Hi. Mr. Bah-humbug here. Time for our annual conversation about the realities of Christmas.
Usually, I don’t remind people of these realities until closer to the date, but this morning having been beset by more than the usual number of ads, I felt compelled to make a few points and offer some counterpoint to the building groundswell of retailing madness which overtakes otherwise reasonable people about this time of year.
Fact #1: Christmas ain’t Jesus Birthday
At least, as near as I can tell, it’s an approximation/story which is at the core of a marketing campaign. If you can think like a quant, at least think like a marketer.
Religions are, at one level (and maybe several) marketing organizations. When the Christian Church moved from the eastern Med and started working its way up into the core of Europe, what was encountered were a lot of pre-existing religions, such as the Wicca (off toward France/England), the Druids, and the Nordics. And those Teutonic types.
In order to counter the influence of the pre-existing outfits, the market challenger (to put this is cold boardroom terms) needed a new campaign. The campaign would need to be an “all-inclusive” affair, too. Something that could take the existing market conditions (e.g. pre-existing religions) and usurp their power/hold on the target market.
Wiki “Yule” off in yon Wikipedia and you’ll find Ures truly SYN (sh*ts you not):
Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a religious festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later being absorbed into and equated with the Christian festival of Christmas. The earliest references to Yule are by way of indigenous Germanic month names (Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule). Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht.
The marketing view of this time of year would hold that the “Challenger usurped the positioning of the existing player, consolidated around key repositioning elements and capitalized on what was then New Media (choirs, chants, and so forth in Big Churhces) in order to gain a higher conversion factor.” Right, then.
I suppose it’s rude in here to point out that “conversion factor” is also equivalent to “sales conversions” in that each prospect (already owning a pre-existing belief product) ended up tithing oodles to the Challenger.
The bigger the hoopla around Christmas, the more conversions were there to be had by repositioning the existing ways as “backward,” “untrue,” and my favorite pejorative: “Pagan.”
Of course, not everyone “bought.”
In fact, when you think about it, the task of converting a million, or so, poor people in the countryside into large revenue streams is fairly daunting stuff. Especially when the tools are the Bible that’s been retooled countless times and (in 1582) the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar that replaced the Julian Calendar which has been adopted at the (First) Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Date magic.
Near as most historians have found, Christmas didn’t appear until the 4th century and became the marketing centerpiece for the Christian marketing in southeast Europe. Eventually, the stragglers, who might remember the “old ways” were singled out (and banished, killed or stake-fried) in the Inquisition.
Somewhere in here, one can observe that apparently, religions go through a zealous/marketing fervor some XXX number of years after their founding (and mass marketing program kick-off). Using this kind of marketing program “timing model” we can see how modern-day Islam is flexing its muscles in the same sort (and timing) way that Christianity did in Europe. Old with the old, in with the “new & improved” more “true” to roots, and so forth.
None of which is meant to offend, it’s just that when one becomes aware of the lengthy list of Mid Winter Solstice Festivals, one can observe that “consolidation marketing” is a brilliant strategy to employ along with a voluntary 10% tax.
This “voluntary 10% tithing/tax” is where the Western privacy with economic disclosure springs from: People would understate their wealth in order to pay less protection money/tithing. And they needed to keep their personal financial data quiet, lest they be accused of witchcraft or deceit.
Fact #2: Santa Has Been Hijacked; Why?
I won’t pretend to sit in judgment (“not my job”) on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of how the marketing campaign was carried out.
But I will tell you straight up that the festival theft included that shadowy fellow “Santa Claus” who seemed to behave in some bizarre habits. But he also couldn’t seem to read the calendar well, since he was moved from December 6 to December 25 – which means even the (early Christian) Santa was displaced almost three weeks to make the church marketing program (CMP) work better.
Once again, the hard reality of a Wikipedia entry must be dealt with:
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and simply “Santa“, is a fantasy figure with legendary, mythical, historical and folkloric origins who, in many western cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children on the night before Christmas, December 24. However in some European countries children receive their presents on St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6. The modern figure of Santa Claus was derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which, in turn, was part of its basis in hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift giver Saint Nicholas. During the Christianization of Germanic Europe, this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the Germanic pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.
I’ve heard two schools of thought on why Santa had such a strong love of children, bringing them toys, or lumps of coal.
One is pleasant enough not to mention practical: It goes to the idea that back in preindustrial times, a single person could not “make it alone” because times were hard, there was no power company, no welfare, no phones to call for help. All people had was one-another and it was for this reason that children were celebrated – they were a sign of future familial, wealth.
But the darker version of Santa is much, much more grim. Since the peoples of Europe, targets of the mass marketing campaign, were “uncultured,” is it possible that systemic child abuse was somehow in play? Could it be the presents for the kids for “being good” was really a social code word for something else? Like silence bought? Speak up, kid, and you’re toast. “Silent night.”
The darker side language, when all else is removed (like all the emotional hooks programmed in societally) and it does look pretty ugly when you run it through linguistic filters, even the crude ones we use around here.
We’ve read enough about religious groups abusing children (and lately a lot of cash settlements of lawsuits against one church in particular) to at least keep an open eye toward such behavioral misdeeds and wonder if there’s not something broken in the human mind once a certain level of holding power/sway over others is achieved? “Absolute power corrupts, absolutely…” Merry what-mas?
