Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cola Claus

"Coke's ties with Santa can be traced back to American Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast , who drew him for Harper's Weekly in 1862 as a small, elf-like figure who supported the Union," reports Liz Clarke in The Mercury (12/21/06). That Santa was not only small but his suit was tan, not red ( picture here). Nast later changed the suit to red, which Coke also adopted for Santa's suit, allegedly because, well, red was Coke's color. You know, brand consistency.

Granted, Coke's artists were basing their image on "the old figures of St. Nicholas -- the third-century Greek philanthropist who gave to the poor and vulnerable."That was in the 1920s. It wasn't until 1931 that Coke first presented Santa, officially, "as a jolly old man beaming with good cheer ... in a series of advertisements wearing his scarlet outfit, carrying a large bag of toys." The makeover was based on "Clement Clark Moore's 1822 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas (commonly called Twas the Night before Christmas.) ... Moore's description seemed just right for Coca-Cola's Santa -- warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human."

If you didn't already know this, I hope it isn't bumming you out. For the record, Coke has posted its version of its most famous strategic alliance here.

The reality of it seems to be that Coke's "mission was more about proving that a cold drink could be popular in winter than the creation of a modern fairytale. But Santa stuck, and so did the ad campaign." This masterstroke of product placement certainly continues to thrive: "Consumers tell us that Coca-Cola advertising signifies the beginning of Christmas for them so we wanted to create an ad that captured the spirit of Christmas and the optimism that embodies this special time of year," Coke U.K.'s Cathryn Sleight told BrandRepublic. And so the latest Coca-Claus ad, via Mother, "celebrates the gift of giving." (video here). And the greatest gift is, yes, a curvy, cold bottle of Coca-Cola.

-- Tim Manners, Editor, Reveries Magazine

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