Laura Petrolino

How Santa Uses the PESO Model to Own Christmas

By: Laura Petrolino | December 23, 2019 | 
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How Santa Uses The PESO Model to Own ChristmasFull disclosure: I’m only writing this post so I can move to the top of the nice list.

Santa’s Secret: The PESO Model

Santa is arguably one of the best known public figures on the planet.

Maybe even the universe! Martians need holiday cheer, too.

The fact that he leaves gifts at people’s homes definitely helps endear him to the masses.

However, I’m pretty sure there are very few other people you’d be OK with landing on your roof in the middle of the night with a bunch of elves and reindeer, coming down your chimney, judging your worthiness, and then helping himself to cookies and milk.

We don’t think twice about this annual ritual.

And that is a direct result of years of consistent and powerful messaging, and a top-notch PESO model communications strategy.

So, what can you learn from this jolly ol’ man?

Well, you better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout—because I’m going to tell you why Santa Claus is such an amazing communications pro!

Consistent Branding Across All Media Types

When anyone thinks of “Santa,” they picture a jolly, chubby man, with a thick white beard in his signature red and white uniform.

You see the suit without anyone in it and think Santa.

Catch a glimpse of a reindeer or elves and think Santa.

Hear about the North Pole and think…Santa.

Santa has created such a strong brand, one would be hard-pressed to do, see, hear, taste, or smell almost anything (non-traditionally religious) having to do with Christmas and not connect to Santa Claus in some way.

Takeaway: It’s no surprise to any communications professional that consistent branding is vital to success. Santa goes one step further by creating a completely comprehensive multi-sensory brand across all form media types in the PESO model:

  • visual in the colors, uniform, and overall image of Santa himself
  • content-driven, and clear in the words used to describe him, the song lyrics about him, and the language he uses (can I get a “Ho, ho, ho?!”)
  • defined in traditional holiday smells—hot chocolate, cookies, peppermint
  • auditory and present in endless holiday songs
  • supported by associations such as reindeer, elves, decorations, sleighs, even presents themselves.

Does your brand reach customers through that many different touchpoints?

Can you extend it and remain consistent and on message?

Transmedia Superstar

I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Santa created transmedia storytelling.

He is online, offline, in malls, in front of stores, in parades, movies, and music.

He’s part of events ranging from races to plays, to charity events, and a frequent visitor to holiday parties across the globe.

You can dress as Santa, buy Santa stuffed toys or action figures, email him, and follow his Christmas Eve journey through multiple different platforms.

And no matter where the story is told, it still maintains that sense of consistent branding and storyline.

Takeaway: The word transmedia often feels intimidating, but take inspiration from the many simple ways Santa’s story transcends across multiple platforms.

Use your buyer personas and market research to layout where your consumer goes for information.

Are you telling your story on those platforms?

If not, how can you extend it farther and integrate them into what you are already doing?

Master Community Builder

His story, the buzz and excitement it generates, and the annual build-up of anticipation and wonder creates a community around mutual participation in a tradition.

It helps connect many different people with distinct backgrounds and cultures.

When you really look at the power of this story to form and perpetuate community, it’s absolutely amazing…and inspiring.

And even better, the story sparked the community, but the community is what continues to fuel the story.

Santa doesn’t see community as just existing in shared media but extends and integrates it through the entire PESO model.

In addition, he gets everyone involved in some way.

Making all of us part of the story in an active and intimate level.

And while children obviously play a very important role, the role he puts adults in (who are the true perpetrators of the Santa brand itself) is even more strategic.

We aren’t going to go into the details of this one since it’s rather…um…confidential.

But I’m fairly certain every parent or caretaker who has spent many a long Christmas eve with eggnog, a sheet of construction directions (most likely written only in Japanese), and several mysterious extra parts understands what I’m talking about here.

Takeaway: How do you pull your consumer into your organization? Is your story focus on “us” or on “we”? And most importantly how do you back that up through actions and engagement?

Stockings Full of Strategy

Santa obviously does a lot right when it comes to a PESO-model communications strategy.

He does a lot wrong as well, but this girl doesn’t want coal (although I would advise him to buy our Communicator’s Playbook for a little touch-up).

As you are looking over your 2020 communications plans and joining us in the 30-Day Communications Challenge, ask yourself: Would Santa hire you as his CMO?

I think this is the ultimate question for every communicator to judge themselves by.

If not, you need to go back to the drawing board with some eggnog, cookies, and a good dose of holiday songs, and rethink your PESO model-driven strategy.

Happy Holidays from Spin Sucks

We wouldn’t want to be doing this communications game with elves others than all of you.

Thanks for another year of growing, learning, and making our profession better.

We can’t wait to launch the new decade with all of you by our side.

From all of us to all of you, have a wonderful holiday and here’s to 2020!

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.