The Coca-Cola brand has long been associated with Christmas. In fact, Coca-Cola helped shape the image of Santa Claus that we know and love today.

The beverage powerhouse hired illustrator Haddon Sundblom to depict Santa for a series of Coca-Cola ads in 1931. Sundblom showed Santa as a jolly, round-bellied man, with rosy cheeks, and a sparkle in his eye. What we now consider the classic Santa Claus. Before this time, depictions of Santa widely varied.

Every holiday season, Coca-Cola helps us get into the holiday spirit with a collection of Christmas-themed marketing initiatives. Their ads capture the warmth and magic of the season, re-sparking Coca-Cola’s long-standing connection with Christmas, and reigniting consumers’ love for this classically American brand.

Want to read more about food and beverage trends? Check out our Food & Beverage: An Industry Snapshot report for insights and brand rankings. 

A Peek at Coca-Cola’s 2022 Holiday Campaign

Christmas has always been a special time for Coca-Cola. This year, we are excited to break new ground and recognize not just the brand’s iconic holiday heritage but also—in finding new ways to connect with new audiences—its future.” – Selman Careaga, Category President at Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola’s 2022 holiday marketing campaign – “The Holidays Always Find a Way” – centered around a single theme, the season’s ability to bring people together.

The CPG giant’s initiatives included experiential marketing, digital content, TV commercials, and retail creative.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Coca-Cola Caravan, a holiday-themed semi-truck that travels the country spreading cheer. Fans could track the Caravan’s route through an online Coca-Cola Holiday Hub. 

In November, Coca-Cola released a heartfelt television commercial – “Just Like Mama Used to Make that stressed the power of beloved family recipes to remember our loved ones. In the commercial, a man reconnects with his late-mother by baking her pie recipe for the family holiday meal.

Coca-Cola also took a significant step into the streaming world this holiday season, filming a three-part mini-series – “Christmas Always Finds Its Way” – that aired on Amazon Prime Video

How Effective Was Coca-Cola’s Holiday Advertising?

Using data from QuestBrand, we evaluated the effectiveness of Coca-Cola’s holiday advertising campaign.

The platform tracks consumers’ ad recall, and whether they remember seeing an advertisement from the brand in the past 30 days. If they do, the platform further captures where the consumer saw the ad.

This winter, it’s clear that Coca-Cola’s advertisements made an impact, with a noticeable increase in consumer ad recall in November and December

Coca-Cola Holiday Advertising Recall Trended – 4-Week Moving Average

Coca-Cola Advertising Recall Trended

QuestBrand. Base: US Adults familiar with the Coca-Cola brand, n=1,264. 10/17/22 – 1/17/23

In the graph above, we see consumer ad recall steeply increase before Thanksgiving and continue to gain steam until Christmas.

Immediately after Christmas, consumers’ recall of Coca-Cola ads falls. Throughout early January, the brand’s ad recall numbers trended back towards their early-November levels.

This dramatic November/December uptick shows that consumers noticed Coca-Cola’s holiday advertising campaign. Consumers remembered seeing Coca-Cola ads across a variety of channels.

Below, we take a closer look at where consumers saw or heard Coca-Cola’s holiday advertising, breaking down consumer ad recall into 14 distinct ad channels.

Coca-Cola Ad Recall (by Channel) Pre-Holidays V Holiday Season

Coca-Cola Ad Recall Pre Post

QuestBrand. Base: US Adults familiar with the Coca-Cola brand. Pre: 10/17/22 – 11/16/22, n=396. Post: 11/17/22 – 12/31/22, n=625.

If we compare where consumers interacted with Coca-Cola’s ads pre-holiday campaign (10/17/22-11/16/22) versus during (11/17/22-12/31/22), we see statistically significant lifts in advertising recall (+13.0) across multiple channels: print advertising (+10.4), store location (+9.8), news/entertainment website (+7.2), radio (+5.4), and online gaming (+4.8). Most other advertising channels experienced more modest lifts in consumer recall.

These impressive increases, across multiple ad channels, illustrate Coca-Cola’s effectiveness in deploying a sticky holiday marketing initiative. Coca-Cola’s holiday ads were memorable, putting them on the forefront of consumers’ minds as we enter 2023.

Mariah Carey may want to own the “Queen of Christmas” title, but it looks like she will have to share the Christmas crown with the Coca-Cola polar bear.


Catherine Ake

Content Strategist

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