Legend says that it was St Valentine himself who sent the first Valentine’s card. However, the U.S. can thank (or blame) the Hallmark card company (1913) for the broader commercialization of Valentine’s Day as we know it today.
The actual date itself (February 14th) may have come from the ancient Romans, according to NPR. It’s said that Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. And their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.
That’s not exactly a romantic history for a day about love. Personally, I prefer chocolates or an emoji text message over voluntary death, which is probably why it never caught on like our modern-day card-giving traditions and ‘Valentine’ declined as a common forename.
A quick word of caution for marketers
These days, it seems like every brand is trying to contextually insert themselves in Valentine messaging and include their products as romantic gift-giving ideas. But brand owners need to pose the question: is it appropriate for my brand to get involved on Valentine’s Day? By way of example, each year on my birthday I receive a card from my bank, which is sweet. Yet I feel like it’s making some big assumptions of my love of banking when it messages on Valentine’s Day.
Increasingly, there’s been a migration from the simple, traditional romantic gift ideas of cards, candy and flowers to try normalize less sexy fast-food brands, soda beverages, coffee or last-minute flower delivery via your local Uber driver. At the other end of the spectrum, commercialization has been driving the gift-giving stakes much higher. Brands are trying to replace sending ‘small tokens of our affection’ by suggesting that true love should come in the form of high-cost items like automotive brands, jewelry, the latest tech gadget, designer shoes or a deluxe snowblower. (True story)
All of these commercial tactics have diluted the original sentiment behind Valentine’s Day, and left a bitter taste in the mouths of many consumers. Which means hitting the right note around Valentine’s Day can be a minefield for marketers. Thus, I would caution all brand teams to run a few gut-checks before committing to a campaign tactic or specific messaging. This could be as simple as deciding if it’s really appropriate or necessary for a customer to receive a Valentine’s message from their taxation accountant? So, consider these questions as a team before committing:
Does it make sense for my brand to message my customers on this day?
Does my campaign strategy feel authentic or forced?
What kind of note are we trying to hit? -entertaining, supportive, sweet?
Does this add to our Customer Experience?
Are we all-in with this campaign strategy, or will it come across as a commercial tactic?
Is our strategy and messaging diversity inclusive?
How will our messaging resonate with singletons? (whether by lifestyle choice or perhaps recently divorced or widowed?)
If you don’t know the answers to these questions – why not survey a small sample of your clients to make sure you avoid any missteps. If your conscience is free after answering those questions move forward boldly with your ideation and execution.
To help, I’ve trawled the web to assemble a definitive content guide of the best V-Day campaign tips, taglines, slogans, and social media, email or video execution ideas in the links below.
Get inspo from great Valentine’s Day campaigns we love
Choose well-crafted slogans and taglines
Consider new ways to incorporate video:
Own it on social media with great execution and ideas:
By Sarah Calkin-Ward, Head of Marketing, WorkReduce