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Coke and Christmas

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Coke and Christmas

Ask a child about Christmas and the response you will get will most likely have to do with the man that supposedly travels from the North Pole in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, that goes down there chimney, and brings them presents, Santa Clause. But how did the image of this jolly old man come about? The truth is from the advertisements of Coca-Cola. And as the years went on, Coke’s Christmas advertisements continued.

An advertisers goal is to attract consumers to their products. One way they do this is using specific calendar events to tie the product in with, including special events and holidays. For example, the candy producers Nestlé, Mars, and Hershey have made great profits around the time of certain holiday’s, such as selling candy hearts around Valentine’s Day and chocolate eggs around Easter. “The kings of candyland – Nestlé, Mars, and Hershey – have been able to ‘own’ these holidays during which they sell special candy at full retail price. In fact, seasonal sugar accounts for most of these companies’ profit, with Easter far in the lead with sales of more than half a billion dollars” (Twitchell 104). But the greatest “advertising time-bomb” (Twitchell 104) is when Coca-Cola decided to use Santa Clause, around Christmas time, in their advertisements.

In the 1800’s, Clement Clarke Moore and Thomas Nast created the first images of Santa Clause. Moore wrote a poem called, “The Visit From Saint Nicholas,” for his daughters that ended up being printed in newspapers and later in the New York Book of Poetry. But this poem did not portray our typical Santa Clause, he was described more as looking like one of his helpers.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer;
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment is must be St. Nick. (Twitchell 105)
Nast used his skills as a cartoonist to change the image of Santa Clause into a heavier man from the North Pole. But his image was not done being created. “He still needs a little tuck here, a little letting out there, he needs a big belt, a red coat, he needs those buccaneer boots, he needs a beard-trim – most of all, he needs to get warm and fuzzy” (Twitchell 105). So Coca-Cola stepped in to finish.

Coca-Cola was having issues selling the soft drink during winter of the 1920’s, so they came up with the slogan, “Thirst Knows No Season.” To advertise this slogan in the winter, they used Santa Clause to show that he could enjoy a Coke even at that time of year. After noticing this working, they stuck with it. They expanded this idea into replacing the milk that is left for Santa with a nice cold Coke instead, as if they were exchanging gifts with him for a one and it was worth it. “Coke’s Santa was elbowing aside other Santas. Coke’s Santa was starting to ‘own’ Christmas” (Twitchell 106). This was the moment that Coca-Cola began to own Christmas.

The creator of Coca-Cola’s Santa Clause image was Hadon H. Sundblom. He began his creation by painting his friend, a salesman, Lou Prentis, until he passed away. After Prentis’ passing, Sundblom decided to use his own face by working off of his reflection. And then expanded into painting his wife and naming her Mrs. Clause. He tied these characters into Coca-Cola by using the company colors, red and white. The expanding of characters did not end there, when the movie Bambi was released, a reindeer was introduced to the ads. Sundblom had made a forever impression on the way people now imagined Santa Clause. In the 1940’s he was used on Hallmark cards and in movies such as Miracle on 34th Street (Twitchell 107).

Since the many advertisements that have come out throughout the years, Coca-Cola expanded into the animation world in 2001. Hadon H. Sundblom created a painting in 1962 that was used as the origin for the television commercial. This animated advertisement was made by Alexandre Petrov, an Academy Award-winning animator (The Coca-Cola Company). Coca-Cola has also added “Neon Extravaganzas” to their marketing techniques. There was once a chain of signs that hung representing Coca-Cola in Atlanta, which were replaced with a neon advertisement in May of 2003. These neon signs then expanded over the next year and a half landing in Great Britain in September 2003 and Time Square in New York on July 1, 2004.

Coca-Cola and Santa Clause tie together in many ways but not everyone knows that Coke is responsible for the image of Jolly ‘Ol St. Nick. As many companies use events, such as Super Bowl, or holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day, to market their products, Coca-Cola chose one that worked. The decision they made in the 1920’s to tie the two together, forever changed the company in a great way.

Works Cited

The Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola Journey. 2013. November 2013 .
Twitchell, James B. 20 Ads That Shook the World. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000.

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