The Colors of the Season

Christmas is a time of year to reflect on all sorts of things. Family. Giving. Togetherness. Branding.

Yeah, branding. As a designer, it’s something that’s on my mind a lot, and as we find ourselves in the thick of the holiday season, we are surrounded by a very different kind of branding: seasonal brand identity.

Every season and major holiday has some measure of brand association that has worked its way into the public subconscious. Colors, fonts, and design elements that we all tend to associate with a certain time of year. Halloween is ruled by black and orange, and Spring and Easter can be found through a particularly pastel palette. As for Christmas, it’s red and green all the way.

Sure, other colors in the proper combination speak to the season such as pale blue and white for both Hanukkah and winter in general, but for almost a century, the colors of Christmas have been red and green. There are a few reasons for this, some of which are associated with nature. Of course, the two colors are complimentary on the color wheel, and look appealing together in the right values. Since the beginning, the imagery associated with the more direct attempts to brand Christmas has utilized holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias, which both have striking combinations of the two complimentary colors.

So, yes, nature and the plants we linked to the holiday, play a big part. However, a very specific and targeted branding campaign that began in 1931 is what cemented the two colors in the overall popular consciousness. Yup, it’s Coca-Cola and the work of illustrator, Haddon Sundblom.

Those lushly painted images of a jolly and plump Santa enjoying a bottle of Coke specifically codified Santa’s outfit as red… COKE red… usually in a GREEN chair or walking on a green carpet or in front of a green tree or field of color. Sure, Santa had been depicted in red and white before, but until that campaign, it had not been so uniform. As a part of a brilliant bit of branding from some very clever creatives, the mascot of the entire season now and forever would be associated with their corporate colors.

So, why am I reflecting on this bit of generally well-known marketing history? Because it’s the season of reflection, and it’s a darn good reminder of the POWER of a strong brand identity to extend far beyond the reach anyone could have imagined.

Written by Blog Contributor: Dee Fish