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How Coca Cola uses nostalgia to win in holiday commercials

Holidays are swiftly approaching and so are the seasonal advertisements. Ads using an emotional appeal are more effective and can rely on nostalgia to bring out that response.

Tugging at the heartstrings and old memories can make commercials more effective, but as marketers we must be careful not to overuse it as a tactic. Especially with large advertising budgets that allow your spot to be repeated over and over, even across years, it’s easy for it to be overdone like an overplayed radio hit.



I grew up watching the Coca Cola polar bears and Santa commercials. Seeing them on TV brings me back to tree decorating, icing sugar cookies and seeing the newest holiday movie in theaters. My sense of nostalgia is directly linked to my childhood memories, which can be evoked with their spots.

Coca Cola has done a great job with their campaign. Sometimes they show the original commercials, but it’s often something that builds on the previous idea: sharing a coke with family or during the holidays season.

In contrast, while watching a football game last night, I saw the original M&M’s Christmas commercial I grew up with. I always thought it was a cute spot, but last night I wondered, “Why is this still on? Don’t they have a new commercial?”



Use nostalgia to your advantage, but build on the message instead of repeating it. Repetition is a key to being recalled by a consumer, but becoming more relevant with refreshed content will help create a lasting connection.

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