Christmas Is Good Marketing

Today, Christmas is a very important time for marketing companies. Not only the supermarkets and kids toy shops, but the quality ends of the jewellery and fashion segment, entertainment and
24 Dec 2016 11:00
Christmas Is Good Marketing
John Ross

Today, Christmas is a very important time for marketing companies.

Not only the supermarkets and kids toy shops, but the quality ends of the jewellery and fashion segment, entertainment and food and tourism experience segments as well.

In fact, there are very few marketing segments that do not benefit from Christmas.

Christmas is celebrated worldwide, not only in predominately Christian countries but in many other areas that have adopted the holiday as a non-sectarian event.

Originally, Christmas was created to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and for that reason bears the name.

But in the early times of Christianity, the birth of Jesus was not a major spiritual celebration and the first reliable historic mention is in AD336, when the Roman Emperor Constantine started the festivities to celebrate the birth of his newly adopted God.

A short number of years later Pope Julius 1 confirmed that the date of Jesus birth was December 25.

This was a good guess but almost certainly wrong. Most experts opt for a September birth, although there is a group who propose a first quarter of the year birthday.

The choice of the September date is generally based on the fact that shepherds would never be outside watching their flocks in the dead of winter; they would have them tightly bedded down.

The date also fitted the Roman government agenda because they could use an existing pagan holiday based on the winter solstice, called Saturnalia or Dus Natalia Solis Invictis, which honoured the Roman God Saturn.

The switch over of gods was very easy. There was also some tentative relationship with the Hebrews as the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah is held on the twenty fifth day of the Jewish month Kisleve, which falls at the same time as December.

As a newly converted Christian, Constantine wanted to make it harder for the old pagan gods to keep their followers


Biblical fact

One other interesting point is that Jesus was born in early 2BC. How do we know?

Herod the Great ordered the slaughter of the innocents to try to kill Jesus because he was fearful that he might eventually create a revolution against the rule of Rome, and Herod died in mid BC2.

It is Biblical fact that Jesus was born while Herod was alive.

But, no matter what the reason, from AD336 onwards December 25 was the official birthday.

From then on Christians celebrated the day in remembrance of Christ’s birth. At the beginning it appears the festivities were low key and directed at veneration of Jesus, but it was not long before other dimensions were added.

It is generally accepted that the giving of presents started somewhere in the fifth century, where it became part of the celebrations for the better off in the Christian community to give presents to the poor and needy.

These were small things that were to bring some joy into the lives of the needy, who had little joy most of the time, and that seemed to fit with the whole idea of Jesus’ birth.

As time passed the celebrations got bigger and more and more people joined in.

Today, the Christmas celebrations are enjoyed by people of all races and creeds from almost every country in the world.

At some point in the early to mid nineteenth century someone decided to change the spelling of the celebrations to make it more acceptable to non-Christians, so we got the “Xmas” brand name.

This was done because of the vast growth in non-Christian people participating and, more importantly, the ever growing sales opportunities associated with the event.

At some point a second character was introduced, generally known as Saint Nicholas or some form of derivation of that person.

For example, in Holland, they introduced Saint Nicholas but gave him a dwarf companion called Black Peter, who was a form of comedy relief.

More and more the Saint Nicholas characters took over and the original reason for the season was subverted.

This suited many marketers making it possible to now reach almost their total audience because the celebration was about giving presents and having a good time.

Of course the original reason for the season was there, but it was played down and the happy, fun icon did a better marketing job.

The Saint Nicholas character, in a number of different forms, developed over a period of about a hundred years, with varying amounts of impact.


Santa Clause

But the credit for developing the most powerful Saint Nicholas character, the one we now call Santa Clause, goes to one of the world’s great marketing companies, Coca Cola.

In 1931 the Coke advertising agency in the USA decided they needed a very powerful and loveable icon for their Santa Clause.

They commissioned an artist from Michigan, a man called Haddon Sundblom, to create an image of Saint Nicholas that had all the characters they felt they wanted to give Xmas (not Christmas).

He was jolly, he looked kind and caring, he loved kids and he was non-threatening.

He had a big white beard and his clothing was fur lined red cloth because they decided that he came from the North Pole, which was why no one ever saw him except for the one day of the year.

Santa Clause was immediately accepted and loved and the change of the celebration was complete. Now the most powerful marketing event was fully evolved.

In research now, when respondents are asked to describe what they think of when Christmas is mentioned, nearly eighty percent describe the bearded man in the red uniform.

There are many lessons to be learnt from this metamorphosis about the nature of man and the power and flexibility of a good marketing idea.

And may you each have a great Xmas or Christmas and have the joy that the celebration promises.

John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him:


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