Did Coca-Cola invent the red Santa suit to match the brand...
...Clever bit of branding but...
One of the best branding myths is the popular belief that Coca-Cola invented the red Santa suit to match their brand… Wrong!
Engraving by Thomas Nast Harper’s Weekly 1863-1886
Coca-Cola was not the first to depict the image of Santa Claus in a red suit. Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus in a red suit for Harper’s Weekly between 1863 and 1886. White Rock beverage adverts showed the classic red Santa suit in ads selling mineral water in 1915. Coca-Cola ads that featured red-suited Santa Claus, comes from around 1931.
White Rock beverage adverts 1915.
The origins of the modern-day Santa Claus can be traced back to Saint Nicholas or Sinter Klaas, famous for his kindness to children and generosity to the poor. St. Nicholas was pictured dressed in red and white bishop's vestments, but over time the bishop’s attire was replaced the familiar fur-trimmed suit. There are records of Santa wearing various coloured costumes, but red was by far the most popular and became known as the quintessential Father Christmas outfit.
Coca-Cola's involvement begins from the early 1930s when artist Haddon Sundblom illustrated ads for Coke featuring Santa in a red coat trimmed with fur and a large belt. His drawings were used in the company's festive advertisements for the next 30 years, creating the urban myth that Coca-Cola invented the red suit to reinforce the brand, and they haven’t done much to dispel that myth!
I like the story of the artist Haddon Sundblom, who modified the original painting (to save on the costs of canvas and paints!) to create the 3rd commission, see the video from Coca-Cola. I bet that got him a little more profit out of Coca-Cola!