As the holiday season approaches, it is worth considering how that great mainstay of Christmas cheer, Santa Inc, has managed to maintain its stellar reputation after literally decades at the top. Seen through the prism of the nine drivers of Authenticity, is this so surprising?
Let’s look first at Management Behaviours. Evidently, handing out gifts to deserving children around the world every year is the very definition of ‘Doing Right’, and having the same CEO for a century plus (especially when the average Fortune 500 CEO tenure is a couple of years), helps hugely with ‘Consistent Performance’. Expectations are high, obviously, but the customer experience seems to be good, year after year. Communications is also credible. Not that frequent, perhaps, but very believable.
What about Customer Benefits? There couldn’t be ‘better value’ for all those kids getting free presents (although some parents may query this), and the ‘customer care’ is exemplary, not least because it both reliable and invisible. As for ‘innovation’, well those elves just keep churning out new products, even if the wrapping and method of delivery have remained pretty constant over the years.
Finally, how well does Santa Inc do in the important area of Society Outcomes? Probably best not to dwell too much on the subject of reindeer emissions but there are only nine of them(including Rudolph) and he only drives the sled once a year. Production methods at the North Pole are pretty green (and a rather pretty red, silver and gold too), so ‘care for the environment’ seems fairly nailed down. Also, all the happiness brought by Santa Inc every year has a wonderful community impact. Which brings us, lastly, to ‘employee care’. I’d be the first to admit that information on elf working conditions is hard to come by, and the Santa Inc labour does not seem to be unionised, but a hundred years without industrial unrest must count for something.
So, despite some confused branding (Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Saint Nick….), there is no doubt that Santa Inc remains the very definition of an Authentic company, building genuine authentic engagement with demanding customers around the world. An inspiration to us all.
Nick Andrews is FleishmanHillard’s Reputation Practice Leader for EMEA. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.