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Elf on the Shelf: Brand Positioning Case Study

Nov 11, 2023
Elf on the Shelf Brand Positioning

The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner. Which also means our family’s scout elf will be making his annual appearance.

In case you don’t have young kids, I’m referring to “Elf on the Shelf.” 

In this issue, we’ll dive into why this brand blew up and how you can use the same emotional triggers in your marketing strategy.

Let’s get into it…

💼 The Brand: Elf on the Shelf 

  • Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas book and doll brand that’s now worth tens of millions of dollars. It all began in 2005 when a mom and 2 daughters decided to turn their family tradition into a book about a “scout elf” who visits from the North Pole to spy on kids during December.

💛 The Heart (Purpose and Values)

  • Publishers didn’t want to give them a chance, so they maxed out credit cards, borrowed from their 401ks, and self published the first Elf on the Shelf book run.
  • It started slow. But eventually word of mouth took over and their mission of creating “joyful family moments” became a reality to the tune of millions sold each Christmas.

👤 The Head (Positioning and Strategy)

  • Elf on the Shelf is positioned not just as a book, but as a family Christmas tradition.
  • Most books retail for $15 but this positioning allows them to retail for twice that price.
  • Why has it sold like crazy? It triggers some of the most important emotions during the holiday season…
    • Nostalgia: The Elf on the Shelf taps into a sense of nostalgia by creating a tradition reminiscent of classic holiday traditions. The concept of a scout elf watching over children during the holiday season resonates with the nostalgic feelings many adults have for holiday traditions.
    • Surprise: The element of surprise is key to the Elf on the Shelf tradition. Children wake up each morning to discover where the elf has moved, creating a sense of excitement and anticipation.
    • Family and Relationships: The brand emphasizes the importance of family and relationships during the holiday season. The elf becomes a focal point for family interaction, creating memories and bonding experiences.
    • Anticipation: The Elf on the Shelf builds anticipation throughout the holiday season as children eagerly await the nightly adventures of their scout elf. This anticipation adds to the overall sense of excitement.

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✋ The Hands (Lifecycle Marketing Tactics)

Here’s a few of the ways that Elf on the Shelf has captured the hearts and minds of its audience…

  • Humorous Organic Social Sharing - Families are encouraged to come up with new and creative ways to pose their elves and then share on social media. The funnier, the better.

  • Massive Elf on the Shelf FB Groups - Parents are SO into posing their elves that FB groups have sprung up to the tune of 200-800k members. That’s a lot of free advertising.

  • Nostalgia Baked into the Book - The creators baked tradition directly into the pages of the book by providing a space to welcome your scout elf to your family and give it a name.

⚡️ Find Your Emotional Edge Like Elf on the Shelf

The power of Elf on the Shelf’s marketing isn’t because of a simple storybook. It’s because of what the storybook and the elf scout doll represents… a magical time of year where feelings of nostalgia, belonging, surprise, and anticipation are made possible every single morning.

All because of a simple elf doll.

So how do you take action on this? Well, you may not be selling Christmas dolls, but you should still be triggering emotions. Finding your emotional edge is all about tapping into those emotions that make sense for YOUR audience.

For a seasonal business, this mean tapping into the emotional triggers specific to that season.

For a beauty/health business, this means tapping into emotional triggers that make people feel motivated, empowered, and attractive.

For a B2B business, this means using emotional triggers related to trust, sophistication, and intelligence.

For community driven brands or non profits, this means using emotional triggers that make people feel compassion, warmth, and belonging.

People make 95% of their decisions based on emotions. So if you don’t make them feel something — they’re probably not going to act.

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