The History Between Coca-Cola and Santa
Since the 1920s, Coca-Cola has been using Santa Claus to promote its brand. Santas look had been undefined for many years with many artists taking liberty and picturing him looking many different ways. Some artists gave him a tall, thin stature that is a far cry from today’s beloved jolly fellow. The first Santa resembling the one we know today was published in the book, “The Children’s Friend,” in 1821, by William B. Gilley. Santas figure become even more defined in 1823 when Clement Clark Moore wrote about St. Nick in his famous poem, “The Night Before Christmas.”
“He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,Clement Clark Moore, “The Night Before Christmas”
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf… .“
The version Moore designed has been the standard Santa figure in America ever since the poem gained popularity and established a base for every other Santa to be modeled after. A few other versions came after Moore’s depiction with Mr. Clause looking like an elf. These versions soon phased out after Fred Mizen depicted Santa drinking a Coca-Cola in a crowd of people in the Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, MO. The ad was eventually used in the Saturday Evening Post in December 1930. Mizens Santa got major publicity and established the connection between Santa and Coca-Cola.
In 1931, Coca-Cola commissioned Haddon Sundblom to create advertisements featuring Santa Claus. Following Mizen, Haddon’s Santa ads were placed in the Saturday Evening Post, as well as Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker, and More. In 1964 Sundblom produced his last version of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola, but the company kept using his original versions of Santa in ads for years after. In fact, in 2001, Sundbloms 1963 painting was the basis for an animated commercial featuring the Coca-Cola Santa Claus.
While it is not entirely correct to say that Coca-Cola invented the modern Santa, it can be said that Coca-Cola popularized the image based on Clement Clark Moore’s poem and unified the country on what Santa looks like. Click the link below to watch a short video about the history between Coke and Santa.
How Does Coca-Cola Use Santa in Advertisments?
Conveniently enough, Santa was depicted by many wearing a red coat, matching the red color of Coca-Cola’s brand. Early on, Coca-Cola used Santa in recognizable scenes. The 1931 “Me too” ad depicted Santa in the Great Depression, like a normal citizen of the time. In the 1961 ad, Santa attempts to quiet the family dog when friends come over to visit. The implementation of Santa into everyday life makes people connect and engage more with the character. People began to expect Santa on Coke ads around Christmas time and the absence of Santa would leave consumers worried and wondering, “where is Santa?” By establishing a connection between Santa Claus and Coca-Cola early in brand development, the company was able to build and improve the design over the years and establish Santa as a Coca-Cola drinking, gift-giving, jolly old fellow. Adults and children fell in love with the image of Santa around Christmas time and to be like Santa, you had to drink Coke. Click here to view 12 vintage Coke ads from 1931 to 1963 staring Santa Claus.
What About the Rest of the Year?
Christmas cheer only lasts about a month out of the year, so what does Coca-Cola do to promote products during the other times of the year? Coca-Cola uses multiple media channels including television, online commercials, print media, sponsorships, etc. Often times large events are sponsored by Coca-Cola. Events such as American Idol, NASCAR, NBA, NCAA, Olympic Games, etc. are often covered in advertisements from Coke. Coca-Cola pays for some of the events in exchange to put advertisements all over the event site itself and corresponding cable or internet streaming services. Coca-Cola also features advertisements overseas on television in a variety of national languages. Recently, in 2016, Coke launched its, “Taste the Feeling,” campaign in India to remind people of the happiness and joy that Coke products bring to one’s life. Click the link here to access information about the 4 Ps of the Coca-Colas marketing mix.
Social Media Tactics
Coca-Cola uses social media throughout the year and has many strategies that have been proven to be successful. One technique used recently in 2018 where Coke launched the #refreshthefeed campaign. This campaign was focused on kindness and optimism, launching around the same time as world kindness day.
They followed the same plan the next year with similar tactics. Coke then came out with the “personalized” bottles and cans with names on them. Coke sent out bottles with names to celebrities with the intent that the celebrities would post a picture with the bottle with their name on it on social media. This was a huge success and generated lots of engagement, conversation and conversion. On social media, Coke focuses less on Santa, and more on equality, happiness, and kindness, to appeal to the younger market.
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