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coca cola polar bears

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Coca-Cola has been fortunate — and savvy — enough to ingrain itself in the minds of holiday shoppers with two uniquely popular campaigns. On top of Santa infamously donning the Coke-red robes, Coca-Cola introduced the polar bear as a mascot back in 1922. They’ve periodically usde a mother bear and cubs in seasonal advertising for decades to follow.

In 1993, however, the first animated bears appeared in a story showing a number of bears sitting back to watch the northern lights while drinking Coke.

Their immediate popularity ensured the return of the bears in subsequent adverts. Notable appearances include a spot in 1994 when the bears slid down a ski jump to commemorate the Olympic Games, and in 2013 when the bears were featured in a short film directed by Ridley Scott.

coca cola global warming

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The creator of the campaign, Ken Stewart, explains how the bears are intended to “reflect the best attributes we like to call human: [being] cute, mischievous, playful and filled with fun.”

This certainly translates into the advertisements, where the bears are seen performing amusing activities with comical sound effects (recorded by Mr. Stewart himself). The bears’ characteristics and humor no doubt underpin their popularity with children and adults alike, while the innovative stories allow the campaign to repeat without becoming stale.

This notwithstanding, the use of polar bears has given rise to some controversy.

In 2011, Coca-Cola pledged $2 million toward saving the species from extinction, and helped raise a further $3 million from consumers. Nevertheless, in 2011 to 2013, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing, and generated $8.7 billion in profits.

The World Wildlife Fund states that at least double the amount raised would be needed to make an impact on saving the polar bear. For some consumers, this raises the question as to whether Coca-Cola, which has benefited well from the polar bear campaign, ought to do more.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Animals can provide ever popular characters to sell your product; give them recognizable human characteristics for consumers to identify with.

Table of Contents

Intro150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns
Chapter 1 The Genesis of Holiday Window Displays
Chapter 2 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season
Chapter 3 How Coca-Cola Invented The Father of Christmas (Or did they?)
Chapter 4 Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
Chapter 5 Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chapter 6 Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
Chapter 7 Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
Chapter 8 NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
Chapter 9 Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
Chapter 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
Chapter 11 Folgers Advertises the Intangible
Chapter 12 Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy an Ad Agency
Chapter 13 Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
Chapter 14 Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
Chapter 15 M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
Chapter 16 Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
Chapter 17 Target Keeps it Simple with Their Black Friday Catalog Focuses on Price
Chapter 18 Pampers Silent Night Raises $40 Million for Charity
Chapter 19 Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
Chapter 20 John Lewis Focuses on Storytelling Over Brand
Chapter 21 Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
Chapter 22 American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
Chapter 23 Apple Misunderstood Campaign Makes Technology and Family a Priority
Chapter 24 REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition