November 6, 2007

Coke STOLE Santa Marketing Idea

As this page from the White Rock Collectors Association clearly shows, Coca-Cola stole the idea for using a big, red Santa for marketing.

Unless another company wants to claim first dibbs, it looks like White Rock was the first major beverage Co. to use Santa for selling sugar and sweets to American consumers.

See the very interesting page for other B&W and color advertising examples.

Gerry Bowler, the Santa and Christmas scholar from Manitoba, put these words into the mouth of Santa for a Dec 23, 2005 Q&A with Macleans magazine, in Canada.

I'm told you once did a campaign with Coca-Cola, before my time, that was a particular hit. In fact, it's a legend in the marketing industry. Can you tell me about it?
Sure. In the 1920s Coke was undergoing a lot of attacks from the Women's Christian Temperance Union -- very curiously, they didn't like all that caffeine -- and there was a U.S. senator who claimed that Coca-Cola caused sterility in women and affected brain power. So Coca-Cola was looking around for something to brighten up its image, to make it more wholesome, less medicinal, and something that would encourage soft-drink consumption during the winter. The company hired a commercial artist, Haddon Sundblom, who did magnificent paintings from the '30s to the '60s. He really captured my expansiveness, the richness of my furs, my folds of fat, my jollity. Those ads are interesting because they portray Santa not only as a deliverer of goods but actually as a consumer. If you look at those ads, I'm always portrayed going through somebody else's refrigerator, you know, or playing with their toys.
Gerry Bowler also goes on to say in an excerpt from his book, "Santa Claus, A Biography",

"It is far too frequently believed that Sundblom's work for Coca-Cola created the familiar red-and-white-clad Santa of the modern era. In fact, the Coke Santa was in no way groundbreaking; illustrators for the Saturday Evening Post such as J.C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell had already helped fix the standard Santa in the public's mind.* Nor was the Atlanta company even the first purveyor of soda to use the gift-bringer in its ads. That honour belongs to the White Rock Natural Mineral Spring Company of Waukeshar, Wisconsin, which advertised mineral water and ginger ale in Life magazine in 1923 and 1924. Two full-page ads show a portly Santa Claus, reading letters and delivering presents, with a bottle of White Rock and (despite Prohibition) a whisky bottle close at hand..."

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