The Secret to Holiday Campaigns

Jan 3, 2019 | Marketing, Strategy

In 1931 the Coca-Cola company employed illustrator Haddon Sundblom to draw a friendly Santa for their Christmas campaign. At that time, Santa was a known story, but he hadn’t quite reached the same level of brand recognition that he now enjoys. This iconic campaign is filled with some of the most insightful thinking that you can use to build your own successful holiday campaign.

Building iconography that your brand can own brings a sense of tradition and consistency to your campaign. Coke has done an incredible job of keeping Santa fresh and at the forefront of their holiday campaign. They have also been able to add new characters, like the Polar Bears, which, over time, have become part of their Christmas storytelling.

Emotion is at the centre of Coke’s success, and through the years they have tapped into the shared values of numerous and varied beliefs. Whether it is accepting those who are different than you, spreading love to those in need, or the kindness of strangers, great campaigns transcend single belief systems to deliver a message that resonate with everyone. Coca-Cola has been able to demonstrate this type of emotion with and without Santa. The image of the friendly polar bears and penguins sharing the joy of a Coke, is one that most consumers can easily recall.

There are other brands who have also taken the aspirational values of the holiday season to heart. West Jet has built a reputation for their holiday campaigns by surprising passengers and communities with the holiday presents they want. These surprises never get old and WestJet has done an impeccable job keeping the campaign fresh.

Even NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defence Command best known for watching for Soviet nuclear sneak-attacks) puts up the Christmas lights and tracks Santa each year. This example is a great inspiration for all organizations, If a Government defence department can build an iconic holiday campaign that taps into our emotions of joy, then it should be possible for everyone.

This holiday season, we should all take the opportunity to reflect on the core values we hold – and which your organization embody. Here are three elements that can help you take these values and ‘bottle’ them into a meaningful holiday message, greeting or gift that shares something deeper about who you are, to the people who matter most.

Create iconography. Whether you leverage a new piece of popular culture like Coca-Cola did in 1931 with Santa, or build your own universe, as they did with the Polar Bears, investing in icons that are uniquely yours and who are genuine to the holiday season can help your brand stand out.

Be festive. Audiences are looking for brands to take part in the festive aspect of the season. Whether that is delighting a stranger with a gift like West Jet or tapping into the anticipation of children like NORAD, brands that connect on an emotional level are fondly remembered.

Transcend cultures. The holidays are a time when we should think bigger than ourselves, when we can share in the common values we all hold dear. Tapping into these universal truths allow us to connect with others on a more fundamental human level, one that is genuine and impactful.

By: Michael Hoffmann


Subscribe to get blogs emailed to you.

6 + 4 =


A strong executive team works at continuous improvement.
See how we facilitate executive and board sessions

372 Bay Street
Suite 1703
Toronto, ON
M5H 2W9

Write us an e-mail at



Privacy Policy

© Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.