As we all know, any retail brand that doesn’t get on board with holiday advertising is missing out. A lagging year of sales can be more than made up for within the last couple of months with a successful holiday campaign.

Since the 1920s, The Coca-Cola Company has been doing just that – and for good reason. The initial strategy was to position Coca-Cola as a year-round refreshment in North America, despite the fact that the drink, best served cold, isn’t what most would reach for during the holidays. The benefit of their strategy is twofold: Get people drinking a cold beverage during the winter, while reaping the rewards of holiday spending.

Today, The Coca-Cola Company is one of the best at emotive advertising during this festive time of year.

But how do they do it so well? Maybe it’s because of the product’s red and white branding that is synonymous with Christmas – the holiday that Coca-Cola primarily focuses their seasonal advertising efforts around. Or maybe it’s because the brand image they’ve built up over the years really focuses on relationships, sharing and happiness – all of the warm and fuzzy feelings that consumers crave this time of year. Or maybe it’s just because they’ve been doing it a little bit longer than most.

Rather than guessing, let’s take a look at some of the holiday advertising efforts from a brand that really knows how to capture our emotions and make the most of this retail season.

Santa Claus

1931 marked the start of the Coca-Cola Christmas advertising campaign that would end up greatly influencing the image of the modern day Santa Claus. It was the interpretation of artist Haddon Sundblom, who was inspired by Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”, that gave life to the Company’s jolly old Saint Nick. The Coca-Cola Santa could often be seen taking a break from his hectic Christmas schedule to enjoy a bottle of Coke.

CocaCola_Images_SantaThe Polar Bears
The polar bear image arrived within Coca-Cola advertising in the early part of the 20th century, appearing in print as early as 1922. Although, it wouldn’t be until 1993 that the cuddly white creatures really came to life, during the company’s “Aways Coca-Cola” TV campaign. With help from the vision of creative Ken Stewart, Coca-Cola was able to go one step further with the bears. Thanks to sophisticated computer animation, they were able to portray human-like personalities, while enjoying all the festivities of the Christmas season in the great white north – complete with Coke. “That’s really what we were trying to do – create a character that’s innocent, fun and reflects the best attributes we like to call ‘human,’” said Stewart.

CocaCola_PolarBears1Holiday Caravan
In 1995, Coca-Cola took their holiday advertising to a truly on-the-ground level when they started rolling out a fleet of extra special delivery trucks, each decked out in Coca-Cola Christmas branding, lit up with hundreds of holiday lights and emblazoned with the phrase, “Holidays are Coming!” What started as a TV campaign now includes a rigorous agenda of actual trucks making stops at hundreds of towns around the world, with the aim of delivering some of the celebration of the season right to the consumer. For many, the trucks have now come to symbolize the official start of the Christmas season.

CocaCola_CaravanAfter almost a century of making Christmas a top priority in their sales year, Coca-Cola has all-but cornered the market on holiday advertising. But it really doesn’t matter what you’re selling at this time of year. What matters is how you’re able to tap into the emotions of your market during the holidays. Whether you’re toting Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or something much more holiday-neutral, what’s important is your approach to the message. If we’ve learned anything from Coca-Cola’s success, it’s that your message needs to be emotive, genuine, empathic, and it needs to appeal to everyone – from the uber-holiday enthusiast to the biggest cynic.

If you can tackle all that, your consumers will pay attention and your bottom line will reap the rewards.