went through torture and imprisonment, and yet, was responsible for giving gifts to all the children of the region of Myra, right up until his death. Think of that the next time a screaming kid tries to return a lame Batmobile kit.
2. Don’t dis the sled
You’ve been given the greatest vehicle in the world: a two-seater sled that can fit enough presents for every boy and girl in the world. Think of it as a car with the style of a Bentley, but the storage capacity of a Hummer. Without the sled, you’re nothing. Sure, the Salvation Army uses a U.S. National Guard C-130 to distribute toys and packages to the villages of Alaska. But you know they’d use the sled if they could. Like General Lee and her welded doors, you sacrifice some comfort for prestige.
3. Don’t get caught up in Conduct Unbecoming to Santa
You’re the giver of happiness, the best toymaker in the world, and you enjoy a nice rack of reindeer ribs like everyone else. That ought to be enough. There’s no need to risk it all in the pursuit of insane leisure activities, like the Santa impostor who practices his chimney descents by rappelling down North Carolina’s 315-foot Chimney Rock in his full red suit. Sure, it makes for a
great photo op, but it leaves no time for wish lists – talk about mixed messaging for the average seven year-old!
4. Be careful about your posse
You’d think this one would be fairly obvious – maybe Santa’s been scarred by partnerships,
co-branded promotions and marketing agreements before. What’s Santa’s favourite drink? Coke? Next time you’re doing a drop-by at the mall, consider this: exactly where did the marketing company pick up the help? It’s difficult to think of a better way to permanently scar a child than to have an errant elf run amuck while she’s describing which Bratz doll to pick up at Wal-Mart.
5. Remember Your Basic Values: “Good”, not “Evil.”
Because people expect you to slip into their houses and eat their food, it might be tempting to think you can ignore the laws of the land. I mean, $15.95 for a picture with Santa? Basic news searches will also show you that Santa seems to be a close second to Richard Nixon as the preferred disguise of bank robbers.
We can only assume that these larcenous Santas had stolen their suits off one of Santa’s apprentices, but the fact remains that you can never be tempted by the fruits of The Suit.
6. Make sure the facts are correct
You must know about NORAD’s Santa Tracker, which follows the Great One himself as he traverses the globe. It’s a nice effort, but it wouldn’t have been necessary if someone had actually checked a phone number. A Colorado newspaper misprinted the Santa Hotline phone number, and dozens of children started calling what was then known as the Continental Air Defense Command command center.
Fortunately, the good folks there tinkered with their radar until they could actually detect Santa and his reindeer taking off from the North Pole, but it’s a risk you don’t want to take with your valuable brand extension test in the carefully selected MidWestern city.
7. Don’t believe the hype
To many, your arrival is a bright spot as the cold winter months approach. Don’t push it. You have a foundation of trust and respect, built through years of hard work. While there will always be skeptics, don’t assume that your hard earned rep will cover every indiscretion.
In a concept no doubt inspired by considerable amounts of beer, a Scotland town held a “Santa Idol” competition this year, putting prospective Santas through a rigorous audition process in the style of the successful TV program. Donald Baxter, 68, won the right to be Santa at Tourist Information Centres in Dundee and Arbroath.
“Some of the Santas were excellent, although I think there were one or two iffy ones to be honest,” said one of the judges.
8. Mind your “Ps and Qs”
Sure, it’s hard to go wrong when you’re Santa. You can kiss strange children and ask single mothers their age. But there are some boundaries you just shouldn’t cross.
Take, for example, a recent “Santa Claus of the Year” contest in Finland. Five contestants showed up, which is embarrassing enough. One brought a gift bag of his own paintings – nude portraits. Another gave the organizer an overly enthusiastic hug, squeezing her ” in some of the wrong places.”
The competition also included a contest to see how many children could fit into each Santa’s lap at the same time. That’s wrong on so many levels, we’re pretty sure we don’t need to go over them here.
9. Don’t dis the help
Sure, it’s hard being Jolly St. Nick, squeezing through chimneys, and keeping that damn smile on your face. But you can never forget the little people who got you there, the poor folk responsible for reindeer maintenance. Think it’s an easy job? Think again.
Apparently, reindeer herding is the most dangerous job in Sweden. There were 150 deaths on the job between 1961 and 2000, said Per Sjoelander, one of the authors of “Fatal Accidents and Suicide Among Reindeer Herding Samis in Sweden.” The number of deaths was more than twice that for farmers and more than three times the total for construction workers during the same period.
Remember THAT the next time you lift your heaving gut into the sled.
10. Protect the corporate image
People get lazy. It’s a busy time of year, the production lines are humming, the elves are trying to figure out exactly how Elmo learned the “limbo.” You don’t have the time to track your key messaging, support the new brand and protect the corporate image. What happens with all these distractions? A scandal like “Elf.”
In just over 90 minutes, one movie sums up everything that can go wrong when you don’t pay attention to your image.
Consider this: you’ve got a human elf, who is raised at the North Pole because Santa supposedly didn’t see him sneak into The Big Red Bag. Then you’ve got elves mocking him (and displaying positively un-elflike behavior), just because he’s 6-foot-five. He’s wearing yellow tights, when the corporate Elf manual explicitly specifies red leggings. And the climax of the movie insists that Christmas spirit and carefully-herded reindeer aren’t enough to drive the sled; you also need a turbo-boosted engine that only the fake elf can fix.
What’s that mean for Santa? A visit from Child Services, possible ISO 9000 violations because of the tights, and a suit from the FTC because your 1/18
souvenir models of the sled do not reflect reality.
Throughout “Elf”, Bob Newhart has a look that says “I had a good career, worked hard, had two hit shows – how the hell did I end up HERE?” The same thing could happen to you if you’re not entirely vigilant every time you don The Suit.