“Holidays are coming, always Coca Cola”? .


“Its the most wonderful time of the year”; the run up to Christmas. But when is the appropriate time to start thinking of Christmas? Traditionally the beginning of December would be a suitable time to turn your attentions towards the holidays, However every year it seems to get earlier and earlier.

The beginning of this period is often associated with the Coca Cola Christmas advert which is on our screens every year. This advert has mass appeal and for a lot of people signifies the beginning of Xmas. The adverts premiere becomes a global social event from the first time it is shown.Ever year It seems to arrive on our screens earlier and earlier, Everywhere Facebook statuses are updated and it becomes the biggest trend on Twitter.


When we think of Christmas and Father Christmas we often through semiotic’s associate both with the colour red.This hasn’t always been the case in fact the traditional colour portrayed Father Christmas is green. Then in 1931 Coke created an advertising campaign to try and increase sales. They noticed that they weren’t making as much profit within winter months and therefore tried to interlink their brand with Christmas. They did this by creating adverts that depict Father Christmas as red, creating an almost symbiotic subliminal relationship between the two.


Why would Coca Cola want to be associated with Christmas?

Everything we encounter within day to day life attempts to elicit an emotional response (Hollins,2010). Most of the time it won’t have any conscious effect but it will generate some emotions on a subconscious level, Therefore every advert will generate an emotional response depending on what it features. Hollins (2010) states that the more emotional ‘charge’ the advert creates the more likely it is to create an empathic response and due to this response the more memorable the advert becomes. Furthermore the more times we see a specific advert the more this response is enforced and is more likely to have an effect.

Coca Cola is increasing the emotional charge by using Christmas to try and generate certain emotions when we think of their brand; It is doing this by its clever use of classical conditioning. Pavlov (1927/1960) created an experiment which explain how we can condition certain responses to certain stimulus. The experiment  presented dogs with a ringing bell upon the arrival of food.The food made the dog salivate when  presented. Because of the association between the two stimuli eventually when the dog heard the bell it would produce salivation because the dog would be expecting food. This is similar to what Coca Cola has done with Christmas.


When people think of Christmas they feel excitement,family and happiness. As these are positive emotions they are perfect to try and be associated with. When people think of just Coca Cola they might not have any specific emotions however when Coke present the Christmas adverts combining the two it becomes a conditioned stimulus. Therefore when people think of Coca Cola they begin to elicit these emotions  for the coke brand these can be essential. Mehta & Purvis (2006) stated the importance of not just generating emotions but generating meaningful emotions. This is something that Coca Cola uses to its advantage during the holiday season by utilising the already established emotions to generate positive emotions for the brand.

This doesn’t translate to the increase of sales for Coca Cola  around Christmas time as statistics show this doesn’t occur. Nonetheless it increases the brands awareness and peoples automatic responses to the product. Damasio (2000) conducted experiments showing that emotions are processed automatically and are linked to previous emotional responses. When presented with two products this could be the difference between choosing a different product and theirs. Mizerski & White (1986) found that this can be a huge significance within the buying and consumption stage. The fact that Coca Cola kick off the holiday season count down with their advert  has shown that this particular conditioning has definitely worked and by continuing the adverts circulation at this time of year it continues to reinforce to positive brand effect.

Other companies catching on…

In recent years other companies and brands have started to pay more attention and spend more time focusing on producing their own Christmas adverts. The main example in recent years is John Lewis; this year producing an advert involving a bear and a hare featuring Lily Allen (continuing their tradition of unusual soft,acoustic covers) as the soundtrack to the advert.  This year they have continued with the formula they began with three years ago by focusing on producing an advert that tugs on the heart strings the end message of the advert being  ‘Give someone a christmas they will never forget’. John Lewis like Coca Cola are utilising an emotional response to reinforce their brand for John Lewis “Give Someone a Chistmas they will never forget” is followed by John Lewis and “Holidays are coming, always Coco Cola” uses the same reinforcement paradigm. These kinds of adverts are extremely effective as well as being popular.

John Lewis Christmas advert

Other companies such as Marks and Spencers and Debenhams have also produced their own, clearly emphasizing the importance of targetting people at Christmas. It has almost become a battle in recent years in who can produce the best Christmas advert. This trend is likely to continue in the future with more and more companies producing their own equivalent

Marks & Spencers Christmas advert

Debenhams Christmas advert


Damasio, A.R. (2000) The Feeling of What Happens. Heinemann, London.

Hollis, N. (2010).  Emotion in Advertising: Pervasive, Yet Misunderstood.

Mehta, A., & Purvis, S, C., (2006).Reconsidering Recall and Emotion in Advertising. Journal of Advertising Research

Mizerski,R, W., & White,J, D., (1986). Understanding and using emotions in advertising, Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 3 Iss: 4, pp.57 – 69

Pavlov, I.P. (1927/1960). Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. London: Oxford University Press


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