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Folgers Advertises the Intangible

The biggest challenge with advertising food and drink is really conveying its essential features to an audience –– taste and smell.

Earlier ads from Folgers took place in exclusive restaurants where the coffee was secretly switched with Folgers’ product.

However, in their 1986 commercial, the narrative of a relative returning for Christmas is eminently more relatable for most consumers than going to an expensive restaurant.

The ad’s recognizable characters also respond in familiar ways to the coffee product. The children smell the coffee as they make it, and as each family member wakes they take deep inhalations of the aroma wafting through the house.

Everybody notices the product, even if they cannot see it. The round of satisfied sighs as everybody enjoys the drink further reinforces the taste and smell which the audience are not able to participate in.

The campaign is not only effective at conveying the essential features and value of the product –– it is also selling an idealistic Christmas scene, associating quaint and happy family life with the product in the audience’s mind. The commercial ran until 1998 and in edited form until 2005, transforming Folgers into the U.S.’s leading coffee brand.

Folgers was subsequently sold for $3 billion in 2008, and in 2009 the popular ad was somewhat less successfully reimagined.

Indeed, the sequel has caused controversy, with viewers suggesting that the brother-sister relationship is less than platonic. In any event, the campaign’s success is demonstrated by both its longevity and Folgers’ resulting market dominance.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Turn your brand into a household name by incorporating it into a relatable story.

Kunle Campbell avatar

Kunle is a trusted advisor to ambitious, agile ecommerce brands. His core strengths lies in growing revenue by developing and executing scalable customer acquisition and search marketing strategies for online retailers.  He blogs, runs webinars and teach courses about ecommerce growth on He also hosts an ecommerce podcast dedicated to growing and scaling online retail businesses.