Santa Claus the business model

Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Sinterklass – whatever you call him, he’s recognised around the world as perhaps the ultimate Christmas brand ambassador.

But did you know that Santa is also a great business case study, offering a wealth of takeaways for business leaders?

Here five professors from NUS Business School unwrap some of the top business lessons from Santa.

Build success through collaboration
Associate Professor Thompson Teo of Decision Sciences

The 12 Business Lessons of Christmas:
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Delivering presents to millions of children around the world in just one night means Santa’s delivery operation depends on pinpoint timing and accuracy. But of course Santa doesn’t just work one day of the year.His operation is year round – as soon as one Christmas is done it’s time to start preparing and planning for the next one.

All of this depends on effective collaboration, both between and within every department in Santa’s Workshop.

For example, Santa’s marketing and customer relations department receives all the Christmas wishlists and needs to work closely with gift design and purchasing departments to ensure enough gifts are ready for delivery and to the correct specifications.

Then there is logistics management who must plan out the route for the sleigh, work with reindeer operations to ensure peak fitness of the fleet, and obtain clearance for the sleigh from air traffic control authorities around the world.

All told it’s a remarkably slick operation that works without fail every year.

Keep your delivery promises
Associate Professor Tan Soo Jiuan of Marketing

lettersSanta’s business proposition is built around one key promise: ensuring Christmas stockings are filled every Christmas eve. Have you ever known Santa to fail to deliver on that promise? The very idea is unthinkable!

Santa keeps his place in our hearts because he always lives up to what he promises – it’s a lesson that goes to the heart of successful business: if you promise to do something, make sure you do it.

Santa lives up to his promises because he puts a premium on customer satisfaction.By keeping his customers happy, he maintains a stellar brand reputation that endures from generation to generation. As children grow into adults and have their own children, Santa remains the go-to choice for all present requests. And it’s all because Santa lives up to his business promise.

Strong teams are built on diversity
Associate Professor Marleen Dieleman of Strategy & Policy

diversityOne of the key teams in Santa’s business operation is his herd of reindeer. They may only be used once a year, but their reliability is essential. After all, it’s no use spending all year making millions of presents if you can’t get them delivered on time!

But while you might think all reindeer are alike, the reason Santa’s team of sleigh-pullers work so well is because they are all quite different with different talents. Rudolph, for example, is well known for his shiny red nose. It is so bright – you could even say it glows – that it’s used to guide the sleigh though foggy winter weather. Less well-known is that Donner is an expert navigator – a very useful talent for running an efficient delivery operation. And Dasher is in fact a turbo-charged reindeer – a great talent for giving the sleigh that extra push when battling strong headwinds.

I could go on, but some of the reindeer talents are closely-guarded corporate secrets. Suffice to say that employing diverse teams is fundamental to Santa’s continued success and dependability.

Love what you do
Assistant Professor Fang Ruolian of Management & Organisation

Can you imagine a better fit between personality and job than Santa Claus? It’s like he was born to do the job and obviously loves what he does. In fact it’s one of the keys to his success as business.

Santa’s enthusiasm is infectious and the reason why he has built such a loyal following over the years and across generations. He spends time getting to know his customers in his grotto, learning what they want for Christmas, and then goes the extra mile to see that their wishes are met; all the time accompanied by a jolly “ho, ho, ho!”.

By loving what he does Santa has built a seamless integration between his personality, his brand and his business.

Keep ahead of a changing market
Assistant Professor Amit Jain of Strategy & Policy

Delivering presents might sound like a way to win anyone’s heart. But Santa hasn’t got where he is today by simply rolling out the same trick every year. In fact he’s a model innovator who keeps his brand on top by staying constantly ahead of the game.

He knows that tastes change and that moving with the times is key to keeping his customers happy. For example, once upon a time you had to send a letter to Santa or line up to visit him in his grotto at the local mall – now you can email or even tweet him. Likewise Santa has adapted his delivery methods now that very few of us have chimneys – formerly the favoured method for gift delivery.

It’s all part of continuous innovation that has made Santa such an enduring part of the Christmas period.

This article first appeared in the TODAY newspaper on December 21, 2015

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