“NOW it’s Christmas!” – that’s a quote from one of our respondents giving an enthusiastic response to Coca-Cola’s “Holidays Are Coming” ad. When the red Christmas trucks roll out, the festive season has truly begun in the minds of a generation of ad watchers.

The Christmas trucks are used all around the world, not just in the UK – the 1998 edition of the ad was shown in over 100 countries. It can be a shock to remember what a relatively recent invention the Christmas Trucks are – they debuted in 1995, and became an institution very quickly. It’s rare for a brand with decades of existing marketing to successfully introduce a brand new Distinctive Asset. So what did Coke get so right?

Here are 5 things which make the Christmas Trucks a great unique brand asset.

1. They complement, not replace.

Often, attempts to introduce new Distinctive Assets run into trouble because they’re seen as replacing old ones that already carry a lot of Feeling and Fluency in the public mind. Logo changes, and packaging shifts like Tropicana’s nightmare 2009 rebrand, fall into this category. The Trucks played a completely new role in Coke’s advertising iconography – there weren’t previous Christmas assets for them to replace.

2. They build on existing assets.

But the trucks are still distinctively Coca-Cola. The prominent logo, the bright red colouring, and even the use of Father Christmas (associated with the brand since 1931) mean the trucks fit right in with everything else the brand did. This is part of why they became familiar so quickly: the association was very easy to build.

3. They found an emotional niche.

Every time we test a Christmas advert, you’ll find some respondents complaining “it’s too early for Christmas ads”. Coca-Cola found a niche for the trucks by turning that feeling around – rather than be about Christmas itself, they’re all about the anticipation for the holiday season. Christmas has a lot of traditions and stages, but there’s not much to really announce the start of it – the moment you have permission to get excited. By inventing something to mark that, Coke ensured they created an asset that delivered Feeling as well as Fluency.

4. They’re a multimedia experience.

The “Holidays Are Coming” ads aren’t just about one Distinctive Asset: they combine colour, light and sound. The bright “Coke Red”. The distinctive lights (designed by George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic). And also the excited crescendo of the “Holidays are Coming” jingle. They all reinforce each other to deliver their emotional hit.

5. They deliver instant Feeling.

This year’s Coca-Cola trucks ad got a respectable 3-Star score in our UK Christmas FeelMore50™ testing. Which doesn’t sound that great, until you consider that it was only 10 seconds long! While longer ads have performed better – a few years ago, the original 90s ad got the maximum 5-Stars – it’s highly impressive that Coke can get a 3-Star result for an ad with basically no story and only Distinctive Assets. It shows quite how powerful the trucks are.

If you want to know how your Distinctive Assets match up and fit with your brand, get in touch with our Branding team at enquiries@system1research.com.

Written by Tom Ewing, Head of Communications, System1

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