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What sparks the start of the jolly season for you? Is it the smell of orange and cinnamon, Christmas carols, or twinkling fairy lights? Or could it be a specific soft drink brand with their seasonal truck? 

Branding in Christmas or Christmas in Branding?
The notion of Christmas is just naturally nostalgic; Christmas trees, fairy lights, heartwarming movies, and indulging seasonal treats all seem to bring back encouraging childhood memories that can’t hold us back from getting in the mood. But, how did Christmas come to be what we all experience today?
Whilst everything Christmas seems to have a timeless quality to it, the reality is that until the early-19th century, it was more of an excuse for some cultures to just feast and get drunk. The celebration was actually established as a legal holiday in 1660 (UK), but remained disreputable for many.  Two centuries later, Christmas was conceptualised by Charles Dickens - with the novel A Christmas Carol - as a holiday that embraces kind-heartedness, gift-giving, family time, and charity.
There was a time when Christmas wasn’t dictated by seasonal marketing and consumerism wasn’t known; a time clearly long gone.  Commercialisation and Christmas came hand in hand and witnessed the two trends rising in popularity, with one influencing the other until Christmas shaped itself into the exciting, heart-warming celebration we all know today. 
Though, if you really think about it, Christmas kind of goes against every single rule of today’s strategic thinking driven world. The concept never changes, it’s only available on one day of the year and it’s never been rebranded (or properly branded for that matter). The typeface commonly used is outdated and the colours red and gold have remained the same since forever. The brand story? a baby in a manger, three wise men, stars, angels and lots of gold.  In perspective, you could say Christmas is a bit all over the place, so how does it hold the title of the most popular and profitable holiday?  
The majority of human beings impatiently wait for the weekend, the next birthday party, Easter, Summer Holidays, Christmas and so on.  All these special occasions engage us so intensely for the one and only reason that they combine habit, time and focus, which results in permission to do things you wouldn’t do on any other “normal” day.  Brands that find ways to link their identity and story to what people think about or feel on special occasions, are ultimately giving their audience a reason to invest into their brand and stay loyal to them.    
A great example is the stories Coca-Cola has been telling us about Santa since 1930.  They have touched people’s hearts in dramatic and long-lasting ways. Apart from establishing the red-white look of the modern day Santa Clause, it also reminded people that better days are coming when times were hard and started traditions like leaving a Coke out for Santa on Christmas Eve. People fell in love with the Coca-Cola adverts so much and paid such close attention to them that when anything changed, they would write letters to the company.  
Another iconic example of how branding and marketing does wonders, goes back to the 70s in Japan, where KFC launched its “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign and since then became a nationwide Christmas tradition.  50 years later, the power behind this campaign still has people pre-ordering their Christmas dinner or queuing for hours to get it. 

The evolution of Christmas is accurate proof of how much branding and marketing influence our culture, traditions and emotions, and ultimately how the power of brand storytelling impacts social trends.  The opportunities to tell Christmas stories are infinite, and the brands that best make use of the sentiments and traditions tangled up in Christmas, have the prospect to become part of the festive culture for many years to come.  So, even if Coca-Cola didn’t invent Christmas or Santa Claus, it definitely changed the way we perceive the festive figure and the jolly holiday as a whole. Needless to say, if there’s one lesson emerging companies should take from Coca-Cola’s branding power, it would definitely be that great and timeless brands always come from an emotional place.