Marketers spend much of the Holidays being villainized and accused of commercializing the season. After watching my nieces monitor NORAD for Santa's progress across the globe, I thought it might be worth reflecting on marketing's positive contributions to the Holiday season.
Although Santa Claus's red and white garb had been commonplace for a few years, Haddon Sundblom solidified this version by creating a series of illustrations for Coca-Cola in the 1930s. Originally intended to help soda sales sagging during the winter weather, Sundblom's illustration grew in popularity and helped promote this image of Santa.
As we all know, Rudolf the Red-nose Reindeer guides Santa's sleigh. Rudolf was created by a copywriter at Montgomery Ward. The company was attempting to save money from their annual coloring book giveaway, and decided to create their own. Robert L. May created the story and rhyme, which distributed 2.4 million copies in 1939. May's brother-in-law later teamed up with Gene Autry in 1949 to create the song, you've probably been singing this entire paragraph.
My nieces are able to track Santa's annual route, because a Colorado Springs-based Sears store published an advertisement stating, “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” Unfortunately, Sears published the wrong number for Santa, which rang into the CONAD operations center. Colonel Harry Shoup instructed operators at CONAD, now known as NORAD, to identify Santa's location to any children that called – now 50 years late, the tradition continues.
In the spirit of the holidays, let's forgive those notions of malicious marketing – and thank those that have helped us generate Holiday traditions ? Mr. Sundblom, Mr. May, Sears and NORAD. Happy Holidays!