The Business of Valentine’s Day
Though the origin of Valentine’s Day is a bit obscure—some say its roots came from Roman history when Emperor Caludius II executed two men, both named Valentine on February 14th while others say it was to “Christianize” the celebration of Lupercelia, a pagan fertility festival dedicated to Fanus, the Roman god of Agriculture—Valentine greetings can be traced back to the Middle Ages in the form of exchanged poems, and tokens. In his 1375 poem, Parliament of Foules, English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, was the first to record St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romance and romantic celebration.
By the mid-1800s, it was commonplace for friends and lovers to exchange handwritten notes and other tokens of affection. It was Esther A. Howland, the mother of The Valentine, who popularized the first mass-produced, store-bought Valentine cards in America. Her innovative assembly line process used real lace, ribbons, and photographs called “scraps”. In the early 1910s, an American company that would eventually become Hallmark, began distributing official “Valentine’s Day cards”. The rest is, of course, history.
Valentine’s Day evolved into the fifth largest consumer spending event in the U.S, behind Mother’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s. This year, the National Retail Federation projects a $25.9 billion in spending, despite the current inflation. Because of the pandemic, the popularity of at-home celebrations are now in decline. Chocolates sales, however, are still on the rise and are as popular as ever. This year’s expenditure focused on three major categories: celebrating loved ones, finding the perfect gift, and giving the gift of experience.
Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving, the marketing and messaging around Valentine’s Day has always been driven by emotion—specifically romantic love. Many of the big brands have often capitalized on this notion. In 2014, Coca-Cola, launched a video where they tied cans of Coca-Cola with heart-shaped balloons and let them fly across the city. The campaign, called “Love is in the Air,” took many by surprise. After all, you don’t see flying Coke cans every day.
In 2015, Oreo launched a series of six interesting stories about awkward and unexpected romance. The videos highlighted how Red Velvet Oreo cookies affected the stories and brought people together in the end. As a result, these cookies flew off the shelves and supermarkets were often sold-out.
Last year, Pandora launched a campaign called, “Little Acts of Love”, addressing the common V-day criticism that love isn’t a one day affair—it should be expressed all year round. The ads showed couples performing acts of kindness all year long, emphasizing that even the smallest act of love can be impactful and create lasting memories. Grand gestures are well and good but it’s the thoughtfulness and sincerity behind the act that truly resonates.
As a brand or business, it is a challenge to strategically position yourself for a widely celebrated holiday like Valentine’s Day. Luckily, there are several ways to add a spin to your brand—as long as it aligns with your vision and mission. Here are some suggestions to help you stand out during Valentine’s Day.
- Targeted advertising and personalization: It all comes back to knowing your brand and your audience. Are you approaching Valentine’s as a holiday for everyone and not just couples? Are you launching an anti-Valentine’s campaign? Or are you targeting singles’ and promoting self-care and love during Valentine’s? Once you’ve figured out your messaging, make sure that it is personalized to your audience. Offer tailored experiences, customized products, or personalized items to make customers feel special on this holiday.
- Limited-time promotions: Offer discounts, limited-time packages, and other incentives to encourage your customers to buy early and make your business a part of their Valentine’s Day plans. Create an atmosphere of urgency without being too pushy about it.
- Utilize your Social Media presence: Use your platform to run contests to engage your followers and spread awareness of your business. Contests can range from giveaways to photo captions or even sharing favorite Valenteine’s Day moments. Make it relatable to your brand and business.
- Collaborate! Join forces with community partners, influencers, or local business to broaden your reach and your audience. Offer unique packages along with your collaborators. Create gift guides or even organize community scavenger hunts. Get creative!
Whatever strategy you utilize, make sure that it reflects your brand. Stay authentic and creative. Explore the best perspective of Valentine’s for your business. As always, planning ahead of the day can go a long way to standing out from the crowd.