How Coca-Cola Uses Localization in its Brand Marketing Strategy for Christmas

Dec 29, 2023



How did Coca-Cola use localization in its brand marketing strategy for Christmas? Contrary to popular belief, Coca-Cola didn’t actually create Santa Claus, but it definitely had a hand in the jolly old guy we know and love in 2024. The image of Santa appeals to a global audience, testament of the soda’s prowess at localization strategies and marketing efforts. They were able to appeal to cultural preferences all over the world by inculcating universal values that resonate with everyone, with imagery that reinforces its brand values.

What can an Amazon Seller learn from Coca-Cola’s example? It’s important to stay relevant to a global audience – and a great way to do that is to espouse universal values that are relevant worldwide.

Given it’s the season for celebration, let’s take a peek at the critical elements of Coca-Cola’s branding, and see how you can go about making the strategy work in your Amazon business. Coca-Cola stands out as a winner in the localization industry – you’re about to find out why.

If you like this content, read up on localization for the holiday season. Not all Christmases are the same!

Historical Context of the Santa Claus of Coca-Cola

Since the 1930s, Coca-Cola has evolved the image of Santa Claus, shifting from traditional portrayals to a modern figure resonant across cultures. The jolly chubby Santa with the rosy cheeks was the brainchild of artist Haddon Sundblom, who fashioned Santa after Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman. Did you know that the wedding ring had to be superimposed on all ads because consumers were worried about Mrs. Claus? Sundblom was also inspired by Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Fast forward to 2023 – Santa is still as popular now as 90 years ago, and he’s still providing fantasy and cheer to a global audience. He has come to signify joy, generosity, and the holiday spirit, something Coke continues to enforce with an advertising strategy that’s fully localized, to keep the original design relevant and timeless.

Global Reach and Localization

This year, Coca-Cola adapted its Santa campaign to over 80 markets, integrating local charity events and culturally specific experiences, like the Christmas Truck Tours. The marketing messages of the holiday campaign center around doing good and espousing joy, generosity, and the holiday spirit, no matter where in the world you are – and this has been a consistent brand message throughout the years. You could even say that the idea of doing good during the holidays is one of the critical components of Coca-Cola marketing during the holiday season.

But the concept didn’t start in 2023. Coca-Cola has a long-standing history of incorporating community involvement in its global marketing campaigns. The soda brand has often used its holiday campaigns as platforms for charitable activities and community engagement. What better time of the year to strongly enforce Coca-Cola’s broader corporate social responsibility initiatives? They make a positive impact on local communities while simultaneously promoting their brand to each local audience.

Furthermore, there’s also the iconic Christmas Truck Tours, which began in the mid-1990s as part of a popular TV commercial. The trucks travel to various locations, offering activities like sending digital Christmas cards and engaging with local food vendors. The countries vary each year, but the tours usually travel across the USA, UK, Germany, Poland, as well as regions in Asia and Latin America. Each location adds it own cultural touches to the tour, to make it a unique and festive experience that resonates with local traditions and customs. Now that’s the way to localize your marketing efforts. This year, the campaign was called “the world needs more Santas.” Often, visitors are encouraged to blast their selfies with the truck on the side of the vehicle, creating a close brand affinity with consumers worldwide through user generated content. In fact, last year in Britain, Coke donated a meal to a person in need for every visit to the truck, a collaboration with FareShare, the UK’s biggest charity fighting hunger and food waste.

How does this translate to the Amazon seller? Coca-Cola understands the importance of localization efforts as part of its marketing strategy. It came up with an image that resonates with cultures all over the globe, because of the universal values it espouses. In other words, Coca-Cola created content that resonates with culturally-neutral value systems. Then, they localized their global message by creating localized marketing campaigns that were still on-brand with the universal message, to showcase that they understand, respect, and value the local culture of their customers all over the globe.

Start with brand values that are universally accepted, and make sure your imagery and content revolve around those values. Then, localize to appeal to local users. Encourage your users to interact with your product or service through user generated content. That’s how to appeal first, and create a relationship second, just like Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola Social Media Strategy, Digital, and AI Innovations

Just because the jolly red Santa that we know and love began almost a century ago, doesn’t mean the image – or the messaging – are outdated. In fact, Coca-Cola has retained the brand identity for generations, adapting to the times.

