Kunle Campbell – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Wed, 21 Mar 2018 21:02:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-e8d7fa0a-3b0e-4069-91b1-78460a4d4af1-150x150.png Kunle Campbell – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/150-years-holiday-campaigns/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/150-years-holiday-campaigns/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:30:16 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17597 Did Coca-Cola create the modern day Santa Claus? Is Mr. Potato Head responsible for reshaping holiday TV advertising? How did…]]>

Did Coca-Cola create the modern day Santa Claus?

Is Mr. Potato Head responsible for reshaping holiday TV advertising?

How did a single advertising campaign raise over $40 million to fund children’s vaccines?

It’s that time of year — the holiday season is approaching us, and fast! It’s the time for making your holiday email lists and checking them twice.

For those in the retail, ecommerce and marketing world, we have already begun strategizing and executing Cyber Week and holiday marketing campaigns.

In fact, this year, 37.52% of online brands reported that they began holiday planning 1-4 months earlier than last year.  

Of course, as you might expect, the holidays feel a little different this year. In 2017, social commerce and true omnichannel expansion began to drive 3x in revenue for brands taking advantage of it.

Top Ecommerce Sales Channels for 2017 Holidays

Here’s the breakdown of where brands expect to make their sales this holiday season:

And here is a breakdown of the advertising channels brands expect to make them the most money:

No matter which channels you use, for many brands (and likely even you), the holiday season (specifically Cyber Five, Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) is a make or break time.

The promotions you use, the speed your site loads, which payment options customers use the most: all of this will help you understand exactly what to do more of (or not ever again!) in 2018.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a single season!

Whenever I am looking for inspiration during a stressful time, I always dive deep into the fundamentals and see what the most successful brands have done in the past.

This is exactly what we have done at BigCommerce with our partner, PayPal: researched the most iconic holiday marketing campaigns, so you can create a legacy holiday tradition that brings you customers beyond 2017.

In the infographic below, you’ll get a snapshot of the last 150 years of these memorable holiday retail marketing campaigns from some of the world’s most well-known brands.

Top Holiday Marketing Campaigns in History

  1. Macy’s Holiday Window Campaign
  2. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  3. Coca-Cola Invents the Father of Christmas
  4. Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
  5. Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  6. Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
  7. Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
  8. NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
  9. Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
  10. Kentucky for Christmas! Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
  11. Folgers Advertises the Intangible
  12. Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy Ad Agency of Record
  13. Coca-Cola’s Sledding Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
  14. Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
  15. M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
  16. Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
  17. Target’s Black Friday Catalog Focuses on Price
  18. Pampers’ “Silent Night” Raises $40 Million
  19. Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
  20. John Lewis Focuses on Storytelling Over Brand
  21. Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
  22. American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
  23. Apple Makes Technology and Family a Priority
  24. REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition

From here, we’ll take you on a journey through time, where you’ll learn more about the backstory — and actionable learnings — behind each of these brand-building initiatives.


Did Modern Holiday Shopping Begin in the 1800s?

Before we dig into the most memorable campaigns in holiday retail history, let’s briefly review where we started.

The popularity and commercialization of Christmas is often depicted as a recent phenomenon, but it actually began in the 1800s:

  • In the 1840s, Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s German husband) popularized the Christmas tree in England, when he put one up Windsor Castle.
  • In 1843, Charles Dickens published the now classic book “The Christmas Carol,” in which he encouraged rich Victorians to redistribute their wealth by giving money and gifts to the poor.
  • By 1870, Macy’s hired their first Santa Claus to bring the newfound Christmas cheer across the pond, followed closely by the first electrically illuminated Christmas trees arriving in 1882.
  • In 1879, British stores began dedicating areas to ‘Santa Land’ where customers could wander around immersed in Christmas scenery.

Fast-forward to the 1900s and we discover that retail brands intelligently and very purposefully created some of the most unforgettable characters and imagery of the holiday season.

Some of the questions we were confronted with along the way include:

You can explore each stop on our time machine through our chaptered guide. Let’s dive in! 

