Chapter 5 Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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who invented rudolph the red nose reindeer?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appeared in a marketing campaign for retailer Montgomery Ward.

The company gave away coloring books each Christmas to bring children and their parents into their store. In 1939, the company decided to produce the books themselves in order to save on cost. Describing the campaign as ‘the perfect Christmas crowd-bringer,’ the company gave away more than 2 million copies of the book in their first year, rising to 6 million copies by 1946.

The story of Rudolph was originally written as a poem by Robert May, an employee at Montgomery Ward.

Written in the same metre as ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ –– which itself inspired imagery for Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Claus –– the tale has mass appeal, telling the relatable story of a small, shy character who is ostracized by those around him.

The true success of this holiday campaign is demonstrated in its post-war licensing, however, with Rudolph appearing in cartoons, songs, comics, animations and even a feature-length film.

In 1964, an eponymous stop-motion special was aired on television, and now remains the longest-running televised Christmas special of all time.

While Rudolph was undoubtedly successful as an initial advertising campaign, he does not enjoy the same association with Montgomery Ward that Santa does with Coca-Cola.

In a rare act of corporate generosity, the retailer handed over the Rudolph rights to its creator in 1947, who was struggling financially following the passing of his wife.

May became a millionaire through licensing the character.

Rudolph ceased to be a marketing campaign for Montgomery Ward, elevated instead to a product in his own right and transcending into common Christmas folklore.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Give away something for free to draw in customers and their kids. If it’s popular enough, it may become a money-spinner in its own right.

Photo: Today I Found Out

Table of Contents

Intro150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns
Chapter 2 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season
Chapter 3 How Coca-Cola Invented The Father of Christmas (Or did they?)
Chapter 4 Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
Chapter 5 Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chapter 6 Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
Chapter 7 Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
Chapter 8 NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
Chapter 9 Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
Chapter 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
Chapter 11 Folgers Advertises the Intangible
Chapter 12 Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy an Ad Agency
Chapter 13 Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
Chapter 14 Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
Chapter 15 M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
Chapter 16 Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
Chapter 17 Target Keeps it Simple with Their Black Friday Catalog Focusing on Price
Chapter 18 Pampers Silent Night Raises $40 Million for Charity
Chapter 19 Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
Chapter 21 Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
Chapter 22 American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
Chapter 24 REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition
Chapter 25 Amazon’s “Give a Little Bit” Campaign Gives a Lot
Chapter 26 Spotify’s 2017 “#2018Goals” Campaign Speaks Loudly
Chapter 27 Google Home’s 2018 Alone Again with Google Assistant Campaign is the Ultimate Nostalgia


Kunle Campbell

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.

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