For many marketers, Santa is the star this time of year. He is a powerful icon that can evoke memories, generate emotion, attract crowds, and even inspire shoppers to spend more. And, for that reason, we see him everywhere. On TV, in ads, at the mall, and even at the airport, yes the airport.
While en route to my gate for a business trip, I came across the big man himself. Even as an adult, seeing Santa Claus in the flesh is exciting, and I was immediately intrigued. As I approached, I realized he was helping to promote Microsoft Windows, who had partnered with Southwest Airlines to offer free pictures with Santa as part of their Picture Perfect Holidays campaign. Though hesitant to invest time in the promotion, I jumped at the chance to meet Old Saint Nick and get my picture taken.
Overall, it was a fun and nonintrusive way to engage with the brand. Santa’s “helpers” were fast and efficient (which was essential; I had to board in 10 minutes). They showed me the value of Windows’ photo software by demonstrating its capabilities using my very own photos with Santa. I was then politely asked to checkin on Facebook and emailed my photos (an email they assured me would not lead to SPAM). Though the experience was not aggressively branded or pushy, the subsequent email provided me with some fun ways to play with my pictures, create greeting cards, and get more hands on with the Microsoft Windows software.
I enjoyed this experience very much, but would it have caught my eye if it had not been for Santa? If it had been in the mall? Or if there had been a line? Maybe not. But, the promotion was fun and effective because it leveraged Santa in an unexpected place, acknowledged the limitations of the environment and used them to their advantage by providing a quick holiday fix for those in a place often known to be stressful during the holidays. For me, it was one of the more memorable airport and holiday experiences I have had in years.