Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was originally a coloring book character for Montgomery Ward. In 1939, the retailer tasked Robert L. May with creating a new Christmas character to market to children in its coloring book series.
May came up with a reindeer who had a bright red nose. After contemplating naming his character "Reginald" or "Rollo," May settled on "Rudolph." But there was a problem. In the late 1930s, having a bright red nose was synonymous with being drunk, and Montgomery Ward didn't want its customers thinking that its new reindeer was an alcoholic.
Ward and illustrator Denver Gillen persisted, though, and convinced the company to greenlight the red nose.
In 1949, Ward let his brother-in-law Johnny Marks write a song about his character, and Gene Autry's recording of it made "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" a Christmastime institution.