Chapter 8 NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World

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norad tracking santa holiday marketing

Photo: Wikipedia

Legend has it that in December 1955, a young girl misdialed a telephone number only to be put through to the ‘red phone’ at Continental Air Defense Command (CONRAD). A Colonel Shoup, who purportedly answered the phone, is reported to have confirmed his identity as Santa Claus and thanked the girl for leaving treats for his reindeer.

How much of the legend is elaboration is not clear. However, since 1955 NORAD (the successor to CONRAD) has maintained an annual campaign of tracking Santa Claus and informing the public of his progress on Christmas Eve.

Colonel Shoup was inspired to use the event as a public relations exercise for NORAD, publicizing the cutting-edge abilities of the organization. In part, this would bring an organization which received little public attention to the forefront of people’s minds and the media.

The campaign demonstrates the effective use of multiple forms of media for delivering a single campaign, and to date, telephone hotlines, newspapers, radio, phonograph, television and the internet have all been employed to inform people where Santa is.

Today, CGI videos of Santa progressing on his journey are uploaded online. These were accompanied by voice-over until 2011, typically recorded by NORAD staff, but often featuring celebrity guests such as Jonathan Ross, Ringo Starr and Aaron Carter.

The appeal of the campaign for children is obvious. For adults, however, the project invites people to partake in the fiction –– offering anybody the opportunity to engage in a small fantasy, tracking Santa live as he makes his journey around the world.

It is also an interactive campaign; participants can telephone for updates or follow progress ‘live’ online.

Today, more than 1,200 NORAD staff volunteer their own time to answer the dedicated tracking telephone number, and with over one hundred thousand calls and some 20 million visits to the online tracker in 2014 alone, this seasonal tradition remains highly popular today.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

If NORAD can track Santa Claus, why not boost your company image and engage your audience with some light-hearted (and data-driven) fun?

Table of Contents

Intro150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns
Chapter 2 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season
Chapter 3 How Coca-Cola Invented The Father of Christmas (Or did they?)
Chapter 4 Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
Chapter 5 Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chapter 6 Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
Chapter 7 Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
Chapter 8 NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
Chapter 9 Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
Chapter 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
Chapter 11 Folgers Advertises the Intangible
Chapter 12 Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy an Ad Agency
Chapter 13 Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
Chapter 14 Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
Chapter 15 M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
Chapter 16 Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
Chapter 17 Target Keeps it Simple with Their Black Friday Catalog Focusing on Price
Chapter 18 Pampers Silent Night Raises $40 Million for Charity
Chapter 19 Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
Chapter 21 Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
Chapter 22 American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
Chapter 24 REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition
Chapter 25 Amazon’s “Give a Little Bit” Campaign Gives a Lot
Chapter 26 Spotify’s 2017 “#2018Goals” Campaign Speaks Loudly
Chapter 27 Google Home’s 2018 Alone Again with Google Assistant Campaign is the Ultimate Nostalgia


Kunle Campbell

Kunle is a trusted advisor to ambitious, agile ecommerce brands. His core strengths lies in growing revenue by developing and executing scalable customer acquisition and search marketing strategies for online retailers.  He blogs, runs webinars and teach courses about ecommerce growth on He also hosts an ecommerce podcast dedicated to growing and scaling online retail businesses.

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