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How Coca-Cola Invented The Father of Christmas (Or did they?) https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-coca-cola-used-santa/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-coca-cola-used-santa/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 23:07:18 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17605 Photo: Coca-Cola History has offered many representations of Father Christmas, who has appeared in a range of clothing and colors…]]>

did coca cola invent santa?

Photo: Coca-Cola

History has offered many representations of Father Christmas, who has appeared in a range of clothing and colors over time. Perhaps the most famous portrayal, however, is that of Saint Nicholas of Myra, a 4th Century bishop depicted in familiar red robes.

The popular myth that Father Christmas owes his appearance to Coca-Cola –– the portly stature, bushy beard and red outfit –– is not entirely accurate. Rather, the Santa Claus image you recognize today was the image portrayed by Haddon Sundblom for Santa’s first appearance in Cola advertising in 1931, drawing inspiration from Saint Nicholas’ image.

Indeed, of the many contemporary portrayals of Father Christmas, Coca-Cola conveniently selected –– as opposed to invented –– the image we know today.

Of course, this imagery conveniently matched their own famously colored branding.

Cola’s campaign has evolved over time, showing Santa in a range of scenarios which any customer might find familiar:

  • ‘Me too’ in 1936 was Santa in the Great Depression
  • ‘Give and take, say I’ showed children leaving out Cokes for him at night in 1937
  • In 1961, Santa attempts to hush the family dog in ‘When friends drop in.’

Part of the campaign’s success is in engaging Santa in recognizable scenes. Customers’ reactions and traditions have followed. After 1937, children started leaving out Coke at night, while after another campaign showed Santa without a wedding ring, concerned fans wrote to Coca-Cola asking where Mrs. Claus had gone.

In adopting such a quintessential seasonal character, Coca-Cola can safely repeat their campaign each year. People expect to see Santa and, much like his wedding ring, would likely now question if he failed to make an appearance on Cola’s behalf.

While the red and white branding similarities are largely fortuitous for Coke, there can be little doubt that this has helped seal the association between the brand and Santa in people’s minds.

Providing Santa's Beverage of Choice

As someone who loves and studies the history of advertising, very few brands have had as big of an impact on culture as Coca Cola.

While the brand’s product offering has very little to do with Christmas, their focus on Santa when they were still early in brand development was a huge win for their brand.

Many of the early Coca Cola ads featured Santa surrounded by kids and a Coca Cola in his hand.

– Ross Simmonds, Founder, Foundation Marketing

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Is there is a well-known seasonal character whose features already match some of your branding? If “yes,” capitalize on this to build long-lasting associations in consumers’ minds.

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/1920s-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-marketing/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/1920s-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-marketing/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 23:03:23 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17604 In 1924, Macy’s welcomed the world’s largest department store with their first parade in New York City. Although held on the…]]>

In 1924, Macy’s welcomed the world’s largest department store with their first parade in New York City.

Although held on the morning of Thanksgiving, it was presented as a Christmas parade with floats featuring favorite nursery-rhyme characters, matching the theme of their window display that year.

Macy’s employees dressed up and marched alongside animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo, leading a giant Santa Claus for 6 miles from Harlem to the store at Herald Square.

The parade is now in its 90th year and has become something of an institution, with more than 3.5 million New Yorkers lining the route annually.

Enormous helium balloons debuted in 1927 to replace the zoo animals, which, unsurprisingly, proved challenging to handle out in the city. These balloons have become a signature of the parade and each year a different character is revealed, from Superman to Donald Duck.

Further innovations have been introduced over time, including themed floats first appearing in 1971 and Broadway performances first debuting in 1980.

The Macy’s parade is a spectacle to be enjoyed by all, although there is clear focus on marketing to children, who take delight in the giant animals and familiar cartoon characters leading them (and, more importantly, their parents) through the city to Macy’s flagship store.

Now known as the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” the success of this event is demonstrated by making Thanksgiving and Macy’s synonymous for the people of New York and all those enjoying the show at home as well.

Consistency is Key

Macy’s is one of the best at holiday marketing campaigns. They’ve been consistent with their parade since 1920!

