SOURCE: Whitehorn Group

Whitehorn Group

December 18, 2013 08:15 ET

The War on Christmas and Consumer Brands

Christopher Johnson CEO of Whitehorn Group Shares His Opinion on Why All Holidays Matter in Our Increasingly Diverse World

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - December 18, 2013) - Most of us have heard about the War On Christmas, especially this year. Although it has been brewing for the past few years, it has become increasingly apparent this is an escalating public argument. The focus is on whether we should all wish each other a Merry Christmas or just simply Happy Holidays. Something increasingly worth considering, since we may not always know how another person's family truly celebrates this joyous season. Christopher Johnson, CEO of Whitehorn Group, a premiere branding firm in New York, shares his opinion, "This so called War On Christmas has become a prominent news story this season, mostly due to conservative news outlets like Fox News and appears to be an unexpected challenge -- at least for a few major consumer brands and their customers -- so is worth considering."

Political leaders and some consumer brands have fallen victim to these controversies over the past few years. Johnson reminds us, "In 2009 there was a call to boycott Gap Inc.'s chain stores for promoting Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, and so this is not a new issue in 2013." This year the Gap's VP for Global Affairs Bill Chandler, announced that Gap Inc.'s family of brands will celebrate the Christmas season. The AFA is already celebrating this announcement as a major victory against the increasingly politically correct use of Happy Holidays. In Texas, it is now legal to wish someone a Merry Christmas in schools thanks to its Merry Christmas Law. The legislation also allows the exchange of Hanukkah and other religious greetings in the state's classrooms, among other things. In New Jersey this season, a local town Mayor insisted on Christmas trees when there was an outcry for Holiday trees, gaining national attention and support.

This just continues to escalate to the point where even non-religious people are calling for enough. Sounds ridiculous? Hardly. Christmas promotes the broader version of Christianity around the world and is celebrated universally. The majority of nonreligious Americans also enjoy time with their family and friends. Johnson says, "The issue at hand really stems from the massive commercial implications for global brands everywhere, as consumers dig deep to splurge a little. Is it Christmas only, or a more universal Holiday?" This increasingly depends on geographic location and the diversity of the population, such as the U.S.A.

American diversity is increasing and is more apparent than ever through the simultaneous and significant celebrations of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and now, even Winter Solstice. As America becomes more diverse, Fox News and some Fundamental Christians are crying foul ever more loudly as Christmas greetings are forcefully replaced with other more politically correct phrases.

Johnson states, "Consumer brands often choose to use politically correct and mostly neutral language in their promotions to cater to customers from different backgrounds with an equally wide spectrum of value systems." Johnson continues, "America is becoming more diverse every year and this naturally requires consumer brands adapt -- even during Christmas. Global companies always seek to engage their customers in a voice that increases participation, spending and loyalty. Not serving one group over another."

Johnson explains, "Given this emerging reality, there is no War On Christmas -- at least not the type of war some now claim is happening. It is simply a broad commercial response to diversity." So in many ways, in our land of religious freedom it may be best for people with specific beliefs to not force laws that potentially infringe on the rights of other. Americans are not all the same and our legal system is best to not be used to serve the interests of a few.

It is interesting to note that for the first time in our history, Christianity is no longer the single dominant religion in America. Studies have shown that the number of unbelievers has been growing steadily over the years and also that many people are choosing to change religions and belief systems. So obviously, this will affect how our brands choose to speak to us about their businesses. Given this, if there is really a battle against Christmas, it truly has nothing to do with the use of Happy Holidays by our national consumer brands.

Johnson says, "For now, the majority of Americans still prefer Merry Christmas according to a study carried out in 2011. Additionally, there is further evidence that spirituality and values will become very important influences for all brands in making decisions about their businesses, products and in in the coming years. This is fascinating and is something I increasingly suggest that brands include in their own brand management practices going forward."

Many American still love Christmas and continue to celebrate just as it has been practiced now for over 200 years since Washington Irving, writing under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, added Saint Nicolas to his book "A History of New York." Johnson says, "Christmas has become not just a religious holiday, but a family tradition that has meshed itself intricately into our culture."

Christmas controversy is not new. Artist Robert Cenedella famously displayed his painting portraying a crucified Santa Claus in the window of the New York's Art Students League in 1997 to graphically demonstrate how Jesus Christ was being replaced by consumerism and received intense criticism from some religious groups. And the nostalgia for a time when our country appeared more homogenous will also remain, at least for now. However, it may be worthwhile for all of us to take a moment to appreciate diversity in our nation by simply sharing peace with everyone, including the brands we all choose to include in our family's celebrations.

About Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is CEO of branding firm Whitehorn Group. Mr. Johnson is a highly regarded authority on political, celebrity and innovative company brands, like Infiniti Motor Company and JetBlue Airways. He attended Carnegie Mellon University where he won the Tholenheimer Award and McCurdy Prize.

About Whitehorn Group

Whitehorn is a premier brand strategy firm. They create what's NEW and NEXT through global branding, design, product innovation, political and celebrity brands, business strategy, global marketing and distribution.

The following files are available for download:

Contact Information