How Coca-Cola's Creation of Santa Claus Catalyzed their Revenue
According to James B. Twitchell's, “20 Ads that Shook the World,” advertisers will situate their campaign around special events like the Super Bowl or holidays like Easter. This grants companies the opportunity to market their products, increase revenue, and target their audience's imagination. Anthropologists would refer to this strategy as syncretism, or “…the merging… of two or more categories in a specified environment into one…” (Dictionary.com 1). With a decrease in sales during the winter months, Coca-Cola created the Santa Claus that we still know and love today, and is recognized as one of the most groundbreaking advertisements that changed the world.
In 1822, Clement Clark Moore was the first person to establish the idea of Santa Claus when he wrote his daughters a poem called “The Night Before Christmas.” Moore depicted Santa to look an elf-like creature who was small enough to fit down a chimney and deliver presents to children on Christmas Eve. By 1869, cartoonist Thomas Nast took his illustrations of a fattened up, full sized version of Santa from Harper's Weekly, and published his collection in the book, Santa Claus and His Works. Ironically, in the 1920's Coca-Cola wanted to make their soft beverage something you could enjoy at any time during the year, especially in the winter months; unfortunately, they were having trouble selling their product. With Coke's initial campaign “Thirst Knows No Season,” advertisers developed an ingenious idea to incorporate the image of Santa enjoying their beverage in December; this was the official launch of the brand's story. Twitchell states, “They started showing Santa relaxing…by drinking a Coke, then showed how the kids might leave a Coke (not milk) for Santa, and then implied that the gifts coming in from Santa were in exchange for the Coke” (Twitchell 106). Advertisers positioned their new campaign of Santa in a way where Coke was now being viewed as a product of value; the children provided Santa with a Coke as a way to show appreciation for his generous act. Instead of the product being viewed as an exchange for presents, advertisers were actually displaying Coca-Cola's worth. Furthermore, by including their corporate colors of red and white into Santa's clothing, Coca- Cola's illustrated advertisement was officially taking over as the symbol of Santa Claus.
By the 1940's, Coca-Cola's version Santa Claus had completed beat out all of their competition. What made Coke's advertisements so unique was that from the 1930's to the 1950's, Haddon H. Sundblom spent time perfecting the image of Santa by painting his salesman friend, Lou Prentis. After Prentis had passed away, Sundblom then took it upon himself to create Santa in his own image, and even based Mrs. Claus on his wife. With these images, Sundblom would create two to three Santas to distribute to mass-market magazines and an additional painting for the billboards. Almost all of these paintings included Santa either gifting presents and obtaining a Coke, playing with the children's toys and drinking a Coke, sharing his Coke with them, or of Santa reading a letter to a child while drinking the Coke that was left for him. This is an important strategy because it is consistently displays the worth of the drink across all of their advertisements, and exemplifies the relationship that this fictional character has with children. Exhibiting this unwavering image of Sundblom's Santa each year is imperative because it allows consumers to make the connection between Santa's merriness, and their appreciation for Coca-Cola.
With a campaign like, “Thirst Shows No Season,” Coke also did not show a specific target audience. Their main focus was to aim their campaign at those who enjoy Coca-Cola, but were not purchasing it during the winter months. What is interesting about their advertisement was that it appealed to both children and adults. Children would have wanted their parents to purchase this soft drink because Coca-Cola's campaign clearly showed the excitement and bliss that Santa brought during Christmas. Likewise, ever since Santa became a Yuletide phenomenon, parents also generally became melancholy after their children informed them that they do not believe in Santa anymore; this sadness would trigger adults to purchase Coke for sentimental value. Still to this day Coca-Cola promises an “…attempt to ensure that our advertising is appropriate for a general audience. We will not design our marketing communications in a way that directly appeals to children under 12” (The Coca-Cola Company 1). Having a more generalized target audience not only appeals to any consumer of any age, but it also helped Coca-Cola create the idea that their product is versatile. This fictional character evidently took over the world and the way people view Christmas.
Since consumers responded positively to the version of Santa that represented the Coca-Cola brand, over time this valued figured was presented across many other platforms as well. He was crafted onto Hallmark cards and also was the Santa that was seen in The Santa Claus with Tim Allen and the Miracle on 34th Street. Similarly, people dress up in costume as this form of Santa in department stores, and he even became a representative for the Salvation Army. Additionally, Gene Autry sang “Here Comes Santa Claus” which also later sparked the production of reindeers into the Christmas scene too.
In conclusion, Coca-Cola's Santa Claus basically preserved and shaped the image of Christmas that still exists today. This advertisement complimented the brand because it is the type of campaign that can be slightly modified, but still be used each year during the holiday season. Likewise, with the help of these advertisements being displayed every year, consumers will make the nostalgic connection between the joy of Christmas time, the importance of giving, and the happiness that Coke can bring to anyone of any age.
Company, Coca-Cola. "Responsible Marketing Policy." Responsible Marketing. N.p., 20 Sept. 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2018. <http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/responsible-marketing>.
"Syncretism." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2018. <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/syncretism>.
Twitchell, James B. Twenty Ads That Shook the World. New York: Three Rivers, 2000. Print.
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