150 years of the best holiday campaigns

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he most wonderful time of the year is here. Lights twinkle at every street corner, fresh snow starts to blanket the ground, and the spirit of giving warms the hearts of all. But perhaps the most obvious sign that this joyous season is here, is the start of holiday marketing campaigns.

For over a century, companies have kept the public guessing what creative tricks they will pull out of their sleeves during the month of December. The advertisements, the jingles, the iconic characters, have all helped trademark the magic this time of the year brings.

Here is a list of the nine most iconic and beloved holiday marketing campaigns over the last 150 years.

 1874: Macy’s holiday window display

The grand Macy’s department store in New York City was the first brand to create a major holiday window display. The boom of the industrial revolution made glass in rich supply, allowing R.H Macy to bring to life his vision of creating an elaborate storefront to fascinate his customers.

In 1874, Macy’s debuted its first window display, featuring collections of hand-painted, porcelain dolls from around the world, as well as scenes from the novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

To this day, people from all over the world visit the department store in New York, to witness the beautiful artistry captured behind the glass of Macy’s windows.

 1924: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

in 1924, Macy’s expanded to cover an entire city block in New York City. The newly acquired 1 million square feet of retail space was enough reason to celebrate, and thus the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was born. Macy’s employees scattered the streets in bright costumes, as floats and animals borrowed from central park zoo entertained an audience of over 250,000 people.

For many, the annual parade marks the start of the holiday season. Still to this day, the elaborate production draws extensive national attention, making Macy’s a brand name that is strongly connected with the holidays.

 1931: Coca-Cola’s father of Christmas

Years ago, the image of Santa Clause as a jolly, grandfather-like figure, did not exist. Every artist had a different interpretation of the holiday icon, until Coke created an image that would stick for years to come.

In 1931, Coca-Cola hired artist Haddon Sundblom, to create an image of Santa the company could use in its Christmas advertisements. Sundblom developed the character America knows and loves today, conveniently wearing the same classic red that is associated with Coca-Cola.

1939: Montgomery Ward’s Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

Each year, the department store Montgomery Ward created Christmas coloring books for children as promotional items. In 1939, the company hired copywriter Robert L. May, with the task of creating its annual book.

Montgomery Ward’s Christmas coloring book in 1939, introducing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the first time. 2.4 million copies of the book were sold that season.

In his youth, May was bullied for being small in size and extremely shy. These past experiences inspired the writer to create Rudolph, a misfit reindeer that was mocked for his shiny red nose.

During the 1939 Christmas season, May’s coloring book sold over 2.4 million copies. To this day, the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the most popular holiday children’s stories.

1955: Norad’s tracking Santa’s journey

In 1955, a local newspaper ran a Sears advertisement that invited kids to call Santa Clause. However, a problem arose when the newspaper accidentally changed a single digit in Santa’s phone number, leading all the children to call the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) center.

Each year, members of NORAD and dozens of volunteers, take phone calls from children about Santa’s location on Christmas Eve.

To avoid acting like scrooges on Christmas, the military leaders at NORAD gave a few men the special assignment to answer all Santa related calls.

From that night on, NORAD became an integral part of Christmas Eve, as the command center started to “track” Santa’s journey across the globe. Children continue to use NORAD’s tracking website each year to see how close Santa is to their house.

 1989: Hershey’s holiday bells

The iconic advertisement personifying Hershey kisses as bells has run every December since 1989. However, what most people don’t know is that the beloved commercial was not supposed to exist.

Hershey’s creative team had already decided to go in a different direction when an employee came up with a simpler idea he thought would be better. Without financial support, the employee ran with his own advertising concept.

After showing his boss the finished product, Hershey scrapped its more elaborate animation and released the now famous Hershey Holiday Bells commercial.

1993: Coca-Cola’s sledding polar bears

Coca-Cola’s signature polar bears made their sledding debt during the 1993 holiday season with a commercial titled, “Northern Lights.”

Coca-Cola debuted its iconic polar bears for the first time with a holiday advertisement titled, “Northern Lights.” The creator of the commercial was Ken Stewart.

The creator of the commercial, Ken Stewart, chose to feature polar bears because they reminded him of his late Labrador retriever. Coca-Cola used the most advanced computer graphics at the time to bring Stewarts vision onto the screen for the holidays.

 1997: Starbuck’s red holiday cups

In 1977, Starbucks released its first holiday cup. A festive red cup adorned with seasonal designs made for a beverage holder every customer wanted to drink out of.

Starbuck’s holiday cup campaign is still going strong today, as the cup serves as a perfect complement to the company’s seasonal drinks, such as peppermint mocha and gingerbread latte.

 2007: Macy’s Believe campaign

In 2007, Macy’s launched its first “Believe” campaign, calling all believers in Santa Clause to put their faith to good use. For every letter written to Santa and sent through a Macy’s department store, the company would donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Over the course of nine years, the campaign has raised $15 million for the charity.

Written by Brittain Steiner


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