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Advertising Lessons From Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special

Updated on February 13, 2019
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.


My absolute favorite Christmas special is the Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stop motion animation TV special from 1964. Watch it every year. In fact, I've watched it every year since the very first telecast. Hard to believe that it celebrated its 50th anniversary!

Know I'm showing my age here, but I remember watching it that first year on a big, couch-sized black and white TV console with my dad. The Abominable Snowman was pretty scary back then, but I was glad Yukon Cornelius was able to rehab him.

The special is loaded with life lessons on acceptance, friendship and blazing one's own trail. But there are some underlying themes that apply to the world of marketing and advertising, too. Later in the post, take a look at the advertising that supported the original airing of the special. Cue the time travel music to head back to 1964...

Misfit or Best Fit Advertising?

One of the most adorable segments of the special is the Island of Misfit Toys. Kind of like a benevolent landfill for toys that no one plays with. I never could figure out why the little girl doll was a misfit.

Advertising Lesson: I always thought the charming and unusual Misfit Toys were kind of cool. Agree? Anyway, an imperfect advertisement or promotion for one group, may be perfect for another. All depends on the target marketing demographic and the objectives for the ad campaign.

You Might Need Some Help

So the Island of Misfit Toys' King Moonraiser's got the goods, but Santa needs to match 'em up with the right kids. Rudolph's got the hookup. Sounds like a perfect networking referral.

Maybe you need some friends who can help you achieve your sales and marketing goals, too. Help could come in the form of co-op advertising programs. Or maybe hiring outside experts and consultants can give you the perspective you need to see new opportunities.

Take a look at the original 1964 ads and promos that supported the special. Though I can't imagine sportin' a hair dryer like that and not too sure hubby would appreciate the electric knife as suggested, notice how GE completely integrated the special they sponsored into their advertising.

Advertising Lesson: Look for ways to integrate marketing efforts to benefit everyone in the equation—customers, content creators and sponsors.

Reforming and Repurposing

Poor Abominable Snowman. Big, hairy and, thanks to some genius dental work, toothless. So now what should he do? Thanks to Yukon Cornelius he now has the new job of topping the tree without a ladder. The short little elves gotta love that!

Got some products or services that are now longer serving a useful purpose? Got some "elf" markets that could use some of these offerings if they were revised a bit? Why reinvent when you can repurpose?

Advertising Lesson: Markets change and dry up. Measure advertising programs continuously to identify trends. Analyze if there are under-served markets that could utilize the company's offerings with minimal investment in repurposing. And always be looking to create "evergreen" offerings that have longer product life cycles.

Going Down in History...

What is your favorite Christmas special?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi again Robert! Indeed, stories are how we often learn life lessons... even if those stories are from TV. Thank you for reading and have a beautiful weekend!

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    6 years ago

    I enjoyed this article. Yes, movies and TV shows have many life lessons many of which the writers probably weren't thinking about.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi DonnaCosmato! Join the club! :) Thanks for the kind comments and glad to see I have fellow Rudolph fans in the audience. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Weekend!

  • DonnaCosmato profile image

    Donna Cosmato 

    6 years ago from USA

    Guess I will show my age as well, but this movie was always a favorite when the kids were growing up. I absolutely love your wit and the way you found so many advertising lessons in this classic! Voted up.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello Tolovaj! Glad you found it interesting, even if the subject was a bit new. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas, too!

  • Tolovaj profile image


    6 years ago

    I am from different country and culture, so Rudolph is pretty new to me, but it seems the basic lessons from successful marketing are universal and evergreen (despite the red nose). Thanks for this useful example and Merry Christmas!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi teaches12345! I love the music on the Charlie Brown special (and Snoopy's antics, of course). Thanks for stopping by and have a very Merry Christmas!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    6 years ago

    I love all the movies you mentioned but always enjoy watching Charlie Brown best. You did a great job using Rudolph as a marketing example. Have a very Merry Christmas!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Aw, thanks, Iris for the kind comments! I like all the Christmas specials for one reason or another (I listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas music soundtrack all season long!). Have a beautiful Sunday!

  • Iris Draak profile image

    Cristen Iris 

    6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

    Heidi, in both a marketing and a creative sense I enjoyed how you put a twist on something we can all relate to. Very cool.

    And my favorite is "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". :)

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi billybuc! We're both gettin' old. But some things just get better with age. :) Though I'm sure we'll be chatting before the holiday, wishing you and Bev a very Merry Christmas, too!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I saw it when it first aired as well. Sigh! I'm old, Heidi! LOL

    Only you could find some advertising lessons from this Christmas special....thanks for the free lessons, and Merry Christmas to you.


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