3 Branding Efforts That Shaped The Modern Holiday Experience

Are your favorite staples of the holiday season actually the result of corporate branding?
Ed Gattis

There are some aspects of the holiday season that are part of the collective experience caroling, trimming the Christmas tree, lighting the Hanukkah Menorah, and eating too much food are just a few examples. But did you know that some modern concepts for the holiday season have roots in little-remembered corporate backing?

For example:

1. The modern perception of Santa Claus is the result of a 1931 Coca Cola advertisement.

Although the tale of old Saint Nick dates back to the fourth century, the concept of the larger-than-life holly-jolly man clad in red with a sonorous laugh, rosy red cheeks, fur-lined coat, and large belt buckle came much later. In 1931, acting on the advice of the D’Arcy Advertising Agency, Coca Cola began placing full-page magazine ads depicting the Santa Clause we know and love today. The ads featured the illustration work of Haddon Sundblom and are so popular that they have persisted in different iterations for more than 80 years from print ads to modern television commercials. Sundblom created the illustrations every year from 1931 to 1964, constantly re-defining and improving upon the image of the Santa we most readily recognize.

2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created for a 1939 Montgomery Ward children’s coloring book.

Children and adults around the world can sing about the exploits of Rudolph, who helps a fog-blinded Santa on Christmas Eve. What’s not included in the musical lyrics is the reindeer’s origin.

In 1939, retailer Montgomery Ward brought the production of its holiday-themed coloring books in-house. In-store advertising executive Robert May conceived of the concept of Santa’s ninth reindeer and tested names such as Reginald and Rollo. The story of poor Rudolph with his nose red as a beet constantly being harangued by his fellow reindeer has resonated with children ever since.

3. Canadian airline WestJet brings the first real Christmas to an impoverished Dominican Republic community.

The video of a good-will campaign from Canadian airline WestJet has been making its way around the Callahan office. Check it out below fair warning, grab a box of tissues before you hit play.

Instead of changing how the western world celebrates Christmas, WestJet aimed to accomplish something more intimate, immediate, and tangible. It changed what the holiday spirit of giving meant for an impoverished town in the Dominican Republic and in doing so changed the lives of not only the children of the town but also the adults, who received lasting gifts that would help make them self-sufficient.

WestJet wanted to prove that it is not solely about dollars and cents; it also cares about creating permanent and positive change in the community. Your credit union might not be able to change the ways your members view Santa Claus, but WestJet demonstrates there is always an opportunity to improve the lives of people around you.

December 16, 2014

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