Magazine article Marketing

OPINION: How Coke Moulded Our View of Santa Claus to Fuel Winter Sales

Magazine article Marketing

OPINION: How Coke Moulded Our View of Santa Claus to Fuel Winter Sales

Article excerpt

Sometime in the fourth century AD, in the Mediterranean port town of Myra, the church bells tolled. Bishop Nicholas was dead. Nicholas had hailed from a rich family, but after joining the church, he used much of his riches to help the poor in his community. And now that community mourned him.

For many centuries, Christian missionaries told the tale of the generous bishop and soon the story came to represent different things in different cultures.

In Germany, St Nicholas and his assistant Ruprecht dispensed presents to children. In Italy, La Belfana, a good witch, who dressed always in black, performed a similar function. In Holland, Sinter-klass gave presents to children who were kind enough to leave hay for his donkey. In Britain, it was Father Christmas. In France, Pere Noel. In the US, Santa Claus.

The individual was always a generous, yuletide figure, but was variously portrayed as being a tall, short, fat, grey-haired, white-haired, dark-featured, man/troll/dwarf/elf.

In Atlanta, in 1924, the Coca-Cola sales and marketing team had a problem.

Sales of Coke had been rocketing over the past 20 years, but these figures exhibited a dramatically uneven pattern. Each summer, US consumers set off for the beach, or to watch a baseball game with a bottle of Coke in hand. But during the winter, sales of Coke were sluggish. The team was desperate to increase the brand's sales and prevent it becoming seen as a seasonal product. Somehow they needed to make Coke a winter drink. …

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