How Coke Co-Opted Santa Claus

This is an excerpt from the bestselling book, Why Marketing Works. Jeff mined the history of marketing and history overall, to find stories that inform, warn, and inspire marketers today.

Coca-Cola has spent 130 years making its brand synonymous with happiness. And what’s a happier image than Santa Claus? According to the company’s website, Santa was first paired with Coke for an advertisement in the December, 1930 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The ad shows kids admiring a department store Santa Claus who is enjoying a glass of the cola. 

A year later the D’Arcy advertising agency developed a series of images envisioning the life of the “real” Santa Claus rather than a department store version. They mined Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” which begins with the famous line, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Over the years, Coca-Cola’s Santa reviews lists, delivers toys, eats treats, and visits children, always while enjoying a Coke. Santa became a seasonal celebrity for the brand, gracing store displays, billboards, posters, and calendars. 

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Waste Not: The Staggering Business, Societal and Environmental Cost of Returned Goods

Did you know that in 2018, luxury purveyor Burberry admitted it had destroyed £90 million worth of clothing and accessories over the previous five years. After a public outcry, the company stopped burning returned and leftover merchandise. Now they focus on recycling and donating.

Unfortunately, that is just a drop in the bucket. You see, it is cheaper for businesses to throw away returns rather than go through the process of reselling. So much focus is put on our supply chains…getting something to market, it seems there is very little focus on the “remarket”. It is incredible in this time of tech, how retailers mismanage inventory and promote returns.

Thanks to the CBC program, The Current, for investigating this astounding issue in our society. They call out consumers who order two or three different sizes of clothing, knowing they can return the one that doesn’t fit (this is called “bracketing”). That return, more often than not, is sent straight to landfill. With about half of U.S. customers engaging in bracketing, the returns built into the sales cycle are staggering. More so in Germany, where 72% of consumers bracket clothing orders.

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