As Christmas is upon us we wanted to share with you fun facts about Santa and Coca-Cola. We all remember seeing that famous Coca-Cola Christmas commercial with Santa Claus as kids and realizing that our favorite time of year was back. But it was not always like this.
Up until the 1920’s Coca-Cola’s commercials were primarily summer themed. They would show a group of friends on a hot day at the beach being refreshed with a Coca-Cola, but through the years they found that people were associating their beverage with this season alone, and that sales during the winter months were significantly low. In an effort to expand their seasons, Coca-Cola looked for something that consumers easily associated with the winter months. Christmas was at the top of their list, and Santa Claus went hand in hand with this holiday. Coca-Cola decided that if they wanted people to associate their beverage with winter, they had to make Santa Claus drink a few sodas himself. This led to to their first Christmas campaign in the 1920’s featuring the image of Thomas Nast’s depiction of Santa Claus with the slogan “Thirst Knows No Season.” Nast had been drawing Santa for Harper Weekly for 30 years before Coca-Cola hired him. It was Nast who created the “Westernized” appearance of Santa Claus that we still see today.
Christmas Fact: Since the 4th Century “Santa Claus” has had many names and appearances. Changing from country to country and throughout the years Santa Claus has had every nationality you can think of, and believe it or not at one point both the U.S. Santa Claus, and the British Father Christmas actually wore green instead of red. While many believe that the color of Santa changed because of Coca-Cola, Santa actually began wearing the color red in the 1820’s.
The company saw that they had the advantage of Santa Claus’ red and white suite. This helped consumers make a quick association between the two, making it easier for them to accomplish their goal of relating Coca-Cola beverages to Christmas, and most importantly, the winter season in general.
Once the first commercial launched, Coca-Cola noted the success by their increase in sales. As the years passed their sales increased more and more each time. Later on they hired illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop their advertising using Santa Claus. It was Sundblom who used descriptions from the poem Twas the Night Before Christmas to develop the plump and jolly, rosy cheeked man dressed in a red and white suite that we all know today.
Christmas Fact: In the beginning, Sundblom painted the image of Santa using the image of his friend, a retired salesman. After his friends passed, Sundblom used himself as a model by looking at this reflection in the mirror. Lastly, he relied on photographs to create his images.
The connection between Coca-Cola and Christmas moved on and continued to grow and still existed today. The company has continued to reimagine the “Coca-Cola Santa” allowing them to grow with the times and people as well. Today, simply hearing a Christmas tune with snow in the background let’s us know that Coca-Cola is about to show us another iconic commercial that will let us know that Christmas is not too far away.
While it seems like we’ve given you a history lesson, this is one of the most successful examples of the power of brand marketing. Coca-Cola had the goal to create a family oriented beverage that could be enjoyed year-around, specifically during the winter. They identified an “icon” that everyone was already accustomed to seeing during the winter months and knew that they were their way into the Christmas industry.
After they got the ball rolling they didn’t just let it run wild. They had to stay consistent in their approach and make sure that what they made a trend wouldn’t just run out of style. They continued updating Coca-Cola Santa’s image with time. They have also continued this Christmas campaign every year since 1920. Many brands attempt a marketing strategy then fall short by simply not pulling through with it and staying consistent.
A little bit of luck also helped out the company. They did not purposely ask their illustrators to draw Santa Claus with the company colors; it was just a coincidence that helped them greatly. It was much easier for consumers to make a connection between Christmas and Coca-Cola if the icon they were both using used the same colors.
Many believe that today it is not so easy to create a marketing campaign like this, since they began their work back in the 1920’s when business and brands did everything differently. But by looking at other popular brands we can see that brand marketing is not a phenomenon, it simply takes the right idea and strategy to make it work. We can look at other famous brands that have also created an image for themselves through their brand marketing, each doing it in a different and unique way. While Coca-Cola used Santa Claus, Red Bull used extreme sports. Louboutin has not stopped placing red soles on all his shoes. And Apple has continued to use innovation and their famous slogan “Think Different” to highlight the development of their products.
Brand marketing does not always come from something that is out of this world. Something as simple as a color, a shape, a detail, or even an idea, can be the selling point that your company needs to become the next big success story.
Have an AMAzing Christmas everyone!