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Father Christmas

The latest in our series of unlikely business gurus

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As a business plan, it sounds terrible: site your manufacturing plant and company headquarters in the North Pole, deliver goods to customers on only one day of the year (via a vehicle powered entirely by reindeer) and then don't charge for anything. Try that one on Dragons' Den and count the seconds before they all say, "I'm out."

However, as we all know, the chairman and CEO of this particular business, Mr S Claus, is possibly the greatest marketing genius in history (yes, Mr S Jobs, even better than you). The annual global spend on marketing his image is immense, but his company incurs none of these costs. This man knows the power of advocacy. As other companies rush to the online world to get influential bloggers, tweeters and social networkers to mention their goods and services in a positive light, Santa has been getting others to sing his praises for generations.

His home delivery service too, although unconventional, is light years ahead of the competition. Since deliveries are only made at night, there's no chance of the customer being out at the shops when he arrives. Plus he's happy to use the chimney in the event of the front door being locked. Never once has anybody woken on Christmas morning to find a card on the mat reading, "Sorry you were out." It's also a very green service, as the only emissions from the transport are reindeer poo.

For the customer it seems like a great deal. The price of the joy on children's faces come Christmas morning is small: a glass of something to drink for Santa and a mince pie, and possibly a carrot for the reindeer. We finish with his slogan, which has stood the test of time longer than almost any other in advertising history: "Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!"

Jimi Hendrix, Gandalf... learn more business tips from our series of unlikely gurus.

Derek Harbinson

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