We all know that the holidays represent a time of marketing in overdrive, but history shows that effectively marketing a bit of holiday spirit can transform your efforts into long-standing traditions. Generating the right amount of buzz around any holiday can make your product the most prized gift of the season. Or you could use the season of giving to showcase your brand’s core values at a time when your audience is seeking the warm, joyous feelings associated with giving forward and giving back. Regardless of how your brand focuses their marketing efforts, this season could serve as a huge driver of your sales and consumer loyalty.
Holiday traditions must start somewhere, but the origins of some traditions would surprise the average person. Many of the holiday traditions and symbols we see in Western cultures are derived from or enhanced by advertising campaigns. Take that jolly bearded guy, Santa, for example. Most people know Santa as the old man in a bright red and white suit with a long, snow-white beard. While the truth of origin is debated among Santa historians, many agree that the image we associate with Santa became more standardized by Coca-Cola since they first commissioned the red and white clad St. Nick for use in their Christmas ads. And now, the beloved annual Coca Cola holiday ad is looked forward to by all.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the most famous holiday characters ever, recognized through song at school Christmas programs across America. But most people probably don’t know that Rudolph and his legend were created by a copywriter at Montgomery Ward. Rudolph was initially an advertising blunder because customers associated his big-red nose with excessive drinking. Eventually customers came to like the heroic reindeer and stopped worrying that he may have some vices.
KFC for Christmas
One of the most interesting cases of an advertising campaign becoming a common tradition can be seen in Japan. In 1974, KFC developed a campaign for the new Japanese locations called “Kentucky for Christmas.” Advertisements highlighted an affordable “Christmas Party Barrel,” which contained fried chicken, salads or soups, and a cake. Despite Christmas not being recognized as a national holiday, and only 1 percent of Japanese people practicing Christianity, the campaign was a huge success.
In each of the first few years, there were reports of 2-hour-long waits for the Christmas special. The campaign was successful enough to turn into a holiday tradition for a couple of reason. First, turkey was not really available in Japan at the time and if it was, most families could not afford it, making chicken seem like a more accessible alternative. Secondly, the Japanese people did not have established Christmas traditions. So, KFC used frequent repetition of their advertising to create a strong association between their food and Christmas.
So, it just goes to show that as much as we are bombarded by advertising, strong marketing can have a lasting impact. Often, images and associations are embedded into our culture without us actively noticing it. Regardless of how a holiday marketing tradition comes to be, that tradition can shape how a brand connects to its audience and drive noticeable results.