Coca Cola is a classical American brand. Founded in 1886 the brand is possibly one of the most recognized around the world (Gale Group, 2012). This is largely due to the work of owner Asa Candler, who ran The Coca Cola Company from 1891-1919 (Gale Group, 2012). Under Candler’s ownership the company grew exponentially (Gale Group, 2012). In 1911 the advertisement budget was increased to 1 million dollars, an unprecedented amount for the time period (Gale, Group, 2012). With its golden product The Coca Cola Company began the most extensive promotional campaign in history (Gale Group, 2012). In 1931, with the help of artist Haddon Sundblom, Coke developed a series of Christmas advertisements that unified the public’s view of Santa Claus (The Coca-Cola Company, 2012a). Throughout this essay I will demonstrate how this image represents the power a single corporation can hold over society.
Coca-Cola’s famous 1931 Santa was not the first Santa Claus advertisement the giant corporation had produced (Allen, 1994, p. 207). Years earlier, the company created a Christmas ad of a mortal man in a Santa costume enjoying the refreshing beverage in a department store (Allen, 1994, p. 207). Account executive for Coca-Cola, Archie Lee, “wanted to create a fantasy, a vivid portrait of the “real” Santa Claus enjoying Coca-Cola on the job” (Allen, 1994, p. 207). With this goal in mind Coca-Cola sought out advertising artist Haddon Sundblom and began one of the most memorable advertising campaigns in history (Vann & Zimmer, 2008, p. 11).
Haddon Sundblom was a skilled painter and part owner of an advertising agency in Chicago during the 1920’s (Berryman, 1995, p. 54). Sundblom quickly made a name for himself in the advertising industry by creating famous brand icons such as the Quaker Oats Man and Aunt Jemima (Berryman, 1995, p. 54-55). In the early 1930’s Sundblom was hired by The Coca-Cola Company and began a relationship that would end up lasting three decades (Vann & Zimmer, 2008, p. 11). In 1931 Sundblom was tasked to create a Christmas time ad to remind people to enjoy Coca-Cola any month of the year (The Coca-Cola Company, 2012a). The 1931 ad with the slogan “My hats off to the pause that refreshes” depicts Santa as a jolly old man in a red suit enjoying a refreshing glass of Coca Cola (The Coca-Cola Company, 2012b). The man in the image has a snow-white beard and a black belt fastened around a big round belly (The Coca-Cola Company, 2012b). His rosy cheeks and warm smile captured the love of the nation and began a series of Santa Claus ads that would continue until the 1960’s (Vann & Zimmer, 2008, p. 22). Coca-Cola’s 1931 Santa Claus advertisement not only created the fantasy Lee was looking but more importantly shaped and unified the public’s view of the popular Christmas icon (Allen, 1994, p. 8).
Coca-Cola’s 1931 Santa Claus advertisement was able to unify the public’s view of the Christmas character by creating a lovable, friendly character. The...