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Balancing Religious & Secular

Holiday Online Marketing

Balancing Secular vs. Religious Terms & Icons
Secularism is becoming a primary keyword in our multi-cultural society, so avoiding icons that have specific religious meaning such as nativity scenes and even Christmas trees in online marketing can be a prudent policy. Yule logs, holly, mistletoe and candles, as well as the Tannenbaum tree, all predate Christianity but have taken on an indelible connection to Christmas in our age. The popular shortening of Christmas to Xmas is even more controversial as the X originates from the use of the Greek letter chi, which represents an abbreviation for Christ.

On the other hand, major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot, who de-emphasized Christmas and substituted "Holiday," were soon forced by public outcry to reinstate the Christian term. The Gap was boycotted by the American Family Association for their avoidance of the word Christmas and the group was not mollified by a quickly launched TV ad campaign that featured the lyrics: "Go Christmas, go Hanukkah, go Kwanzaa, go solstice... go Christmas, go Hanukkah, go whatever holiday you Wannakuh," as they objected to the pagan reference to the solstice.

There is no disputing that online marketers need to achieve a fine balance in their desire to appeal to the widest spectrum of consumers while not offending religious sensibilities. Although Santa Claus is indisputably the modern metamorphosis of Saint Nicholas, the vast majority of the mythology was developed in the last couple of centuries, and it has been masterfully recruited by retailers everywhere. Many believe that the Coca-Cola corporation brilliantly grafted its trademark red and white color scheme onto the character, but it was actually artist Thomas Nast in the mid-19th century who first produced the version of Santa we know today. Santa Claus, his reindeer and the rest of the related symbolism have been so integrated into today's society that it can be generally considered one of the "safe" icons to be harnessed for online marketing.