If part of your holiday cheer comes from seeing the apple-cheeked Santa Clauses and cuddly polar bears of Coke’s traditional advertising endeavors, we’ve got some news for you. This year, Coca-Cola has decided not to advertise during the holidays, in order to give the money in their advertising budget to the Philippines, to aid in disaster recovery. Some are lauding this move as a compassionate one, while the cynical are calling it a publicity stunt. Does it really matter? And what impact is this going to have on Coca-Cola’s sales?
The Coca-Cola Company’s holiday advertising traditionally borders on the iconic. Coke’s jolly, rosy-cheeked Santa is the image that pops readily to mind for most Americans when St. Nick’s name is mentioned, having been featured in the company’s ads since 1931. In the ’70s, Coke taught the world to sing with their commercial that featured a multicultural group of teenagers singing “Buy the World a Coke” on a hilltop. And who doesn’t love Coca-Cola’s polar bears, which have playfully graced the company’s ads since the 1920s?
This year, despite declining sales, the company has decided to put advertising on hold for the greater good. With the rebuilding in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan expected to cost almost $6 billion, the Coca-Cola Company has already donated more than $2.5 million—and has now released a statement that reads, “Any committed advertising space will be redirected to the relief and rebuilding efforts for the people in Visayas.”
Is this a calculated move? Perhaps. By looking like the good guys, Coke will no doubt rack up sales among those who want to reward big businesses for having hearts. But in the end, if the money that would normally be spent creating new cartoon polar bears goes to rebuild houses, schools, roads and bridges in communities that have experienced unimaginable loss, that’s a good thing. Does it matter if the company benefits from its own generosity? And really, shouldn’t the company benefit?
Calculated or not, it’s a brilliant PR move. It’s a perfect example of a company using a charitable action to draw attention to its efforts, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many companies use charitable donation to get ahead, whether through organizing food drives, utilizing social giving, or involving employees in charitable outreach.