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Advertising Lessons From Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special

Updated on February 13, 2019
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

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My absolute favorite Christmas special is the Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stop motion animation TV special from 1964. Watch it every year. In fact, I've watched it every year since the very first telecast. Hard to believe that it celebrated its 50th anniversary!

Know I'm showing my age here, but I remember watching it that first year on a big, couch-sized black and white TV console with my dad. The Abominable Snowman was pretty scary back then, but I was glad Yukon Cornelius was able to rehab him.

The special is loaded with life lessons on acceptance, friendship and blazing one's own trail. But there are some underlying themes that apply to the world of marketing and advertising, too. Later in the post, take a look at the advertising that supported the original airing of the special. Cue the time travel music to head back to 1964...

Misfit or Best Fit Advertising?

One of the most adorable segments of the special is the Island of Misfit Toys. Kind of like a benevolent landfill for toys that no one plays with. I never could figure out why the little girl doll was a misfit.

Advertising Lesson: I always thought the charming and unusual Misfit Toys were kind of cool. Agree? Anyway, an imperfect advertisement or promotion for one group, may be perfect for another. All depends on the target marketing demographic and the objectives for the ad campaign.

You Might Need Some Help

So the Island of Misfit Toys' King Moonraiser's got the goods, but Santa needs to match 'em up with the right kids. Rudolph's got the hookup. Sounds like a perfect networking referral.

Maybe you need some friends who can help you achieve your sales and marketing goals, too. Help could come in the form of co-op advertising programs. Or maybe hiring outside experts and consultants can give you the perspective you need to see new opportunities.

Take a look at the original 1964 ads and promos that supported the special. Though I can't imagine sportin' a hair dryer like that and not too sure hubby would appreciate the electric knife as suggested, notice how GE completely integrated the special they sponsored into their advertising.

Advertising Lesson: Look for ways to integrate marketing efforts to benefit everyone in the equation—customers, content creators and sponsors.

Reforming and Repurposing

Poor Abominable Snowman. Big, hairy and, thanks to some genius dental work, toothless. So now what should he do? Thanks to Yukon Cornelius he now has the new job of topping the tree without a ladder. The short little elves gotta love that!

Got some products or services that are now longer serving a useful purpose? Got some "elf" markets that could use some of these offerings if they were revised a bit? Why reinvent when you can repurpose?

Advertising Lesson: Markets change and dry up. Measure advertising programs continuously to identify trends. Analyze if there are under-served markets that could utilize the company's offerings with minimal investment in repurposing. And always be looking to create "evergreen" offerings that have longer product life cycles.

Going Down in History...

What is your favorite Christmas special?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne

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