– Mike Wittenstein, Founder + CEO, StoryMiners

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Macy’s parade is nothing less than a spectacle. Creating a large and ostentatious holiday campaign is one sure way of reaching a wide audience and generating chatter around your brand.

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The Genesis of Holiday Window Displays https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-window-retail-displays/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-window-retail-displays/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:56:18 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17600 The holiday season in major cities around the world is typically heralded by seasonal window retail displays put up by…]]>

The holiday season in major cities around the world is typically heralded by seasonal window retail displays put up by department stores and retailers large and small.

We can trace their beginnings back to the industrial revolution.

The widespread availability of plate glass in the late 1800s allowed shop owners to build large windows spanning the full lengths of their shops for the display of merchandise.

This is when the notion of window-shopping was born.

holiday retail display

Photo: Library of Congress

One of the first major holiday window displays was put up by Macy’s New York store in 1874. It featured a collection of porcelain dolls and scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

It was not until the early 1900s that competition for grabbing the attention of customers intensified among the largest retailers in three major cities in the United States –– New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Store owners and managers used window displays to lure window shoppers into their stores; and over the holidays the display were a lot more colorful and creative.

By 1914 Saks was stirring public intrigue at their flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York with the emergence of ‘unveiling events’ for their display window.

Hydraulic lifts beneath the windows allowed teams of artisans to work on new designs out of public view.

But it was Lord & Taylor that really pioneered this effort when, in 1938, the owners eschewed the traditional method of presenting store merchandise in favor of a purely decorative display of gilded bells that swung in sync with the sounds of recorded bells.

holiday window display

Photo: Ricky Zehavi, Architectural Digest

This represents the full transition from windows being used to display products to those intended solely as a marvel to draw people to the store and generate interest and discussion. It was a physical version of what John Lewis and others would later do, using advertisements as an anticipated event in themselves without including products.

Competition for shopper attention has continuously intensified, and retailers have correspondingly adapted. Window displays appeal to consumers on a number of more unique levels in comparison to TV or online advertisements.

Being physical, a grand display is much more of a marvel than something viewed through another medium. Further, by requiring customers to visit the store to view the window, these displays actively engage the audience.

Over the decades department stores have teamed up with designers, artists and other companies such as for Bergdorf’s 2015 display created with Swarovski. With the capacity for grandiosity and innovation driven by competition, grand window displays can be repeated annually without losing their impact.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Create something spectacular that your customers have to enjoy by coming to your store in person.

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Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/norelco-popularizes-stop-motion-animation/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/norelco-popularizes-stop-motion-animation/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:21:34 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17621 When Norelco began using animated advertisements to sell their electric shavers and other personal grooming products in the 1960s, animation…]]>

When Norelco began using animated advertisements to sell their electric shavers and other personal grooming products in the 1960s, animation as a media form was neither particularly advanced, nor appeared regularly on television.

Into the 1970s, however, Norelco’s Christmas spots became one of the indications that the holiday season had truly arrived.

Famously featuring Santa Claus sledding on an upturned razor attachment, Norelco not only produced an advertisement which would be familiar for decades to come, but pioneered one of the earliest uses of animation to market to adults.

They did so partly by employing some of the most advanced animation at the time.

In fact, the ads were so successful that, when they aired during animated Rankin/Bass programs, viewers were often unsure as to what was a formed part of the show and what was merely advertising.

norelco holiday campaign shaving advertisement

Photo Source

Once established, later versions of the ad focused less on Santa’s journey and spent more time displaying products to customers. By then, of course, the format of the advertisement was instantly recognizable and associated with the Norelco brand.

In more recent years, the ad has been developed to incorporate newer animation technologies such as CGI, retaining its familiar structure and commitment to quality animation.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Be the first to create quality content using new technologies and new media. Today, augmented reality. Tomorrow…?

