Magazine article Marketing

Rosy Future

Magazine article Marketing

Rosy Future

Article excerpt

"Coca-Cola, Atlanta, how may I help you?"

"Hello, I'm a journalist from England trying to get in touch with Father Christmas."

"I'm sorry...can you repeat that name?"

"Yes, Father Christmas. He's in your Christmas TV ads."

"Er...he doesn't really...erm, I'll have to transfer you to corporate affairs."

Coca-Cola's US press office seemed equally bemused by Marketing's efforts to track down its white-bearded brand spokesman. Its London office was happy to provide pictures of the world's most recognised Coke drinker, but interviews were politely declined. So what do we know about Santa?

His origins are mysterious; most people believe his previous employment was as Saint Nicholas, who was known for his generosity to children and the poor.

Father Christmas as he appears today is inextricably linked with Coca-Cola, which started using him in its marketing as far back as the 1920s. It was the soft drinks giant that asked American artist Haddoon Sundblom to create a new-look Santa Claus in 1931. Before then Santa had been depicted in many guises, and his costume was often green. In keeping with Coca-Cola's branding he was given a red suit, rosy cheeks and the famous white beard. Of course, he was also always seen clutching a bottle of Coke.

Since then, he hasn't looked back. In fact he has appeared in more advertising campaigns than even John Cleese. From beer to chocolate, supermarkets to aftershave, Santa has been rolled out by agencies and clients to try to boost Christmas sales.

Coca-Cola has built its Christmas marketing campaigns around its very own Santa for years, and the same image is still being used in 1998's Christmas ads, in which he magically appears to hand a bottle of Coke to a young boy. He also appears on Coca-Cola Christmas packaging.

But there are some in the advertising and marketing business who are beginning to question whether Santa's appeal is waning. A TV campaign by Microsoft in December last year showed Father Christmas and his little helpers being made redundant by computer software that can answer any Christmas wish.

Microsoft says the ad was not meant to suggest a serious threat to Santa, but there have been other warning signs. A recent survey by accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche revealed that the number of stores with Santa's grottoes had dropped from 20% to 10%. Only 5% of consumers said they would be encouraged to visit a store because Father Christmas was there. …

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