Digital & AI Innovations

Part of Coca-Cola’s global localization is the personalized experience. Coca-Cola integrates AI to create personalized experiences for consumers – like AI-powered tools for creating the “Create Real Magic” platform, which allows users to design unique holiday cards featuring Coca-Cola’s branding elements.

Furthermore, AI gathers and analyzes market data, consumer insight, and trends, helping the brand stay ahead in understanding consumer preferences and behaviors. Understanding each market has been integral to the Coca-Cola branding strategy; essentially, Coca-Cola creates a sense of ownership with its customers by giving them exactly what they want, year on year.

Coca-Cola has also been exploring the use of generative AI in product development, such as crafting new flavors or product concepts based on data-driven insights.

Before we continue with Santa’s story and how it appeals to Amazon sellers, check out this blog on cultural sensitivity in eCommerce.

Coca-Cola Content Strategy

Now, much of an Amazon Seller’s success comes from external marketing – and this is where you can take a cue from the Coca-Cola advertising strategy for its online engagement.

First, there’s engagement through campaigns. Take for instance the “Find Your Inner Santa” campaign, which encourages users to participate in a quiz and share their results on social media to foster interaction and brand visibility.

Second, there’s influencer and celebrity partnerships. Check out the 9 biggest celebs that Coke has worked with over the years according to The Things – the list includes Taylor Swift, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Matt LeBlanc of Friends fame, and Selena – the Queen of Tejano, a move that appealed to the Latin community in America. Their history of sponsoring celebrities and using entertainers as their brand ambassadors began in 1900 with Hilda Clark, the light opera and dance hall singer. They’ve gone on to welcome celebrities all over the world and from many different nationalities as part of their roster.

Third, there’s real-time interaction and content creation. Coca-Cola is very particular about customer service. It uses Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to engage with consumers through Q&A sessions and creative content that resonates with their audience, and helps them feel heard.

Fourth, Coca-Cola excels at storytelling. The stories often revolve around themes of happiness, unity, and festive spirit – values that, again, resonate with cultures all over the world. More about that a little later in this blog.

Fifth, there’s user-generated content. This is where Coke has really excelled in localization. Consider the “Share a Coke” campaign – a case study of successful localization in its own right. It was launched in Australia in 2011, and featured the Coca-Cola logo on bottles with popular names. The campaign encouraged consumers to share a Coke with their loved ones; they actively looked for bottles with their names, or the names of friends and family, so every purchase became a personal experience. Once more, universal values were critical elements of Coca-Cola’s advertising; the campaign personalized Coca-Cola bottles, thus creating a personal connection with consumers and memorable experiences. User engagement increased with the hashtag #ShareACoke, which encouraged UGC. Eventually, “Share a Coke” evolved to include names and phrases relevant to the local culture and language – crucial, given the campaign launched in over 70 countries. This made the campaign a global, yet still localized, effort. In fact, in some regions, Coca-Cola introduced interactive kiosks where people could print custom labels with their names, or personalized messages. It looks like Coca-Cola excels at developing a global marketing message that’s easily customized to a local audience.

How can you create a global campaign with universal values that you can localize easily? How will you foster engagement with your customers through social campaigns? Which influencers and celebrities in your product domain can you leverage to push your brand and make it more accessible to your target customer? How can you tell your story in an engaging way? And how can you boost UGC?

Follow Coke’s example in your own Amazon store; they’re doing something correctly, for sure.

Cultural Impact and Storytelling

Back to Christmas. We promised you we’d tell you how storytelling is one of the strongest elements of Coca-Cola’s branding strategy.

We begin in the 1930s with the Sundblom Santa. Imagine, Coke employed artists as famous as Norman Rockwell to illustrate its ideas, yet this Jolly Ole Santa became so popular, it’s now an iconic symbol of the holidays. Although countries across the world celebrate Christmas in different ways, and their gifts are delivered by an entire slew of characters, the Sundblom Santa is so popular, he’s become the figurine and representation of Christmas no matter where you may live. La Befana could be delivering your gifts (Italy), and you might be celebrating with your significant other instead of exchanging presents (Japan), or you might be waiting for the Three Kings to arrive, but that baritone ho-ho-ho and ruddy pink cheeks are clear – Santa is here to stay.