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NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/norad-tracks-santas-journey-around-world/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/norad-tracks-santas-journey-around-world/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:03:23 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17619 Photo: Wikipedia Legend has it that in December 1955, a young girl misdialed a telephone number only to be put…]]>

norad tracking santa holiday marketing

Photo: Wikipedia

Legend has it that in December 1955, a young girl misdialed a telephone number only to be put through to the ‘red phone’ at Continental Air Defense Command (CONRAD). A Colonel Shoup, who purportedly answered the phone, is reported to have confirmed his identity as Santa Claus and thanked the girl for leaving treats for his reindeer.

How much of the legend is elaboration is not clear. However, since 1955 NORAD (the successor to CONRAD) has maintained an annual campaign of tracking Santa Claus and informing the public of his progress on Christmas Eve.

Colonel Shoup was inspired to use the event as a public relations exercise for NORAD, publicizing the cutting-edge abilities of the organization. In part, this would bring an organization which received little public attention to the forefront of people’s minds and the media.

The campaign demonstrates the effective use of multiple forms of media for delivering a single campaign, and to date, telephone hotlines, newspapers, radio, phonograph, television and the internet have all been employed to inform people where Santa is.

Today, CGI videos of Santa progressing on his journey are uploaded online. These were accompanied by voice-over until 2011, typically recorded by NORAD staff, but often featuring celebrity guests such as Jonathan Ross, Ringo Starr and Aaron Carter.

The appeal of the campaign for children is obvious. For adults, however, the project invites people to partake in the fiction –– offering anybody the opportunity to engage in a small fantasy, tracking Santa live as he makes his journey around the world.

It is also an interactive campaign; participants can telephone for updates or follow progress ‘live’ online.

Today, more than 1,200 NORAD staff volunteer their own time to answer the dedicated tracking telephone number, and with over one hundred thousand calls and some 20 million visits to the online tracker in 2014 alone, this seasonal tradition remains highly popular today.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

If NORAD can track Santa Claus, why not boost your company image and engage your audience with some light-hearted (and data-driven) fun?

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Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/kfc-christmas-japan/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/kfc-christmas-japan/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:49:33 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17623 A group of visitors during the holiday season in the 1970s discovered that finding turkey in Japan was extremely difficult.…]]>

A group of visitors during the holiday season in the 1970s discovered that finding turkey in Japan was extremely difficult. Instead, they opted for a fried chicken Christmas dinner.

KFC capitalized on this opportunity and began serving chicken dinners at Christmas in 1974 under the promotion ‘Kentucky for Christmas.’

The campaign itself was clear, avoiding the traditional hallmarks of Christmas as recognized in the West, and instead delivering a simple message that ‘at Christmas, you eat chicken.’

This message pervaded television commercials, and appealed to one culture’s fascination with another’s cuisine in a similar fashion to the West’s adoption of sushi.

kfc chicken christmas in Japan

Photo from Smithsonian Magazine

The simplicity of the underlying message was ideally suited to the country’s appetite for foreign ideas and tastes, becoming an undoubted success. In 1971 KFC had racked up almost $1 million of debt in Japan; by 1974 hundreds of stores were generating sales averaging $29,000 each per month.

Today KFC operates more than 1,200 stores across Japan –– with monthly profits doubling in December.

The KFC Christmas dinner has since been extended from its origins, with cake and champagne added to the original staples of chicken and wine.

Christmas Eve has become KFC’s busiest time of year in Japan, and many customers now pre-order their chicken dinners months in advance to avoid hours of waiting in line. All of this for a domestically-unfathomable $40 price tag on the meal.

KFC has further extended the overall concept of “Kentucky for Christmas.” In 2012 and 2013, passengers leaving Japan on selected flights to the U.S. and Europe were served with in-flight KFC meals over the Christmas period. And Tokyo houses KFC’s only three-story restaurant with a fully stocked whiskey bar.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

In an increasingly globalized world, capitalize on foreign goods reimagined for your regional or national market.

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Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/campbells-soup-50s-housewife-campaign/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/campbells-soup-50s-housewife-campaign/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:36:58 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17614 Photo: Bamboo Trading Campbell’s 1948 magazine campaign clearly has one audience in mind: wives and mothers, or female homemakers. The…]]>

Campbell's soup holiday campaign

Photo: Bamboo Trading

Campbell’s 1948 magazine campaign clearly has one audience in mind: wives and mothers, or female homemakers.

