Branding: Can we put a Santa hat on our logo?

We’ve all seen brands dressing up and letting their hair down during the Christmas period. Sometimes it’s a hat, other times a wreath or bells. Should your brand follow these footsteps?

Branding, Communications, Design, Digital, Brand Marketing

Adam Elovalis 28 Nov 2020
3 mins

Christmas is coming. We’ve all seen brands dressing up and letting their hair down during the Christmas period. Sometimes it’s a hat, other times a wreath or bells. Every year I have one person or another ask me if it’s a good idea to put a Santa hat on their website and social media logos. Every year, with a pinch of Christmas grinch, I often have to say no.

Rules for Christmas branding

One of the first rules of branding is: do not change any part of your logo. Brand recognition is hard enough to earn, so eroding it by making it less recognisable isn’t a smart move. So why do so many companies break this rule and dress-up their logo for special events? If you’re experienced and you understand how branding works, you can occasionally break these rules.

But before deciding whether you should or not, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. How do they perceive your business?
  3. How do you want your business to be perceived?

These are all questions that can be answered by knowing your brand archetypes which should form part of your brand strategy. It is your brand strategy which determines what you should and shouldn’t do at any given time, not just at Christmas.

Imagine your brand as a person

Imagine your brand as a person within your organisation. Their job involves leaving the premises to meet with existing clients, talk to potential clients and generally make a good impression.

Are they likely to tell a joke, or are they more serious? Are they wearing corporate attire, or jeans and a t-shirt, or something else? Your brand’s persona is wrapped up in its archetype, and your audience dictates where you will be interacting with them. Where do people generally interact with your brand? At home in the kitchen, in an office boardroom, a local coffee shop or somewhere else?

Branding for a corporate audience

If your audience is primarily investors, or other companies and businesses, then your brand is expected to maintain a certain level of professionality. Fun and frivolity are probably not what your audience expects. Can you imagine the Australian Government, or ASIC, or BHP wearing a Santa hat for a press-conference? Probably not, so it would not be a good idea to put a hat on their websites or social media logos.

The exception

There are, of course, exceptions to this. Internal stakeholders will probably be fine with letting your brand’s hair down for internal communications. In the case of Purple for example, one of our minor brand archetypes is “creator”, which despite the professional nature of our work, allows us room for creativity and risk-taking. This gave us some leeway to dress up our logo in the colours of the West Coast Eagles for the 2018 grand final. But for Christmas, we focus more on our festive campaign across our social channels, which still spreads Christmas cheer without breaking any brand rules.

Image: Imagery from our Christmas collateral. 

Branding for a consumer audience

If your brand interacts with people, like local mums and dads, or particularly a younger demographic, then your brand will work better if it is more relaxed, and a measure of fun is welcome and celebrated. People will not think twice when brands like Boost Juice, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or Disney get dressed up in Christmas attire to do business.

Of course, not all brands that work outside the corporate space can do this. Brands that need to be seen as prestigious should never add a hat, although expensive baubles might be an alternative. Brands that want to appear unpretentious and authentic should probably avoid altogether.

You might think there’s no harm in spreading a bit of Christmas cheer. Getting it wrong will probably only do minor damage to your brand’s perception. People might be surprised to see a law firm taking their business lightly – but it may not cost you any business. However, unless you really know the brand rules that you intend to break, and have a good understanding of your brand strategy, it probably isn’t worth the risk.


Adam Elovalis is Purple’s Art Director and an expert in both branding and re-branding. Email Adam.

Adam Elovalis More from author

Adam lives and breathes branding strategy and design. An Art Director with a diverse skillset covering strategy, print, user-experience (UX) design, user-interface (UI) design and digital design, Adam developed his knowledge and design touch in a variety of industries including real estate, government, mining, not-for-profit, technology, and information technology.

Today, Adam applies his design thinking, with a particular focus on corporate branding strategy and design, through a range of services including web design, user interface, and user-experience design; logo design, infographic design, animation, and corporate video; and document design, style-guide design, and annual-report design.

Born and bred in Perth, Adam started working with Purple on a contract basis in 2013, becoming a full-time team member within two years. Adam is married with two kids, enjoys being beaten in online gaming, writing, and occasionally he can be heard preaching at his local church.

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