Brand Advisory: Fat Santa Remains a Bad Role Model and Brand for our Children!

Brand Advisory

The Marketing Doctor says:

Fat Santa Remains a Bad Role Model and Brand for our Children!

Parents must help Santa with a healthy brandover.

Folks, here’s a sobering “statistic”: If Santa eats one cookie for every child in the U.S.A., he’ll gain 3.7 million pounds in one night!

Why does this matter?  With approximately 16 percent of children ages 2 to 19 considered obese in the United States today, an obese Santa is the wrong brand choice.

Santa needs some tough love.  I’m sure some people in the peanut gallery are saying: Tantillo, what are you talking about?  Santa has to be fat. Wrong.  Santa can be plump and huggable, but he shouldn’t be a walking heart attack.  And besides, being fat isn’t a Santa brand essential.  Being caring and generous are essentials.  But what’s caring or generous about leading kids down the fast track to diabetes?  No thanks, Santa. 

Santa is not Santa because he is fat.  His fatness is an exterior quality that comes from its old-time association with generosity and abundance.  That’s right: a hundred years ago people could be “fat and happy,” because being thin was associated with negative realities: poverty, starvation and illness.

But today, fat just doesn’t have these connotations, since we all know that it leads to negative medical consequences.

Moreover, Santa’s exterior is the result of artistic and marketing decisions made long ago. 

The rotund image of Santa Claus that we know today has its beginning in the 19th century with a Civil War cartoonist, Thomas Nast, who modeled his Santa on the robber barons of his time.  Wealthy men in those days were overweight because they could afford to eat as much as they wanted with little consequence.  Nast sought to change St. Nicholas and created the image of an obese gift giver who would bestow gifts on children in need.  Later, in an effort to increase winter drinking of its product, Coca Cola managed to standardize Santa’s red and white outfit (to match its own brand’s colors).

Last year, I took to the airwaves to help Santa see the hard truth about his waistline (see that story here).  But take a look around at Santa in our shopping malls, town parades and in the media. He has not lost an ounce this year!   

This is a brand in trouble.  A brand that is not in touch with the needs of its Target Market is at risk to fail; and by not acknowledging the obesity epidemic, Santa is out of touch with his Target Market’s needs.  With new reports out this month showing that a good percent of obese children have the same thickened arteries of a 45-year-old, we need to get more serious about educating them in health and eating habits.

As one of children’s most prominent role models, Santa has got to think about the message he is sending by constantly giving in to the whims of his stomach and Mrs. Claus’ dangerous overfeedings.

I’m not calling for Santa to develop an eating disorder or to start working on a six-pack, but some tough love is in order to assist with a healthful brandover.

As you know, I’m an advocate of brand changes coming from the brand itself, but in this case, change can start with parents.  Parents can sit down with their children to discuss why Santa is physically challenged and educate them on the importance of proper nutrition and exercise.

Parents should make this a fun activity for their children by preparing a plate of healthful snacks for Santa, rather than the traditional cookies and milk.  As I said above, if Santa eats just one cookie for every child he delivers a gift to in the U.S.A., he will gain 3.7 million pounds in just one night!  But if he were to substitute carrot sticks, the weight gain would be insignificant.  Celery, and he would actually lose weight!

Hopefully, Santa will get the message and begin to start making the necessary changes himself.

Those of us advocating a thinner Santa are not being Scrooges.  Santa remains an iconic figure to our children and needs to step up to the healthful plate for their benefit.  If parents have to egg him on this year to lose a few pounds, so be it.

And remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


Sometimes even brand icons have to make adjustments to stay relevant and positive to their Target Market.


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  • 1/6/2009 12:56 AM Play omaha poker online wrote:
    I think this one is an interesting and unique concept regarding to Santa clause. Initially I was very upset with the article as it was against the messenger of happiness(santa), but later i realized that it was making sense
    Reply to this

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