Well, I managed to avoid the ubiquitous “year-end” and “best-of” postings that have inundated blogs and inboxes for the past week. Gosh, it was tempting. I’ve been polishing up on my snark and sneer, just for such an occasion.


Instead, I’ve been busy doing nothing and hitting some museums. There’s a lot to learn for a marketer there. I’ve also been hanging out with my nephews a lot over the holidays. They’re a cool bunch of lads (4 of them) and always a source of inspiration. There’s a lot to learn for a marketer when hanging out (not focus-grouping or video-taping) with a gaggle of kids.

So it was cool to read this story on Reveries titled “Santa Calling.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Given a choice between meeting Santa at the mall or chatting with him by telephone, more kids — and their parents — apparently are choosing the latter, reports Shaila Dewan in The New York Times. “She didn’t want to have anything to do with the big fat man,” says Cindy Richards, referring to her 3-year-old daughter’s response to a real, live, retail Santa Claus.

It was another reaction entirely when Santa rang her up by phone, however. Little Cassidy Richards “froze in giddy shock, the phone locked to her ear … ‘I love you Santa,’ she whispered.” For some kids, the experience is so riveting that it quells any growing doubts that Santa is not for real. For their parents, it’s a really neat way to avoid standing in line at the mall, only to find their children too terrified to say a word to Santa.

In fact, the conversation is just about guaranteed when Santa calls, because telephone Santas are fully briefed on what to say. Parents first fill out a questionnaire “about a child’s habits and achievements and other personal details.” So, when Santa calls, he not only knows what’s on the child’s wish list but also “the names of siblings, friends and teachers, favorite vacation spots and what was under the tree last year.

Santa can even be Mom and Dad’s little helper, breaking the news that a puppy just won’t fit in the sleigh or gently reminding youngsters to clean their rooms.” Some of these Santas add an extra touch of realism by asking “the child to hold while they scold Rudolph for coming into the house with wet hooves.” And because the kids can’t see these Santas, they can be younger and “more fluent in sports, cartoons and videogames.”


I love this story because it is as experiential as it gets. It reminds me of a chapter entry in Experience the Message, referring to the experiential services performed at Disney resorts.

“By customizing the experience, and by staging a series of them that speak directly to the individual consumer, companies can escape the me-too trap and begin delivering meaningful marketing experiences. “When you customize an experience, you automatically turn it into a transformation.”

If done right, a personal marketing experience will leave the consumer different from before. She would be delighted, touched or inspired. Their perception of the brand or company will be transformed, because she herself has somehow been transformed also.

A quick reference to the hotel industry can shed some light on the needs and successes of personal, customizable and highly experiential marketing tactics. For instance, the housekeeping staff at the Walt Disney hotels transforms a child’s stay into a special experience. Each day the staff will reposition a child’s toy – whether it was brought by the child or bought at the Disney store – throughout the room.

One day, a Mickey Mouse is seated in front of a television, with the channel set to the Disney Channel (of course). The next day, Mickey will be repositioned again, this time in the bathroom with a toothbrush nearby. Adults may understand that it’s the staff that’s doing this, but for the kids it’s nothing less than magical.”

When is marketing going to be magical again?

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