Christmas is a time for giving and one of the most recognizable givers in modern society is Santa Claus. Whether you want to create an advertisement that makes people laugh or inspires the joy in others, it’s important to consider how your brand can relate to this iconic figure. The first step in doing so is ensuring that your marketing strategy is consistent with the person you want to represent your brand.
In 1931, the beverage company Coca-Cola began incorporating Santa into its holiday advertisements. Archie Lee, the executive handling the company’s advertising account at D’Arcy Advertising Agency, wanted to showcase a wholesome Santa that was both realistic and symbolic. To do so, Lee hired Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop a new Santa image for their campaign. The result was the iconic red-suited Santa that we see today in their ads and on products like store displays, billboards, posters and even stuffed animals.
Sundblom’s original oil paintings of Santa became so popular that they were featured on magazines, billboards and posters and his depiction of Santa was widely accepted as the standard for a happy, loving figure. In fact, consumers paid so much attention to his illustrations that when little changes were made like moving the belt buckle or the lack of a wedding ring on his finger they sent letters to the company demanding an explanation.
However, Coke wasn’t the first company to use a modern Santa in its advertising. White Rock Beverages had used him in their winter promotions since 1915 with a mineral water ad and later for their ginger ale in 1923.