These campaigns aren’t just consistent in the portrayal of Santa; they’ve become intertwined with the fabric of Christmas celebrations world-over. The global and universal values of warmth, nostalgia, and happiness have become associated with the image – core emotions associated with the holiday season. The emotional connection has played a critical role in the enduring success and appeal of Coke’s campaigns.

But Coke didn’t stop there. Recognizing the diverse nature of its global audience, Coke has masterfully adapted its Santa campaigns to various cultures while maintaining a consistent brand image. This strategy of global reach with local adaptation has allowed the brand to strike a chord with different audiences worldwide, showcasing the universal appeal of the holiday spirit.

Here comes to storytelling. In coke’s ads, Santa’s enjoying a Coke (strongest brand ambassador yet, we’d dare to say), or spreading joy. The ads aren’t just plain old TV ads; they’re short stories that capture the spirit of Christmas with brand values like happiness, sharing, and community spirit.

The fact is, Coca-Cola used a myriad of marketing tools to become a trendsetter in holiday marketing, thus influencing how other brands approach advertising during the festive season.

In essence, Coca-Cola’s Santa campaigns have transcended traditional marketing, becoming a part of the cultural narrative around Christmas and illustrating the profound impact that storytelling and consistent branding can have in shaping public perception and cultural traditions.

What does that mean for the Amazon Seller?

Tell a story. Communicate those country-neutral values in a way that appeals to every single market through customized content. Engage your users so they feel part of what you do.

That’s the marketing approach of a winning brand.

How You Can Use Coke’s Globalized and Localized Marketing Efforts in Your Amazon Selling

Let’s summarize everything we’ve learned in this blog from Coca-Cola’s holiday marketing strategy:

  • Universal Values in Localization:
    • Understand the importance of espousing universal values that are relevant worldwide in order to stay relevant to a global audience.
  • Localized Marketing Strategies:
    • Adapt global marketing messages to local cultures while maintaining brand consistency.
    • Create content that resonates with culturally-neutral value systems, then localize to appeal to local users.
  • Community Engagement and Charity:
    • Incorporate community involvement and charitable activities as part of the global marketing strategy.
  • Utilization of User-Generated Content (UGC):
    • Encourage interaction with the product or service through user-generated content to create a close brand affinity with consumers worldwide.
  • Digital Innovation and Personalization:
    • Integrate AI to create personalized consumer experiences and stay ahead in understanding consumer preferences and behaviors.
  • Effective Social Media Campaigns:
    • Leverage influencer and celebrity partnerships to enhance brand accessibility.
    • Engage customers through social media campaigns, real-time interaction, and storytelling.
  • Storytelling in Branding:
    • Use storytelling to communicate universal values in a way that appeals to every market through customized content.
  • Global Campaigns with Easy Localization:
    • Develop global marketing messages that can be easily customized for local audiences.

Conclusion: Use the Coca- Cola Branding Strategy to Boost Your Brand on Amazon

In conclusion, Coca-Cola’s masterful blend of global appeal and local relevance offers a blueprint for success that extends far beyond the beverage industry. For Amazon sellers looking to make their mark on a global stage, the lessons are clear: universal values, when woven into localized narratives, create powerful connections with diverse audiences. By embracing digital and AI innovations, Coca-Cola has stayed at the forefront of consumer engagement, showing that understanding and adapting to customer preferences is key in an ever-evolving marketplace.

The use of storytelling, a hallmark of Coca-Cola’s campaigns, transforms ordinary marketing into a tapestry of shared experiences and emotions. This approach is not exclusive to global giants; it’s a strategy that Amazon sellers can adopt to elevate their products from mere commodities to parts of a larger, more relatable story. Encouraging user-generated content further deepens this connection, making customers not just consumers but active participants in your brand’s narrative.

As you venture forward, consider how you can integrate these insights into your Amazon strategy. Think about the universal values that resonate with your brand, how you can tailor your approach to different cultures, and the innovative ways you can engage with your audience. Remember, the goal is not just to sell a product but to create an experience that resonates with customers globally.

Let Coca-Cola’s journey inspire you to craft your own unique path in the global market. By prioritizing localization, storytelling, and community engagement, you can transform your brand into a globally recognized name that echoes with warmth, familiarity, and trust in every corner of the world.

Speaking of external marketing, check out this blog on unleashing the power of country-neutral and culturally-sensitive external marketing.