Learn about the origins of this character and why it’s synonymous with gifts, kids, parties, joy, and of course, Coca Cola.
This story originally appeared at high level
In the “What Nobody Tells You” series, we’ll review the stories behind the brands, companies, entrepreneurs, and advertising strategies that have shaped modern culture.
The holidays are a great time for marketing thanks to one of the most important business icons in history: Santa Claus. No matter what they call it, Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas etc, it is a legendary character who talks about Christmas, gifts, family gatherings and in a very little known way coke.
The place Pure marketing points out that the origin of the person bringing gifts to “good children” on Christmas Eve in the West has made the world’s most famous soft drink brand a mandatory reference on these dates as well. Inspired by the actual figure of a Christian bishop named Nicholas, today’s Santa Claus is more of an invention of The Coca Cola companySo much so that their traditional clothing, which was green for centuries, matched the brand’s motifs.
It did so in 1931 when Coca-Cola launched a Christmas advertising campaign that focused on a Santa Claus in the corporate colors of white and red.
One of the first illustrations of Santa Claus that comes close to our current interpretation of the character came in 1862 when American Civil War artist Thomas Nast drew a little elf for Christmas aiding Union soldiers. This image would serve as the basis for the subsequent Coca-Cola campaign.
According to the company’s Coke Lore website, the company began using the character in advertising magazines such as in the 1920s The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorkeramong other things and used a much stricter image of Saint Nicholas. The reason for these campaigns was to change the idea that Coca-Cola is a drink for hot weather, and they decided to start a strategy with the slogan “thirst knows no season”.
In 1930 artist Fred Mizen painted Santa Claus drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola in a department store, an image that was reproduced in print advertising for the 1930s Christmas season. This is how successful the advertising agency of Coca-Cola -Cola, D’Arcy and especially the managing director Archie Lee decided in 1931 and in the following years to use this symbol.
The transformation into today’s Santa Claus was the product of the Swedish artist Haddon Sundblom, who, on behalf of the company, transformed the traditional and more pious image of Christian folklore into that of Santa Claus of our day.
The painter took inspiration from one of his retired salespeople by the name of Lou Prentice to strip St. Nicholas of the gnomish features he had acquired in Irish and Breton traditions. He made him taller, with a thicker, friendlier face and happy eyes.
Sundblom was inspired by the poem It was the night before Christmas Clark Moore created his scenes and optimized his model for the next 33 years, later including his children and grandchildren in the character images. When age allowed, she used her personal resemblance to Santa Claus to become her own role model. The artist died in 1976.
Coca-Cola produced cuddly toys, Merchandising, Toys, oil paintings and various advertisements featuring Sundblom’s paintings, which are still collectibles and part of the warehouse the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Louvre in Paris, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Isetan Department Store in Tokyo, the NK stores in Stockholm and of course the Coca-Cola Archives.
The paintings that the artist painted between 1931 and 1966 were used in every Coca-Cola Christmas campaign around the world, and even today they are a mandatory reference for the industry. The success of this campaign was so great that this Santa Claus remains an icon of Western culture and the non-religious holidays of the season to this day.
Here are some other Coca-Cola ads:
What do you think of this Christmas icon?
All images are property of The Coca-Cola Company.
Originally written for Alto Nivel, with whom has a content sharing agreement.