Fact #3: Then Santa was ‘Jacked
Our “data-based view of Life” goes on to suggest that since about 1850, when Santa Claus really came into his own…
“…This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of Clement Clarke Moore‘s 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast.”
…that yet another marketing challenger arrived. A slow rise, almost like a start-up – this new market sector would not begin its meteoric rise to dominance until after 1900, or so.
I speak of the new sector owners: Retailers.
Just as the early Christian Church was mass marketing to Druids, we see a similar pattern of marketing usurpation and exploitation in how the Retails implemented their strategy.
Notice that they are continuously marketing “Just in time for Christmas” and “Christmas comes but once each year.” It’s the old “scarcity builds demand” track. Solid.
Thus, their marketing campaign is built on the success of the previous Christian positioning. This is a very common strategy in marketing. If a challenger wants to build on an existing base of good, well-found marketing, then simply steal top of mind dominance and all it your own.
And how did retailers steal Santa?
Once again, observe the data which made Santa “appear” for all the “good little girls and boys” at the point-of-purchase (PoP) location!
Why, it’s frigging brilliant! And none dare call if marketing!
To summarize: What we can discern are intergenerational marketing programs which have evolved as a series of “check” statements and to these we can assign approximate campaign dates.
- Early Middle Ages: Initial marketing campaign period: 5th-15th centuries. Positioning concept: “Check us out.”
- 15th to 17th centuries: Confirm brand ownerships. Positioning concept “Check your brand loyalty” Witchcraft trials and Inquisition for those who don’t purchase.
- 18th-20th centuries: Relaunch of product with a new figurehead (Santa) for the youth market which was in some ways similar to the Classic Coke campaign. Positioning concept: “Check with your kids!”
I’d add that this was reminiscent of the Ronald McDonald campaign which turned little kids and their Happy Meals into under-age marketing disciples. Brilliant shit! Own the kids…
- 20th to 21st centuries: Another Christmasjack, only this time the perps are retailers and they are just down to the bottom line with their positioning statement. “Hand us the check!” Similar to the “Where’s the Beef?” campaign.
Occasionally, the brand has presented conflicting campaigns. One glaring example: the “Turn the other Cheek” campaign collided with the “Crusades” campaign, but no marketing effort is perfect.
The underlying product (the religious precepts) are not where I have a problem. I’m good with them. It’s in how the marketing program has worked out.
And so, as a result, my alternative this year is simple:
- Have a nice, quiet Christmas with another large turkey and leftovers again.
- Enjoy the heart-to-heart time and (from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure ) “Being Excellent to one another.”
- And then come January/’February”? We’re going to observe National Gifting Day on Valentines Day 2014.
Only idiots would spend large now with deliciously cheaper prices coming over the horizon in a few weeks.
Everyone loves a good deal and I figure by then, early February, most of the things we might want will be 30 to 50% off. And besides, retooling Valentines Day the new National Gifting Day plays extremely well from a marketing/positioning perspective. It’s a slogan the retailer will gobble up, too:
LOVE to Spend. Spend to Love!
We’re already there, and as I figure it, all such things are only a matter of time and money. OK, money then.
Reader Michael has a pretty good idea: In response to the high cost of doctoring we echoed from the NY Times the other day, he writes:
George, A quick stitches sewing lesson–a one-pager on p. 86 and then search “sew” for some other information.
Included was a link to an ebook that can be found on the web. But I’m down on people ripping-off authors so the book he refers to can be had on Amazon for under 10-bucks, or just over that for the bound version:
When There Is No Doctor: Preventive and Emergency Healthcare in Challenging Times (Process Self-reliance Series).
Just the thing if you’re dressing up like Prepperclaus. More Prepperclaus notes tomorrow.
Around the Ranch: Handibastard Confessional
Well, I should know better. But yesterday I had one of those “Oh-oh” moments when time slows down in the middle of an accident.
I was in a hurry (as always) and I was putting up some siding on the new sound room/studio/thinking space we’re building. The siding was over the door and on the outside, so I set the wooden step-ladder on the second step and shut the door, leaning the ladder against the (closed, for now) door, a couple of steps up.
I was happily measuring away (“12 1/4” plus two little marks high by 37 and a half plus three little marks…”which is easier than fractions like 3/8ths 11/16ths…) when the ladder’s feet on the stair moved slightly. And then faster….and…
About here, the door sprung open that the ladder was leaning against. Then the cool part as I went into slow-motion/martial arts mode as the step-ladder came down, pointing up the stairs with me riding the beast toward the stairs as well as I could. Memo to self: throw pencil.
About halfway down, it also occurred to me to “relax and don’t tense up, otherwise you could get hurt…”
After the landing, I laid there for a few minutes (watching the stars) and then got up, a bit sore from the fall and finished what needed doing. Ladder repositioned to a more rational place. I knew better…but still….what does it mean?
Later, a hot shower, a pill or two for pain, and early to bed and this morning I feel pretty good – good enough for a rematch.
But I’m learning something, over the course of this project and this winter’s frenzy of construction projects around here: I don’t move as fast or as agile as I did 5-years ago.
Part of me chalks it up to being in a hurry, part of me chalks it up to getting older. Whichever it turns out (with 65 arriving inside three months) I’ve concluded there’s a reason folks in my family generally didn’t start building new houses after about age 68, or so.
But like Pappy said, “No job’s ever done without a little bloodshed.” Or, in this latest venture, a close brush with gravity.
Write when you break even…