The advertisement shows a typical holiday scene, with mother and children carrying bundles of wrapped presents while father is almost unnoticeable in the background.

In 1948, it was the woman of a household who would invariably do much of the cooking, childcare and indeed Christmas shopping.

This advertisement draws on the pressures and time-constraints placed on the mother (and all such women) as she prepares for the holiday season. It offers her a solution to find more time during the Christmas-rushed days.

Although the advertisement provides pictures and descriptions of several available soups, it focuses on value over product placement. The primary aim is to show women how Campbell’s Soup can save them time, offering a product which is not only tasty but, more importantly, fast and easy to prepare.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Don’t just show your customers your product; tell them how it will benefit their lives over the holidays.

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Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/mr-potato-head-innovative-holiday-marketing/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/mr-potato-head-innovative-holiday-marketing/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:34:53 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17617 Photo: Pixar. Wikia The iconic Mr. Potato Head toy was first manufactured in 1952. The toy’s popularity resulted in further…]]>

mr potato head holiday marketing

Photo: Pixar. Wikia

The iconic Mr. Potato Head toy was first manufactured in 1952.

Originally conceived and designed as plastic pieces to be inserted into a real potato, complaints over moldy vegetables soon led to the inclusion of a plastic potato body.

The toy’s popularity resulted in further members of the Potato Head family being introduced, as well as the character’s appearance in films such as the Toy Story franchise, Burger King advertisements and on children’s television shows.

In 2008 the character was also featured as one of the giant helium balloons at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The manufacturers, Hasbro Inc., made two key innovations with Mr. Potato Head’s marketing campaign.

  1. It was the first children’s toy to ever be advertised on television; although this was a novelty in itself, it is unsurprising that advertising would take advantage of the new televised media form as it came into maturity.
  2. More significantly, however, Mr. Potato Head was marketed directly at children, meaning the campaign was the first example of using television advertising to directly encourage children to request certain products from their parents. And thus, ‘pester power’ was born.

With more than one million units sold within the first year, Hasbro’s innovative marketing was a clear success.

It opened the door for what are now familiar 30-second advertising slots on television, and introduced the idea of marketing to children directly, as opposed to their parents.

These two simple ideas have been applied ever since, and still inform the format of many televised children’s toy advertisements today.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Although there are strict regulations about advertising to children, marketing softly at this valuable audience can still produce considerable pester power.

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Folgers Advertises the Intangible https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/folgers-christmas-holiday-campaign/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/folgers-christmas-holiday-campaign/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:32:25 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17625 The biggest challenge with advertising food and drink is really conveying its essential features to an audience –– taste and smell. Earlier…]]>

The biggest challenge with advertising food and drink is really conveying its essential features to an audience –– taste and smell.

Earlier ads from Folgers took place in exclusive restaurants where the coffee was secretly switched with Folgers’ product.

However, in their 1986 commercial, the narrative of a relative returning for Christmas is eminently more relatable for most consumers than going to an expensive restaurant.

The ad’s recognizable characters also respond in familiar ways to the coffee product. The children smell the coffee as they make it, and as each family member wakes they take deep inhalations of the aroma wafting through the house.

Everybody notices the product, even if they cannot see it. The round of satisfied sighs as everybody enjoys the drink further reinforces the taste and smell which the audience are not able to participate in.

The campaign is not only effective at conveying the essential features and value of the product –– it is also selling an idealistic Christmas scene, associating quaint and happy family life with the product in the audience’s mind. The commercial ran until 1998 and in edited form until 2005, transforming Folgers into the U.S.’s leading coffee brand.

Folgers was subsequently sold for $3 billion in 2008, and in 2009 the popular ad was somewhat less successfully reimagined.

Indeed, the sequel has caused controversy, with viewers suggesting that the brother-sister relationship is less than platonic. In any event, the campaign’s success is demonstrated by both its longevity and Folgers’ resulting market dominance.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Turn your brand into a household name by incorporating it into a relatable story.

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