The 4 Archetypes of the Holidays


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And that means, for a lot of us, the knowledge that we will be swept up in a whirlwind of cookie baking, socializing with friends & family, tree trimming, and yes – consuming in all its various forms.

For brands, the holiday season is a time to shine – to show their true spirit and capture a consumer looking for an authentic experience. We only have to look at the recent mishap of a certain exercise bike brand to know that not all marketing around the holidays is guaranteed to hit the right tone.

So why do some brands, like some people, fare better over the holiday season than others? To understand why, we must dig a little deeper to uncover the authentic messages connecting these brands with their consumers.

Hint: It has to do with Archetypes & Brand Personalities. 

Coca-Cola: Always The Innocent

Every year, Coca-Cola ups the ante on seasonal marketing. From its now iconic polar bear to the heavily nostalgic Santa topping up his rotund belly with a frosty beverage, Coca-Cola’s thoughtfully designed campaigns go all-in over the holidays – which makes sense considering the brand has always strived to remain true to its Innocent archetype.

With wide-eyed optimism, Coca-Cola makes the holidays feel special for its consumers by capturing and recreating that feeling of awe and wonder we have as children. I’m reminded of the story of The Polar Express, where a little boy is gifted a bell from Santa’s sleigh that only children can hear. As the boy grows, he finds he can still hear the jingle of the bell even though his sister cannot. This classic story reminds us that channeling our inner 5-year-old is the best way to truly enjoy the season. 

Tiffany: The Lover of all Things Shiny

Premium brands tend to do well at this time of year, with subliminal messages saying: “the more you spend, the more you care”. This is especially true for a heritage brand like Tiffany, where that message is neatly wrapped up in an iconic & desirable bird’s-egg-blue box.

Tiffany, as the Lover archetype, goes all out to let you know that you are special and deserving of love – and what better time to show that love than at this most special time of year. A Lover brand can speak to a deep-rooted desire in us all to be recognized, indulged and celebrated over the holidays – to feel #AllTheFeels – and Tiffany is happy to oblige…for a price. 

Starbucks Holiday Cup: The Everyman icon

Starbucks is typically an Explorer brand, but over the holidays, the Starbucks cup takes on a personality of its own – that of the Everyman. The eagerly anticipated design has come to represent the onset of the season, and in recent years Starbucks has taken steps to be more inclusive and less overtly Christmas, stating the intention to “usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories”. The coffee chain has been creating themed cups around the holidays since 1997 but stayed relatively under the radar at first, gaining real momentum during this last decade.

There is something fundamentally cheery and celebratory in these paper receptacles when clutched in the hands of a glove-wearing commuter in the dreary December half-light. It has come to represent the comforting predictability of the Starbucks experience with a promise of better days ahead, with family and friends & cocktails after work. And, aside from 2015, when the design went a little too minimal for some folks, the cups are a hit en masse.

Disney conjures up The Magician

It’s hard to imagine a more festive brand during the holiday season than Disney. Its theme parks embody the idea of celebration year-round but really come into their own at this time of year. No one captures the holiday spirit quite as well, because Disney is The Magician archetype… and let’s face it – Santa, Elves, flying reindeer – we enjoy suspending rational thought during the holidays and indulging in a little magical thinking.

John Lewis, an upscale department store in the UK, releases a commercial every year that tugs at the heartstrings while injecting a little fairy dust into the hardest of hearts. Disney & other Magician brands remind us that we can all use a little magic around the holidays.

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