Once upon a time and actually not so long ago, Santa Claus was called St. Nicholas and it was totally unclear what he looked like, let alone how he dressed. Sometimes he was described as a dwarf or a forest elf and portrayed, many times, as a grown man dressed in green clothes.
But in the 1930′ Coca Cola decided to tackle an old problem – a drop in sales during winter. At that time cola was perceived as cold suitable only for summertime, which makes sense when you think about it. After all, it is a cold beverage!!!
So, Coca-Cola decided to launch a new campaign to convince us – or brainwash us, depends on your perspective – otherwise.
They turned to Haddon Sundblom, a talented illustrator who was inspired by Clement Clarke Moore’s story, ‘A visit from Saint Nicolas, Presently known as Sanat.
In that story, Santa was portrayed as a warm, sociable, chubby, and human image – and the rest is history.
As you can see below in the original 1888 edition of Moore’s Story, Santa wore a green coat.
But Coca-Cola – that even back then was already a superbrand – chose to use one of Santa’s red-white coats, which naturally best suites its brand and purpose.
Was Santa’s campaign a stroke of genius or business cynicism? – you’ll be the judge of that. However, this is undoubtedly one of the best marketing campaigns in history.
Bonus fact: Initially Sandblum used Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman, as a model to paint Santa. After he passed away, Sandblum began to draw facing the mirror, using himself as a muse.