No brand is more synonymous with holiday marketing than Coca-Cola. From their iconic representation of Santa Claus to their beloved polar bears, Coca-Cola has produced memorable Christmas and winter themed ads for over eighty years.
Over the course of time, these ad campaigns have become a holiday tradition. Think about it, has the holiday season really begun until you’ve seen Santa take a swig from that iconic Coke bottle?
Read on as we explore Coca-Cola’s holiday marketing campaigns throughout the years.
Helping Create the Modern Day Santa
While it’s not the earliest depiction of the character, the classic Coke Santa is easily one of the most recognizable representations of jolly old St. Nick. It all began in 1931 when illustrator Haddon Sundblom first developed what would become an iconic depiction of Santa Claus. Prior to this, Santa’s image ranged from a tall skinny man to a tiny elf. While Sundblom didn’t create Santa as we know him, his paintings helped cement Santa as the jolly man in red for generations to come. Santa has remained an integral part of Coke’s holiday marketing ever since, most recently appearing in their “Share a Coke This Holiday” campaign from 2015.
The World’s Most Famous Polar Bears
Although polar bears had been featured in Coca-Cola print ads dating back to the 1920s, they didn’t make their television debut until 1993. Introduced during Coke’s “Always Coca-Cola” campaign, the bears were an immediate hit and have appeared in holiday advertising every year since. The iconic polar bears have even appeared in ads outside of the holiday season, with two ads airing during the 1994 Olympic Games.
The Tradition Continues
Over the years Coca-Cola’s holiday marketing has evolved, from print to television to social media. Though the medium may have changed, the enduring imagery of Santa Claus and the polar bears has endured. In 2015 Coke unveiled their festive take on the wildly popular “Share a Coke” campaign. The “Share a Coke This Holiday” campaign featured new packing that encouraged drinkers to share a Coke with “Santa,” “Mrs. Claus,” “Elves” and more. The campaign also featured print ads showcasing an updated Santa Claus, inspired by Sundblom’s classic artwork.
With each passing year, Coca-Cola creates lasting connections with their customers. Consumers across generations now associate Coke with the holiday season and feelings of nostalgia. Coke is viewed as a vital aspect of the holidays, on par with classic Christmas songs and TV specials.