What’s Love Got to do With it?

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Once more I managed without a gift, or flowers, or card, or a kind word (well, perhaps there were a few kind words) on that special day. I went about my day as I would any other day. There were no consequences. Nothing strange happened.

I’m tempted to assume the same would be true for many of us. Our affection for the significant others in our life exists whether we declare it on this day or embellish it with a gift or celebration, I reasoned. And empirical evidence suggests my belief isn’t misplaced.

Then last Friday, I read something about a brand of bottled water being launched in new packaging designed especially for Valentine’s Day. What had I missed?

Intrigued, I looked into that packaging, and it was nothing much to write home about. It had all the bells and whistles to link the initiative to Valentine’s Day, but that was just the packaging. I wondered how a brand of water bottled in special packaging could be made relevant to that specific day. I didn’t get very far.

I have come across promotions and other activities from chocolate brands, hotels, restaurants, airlines etc. aimed specifically at getting a slice of the Valentine’s Day pie. That a brand would want to exploit every relevant opportunity to connect deeply with its consumers is perfectly understandable. I just wasn’t sure how some brands justified their connection with Valentine’s Day.

And it’s big business. Google Valentine’s Day deals and it returns 103 million results in 0.29 seconds. According to research published on prnewswire, 55% of American consumers will celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. Think about that for a minute. Half of all Americans will celebrate it. Looked at another way, every couple in a steady relationship will celebrate. Indeed in 2015, consumers in the US spent $145 per head on gifts etc. for Valentine’s Day. This year, a total of US$ 19.7 billion was forecast for the day alone. And that’s just in the US. Big business.

So clearly it’s not just all about love, and that’s fine. But if it’s about business, there’s so much more to go after.

Most of the marketing effort is aimed at 20 or 30 somethings in a steady heterosexual relationship. The participation of some of them might be due to peer pressure, but let’s not go there. But even then, there is so much more for brands to explore, understand and address.

What about expressions of love within a family: grandparents to their grandchildren and vice-versa? Or siblings who’ve grown up together? How about a woman wanting to express her affection to her mother, aunt, sister? There could well be a group of friends that likes to hangout and depends on each other. There are elderly couples who have spent a lifetime together, for whom Valentine’s Day could be extra special.

There are so many motivations and nuances of behaviour to understand and address. I can think of several brands that would find these connections relevant and powerful to build over time, not just exploit on this one day.

Preparing a generic Valentine’s Day promotion and making a brand piggy-back on the emotional importance of that day would be acceptable, if it weren’t so widespread. It’s now a huge industry. So, a serious brand needs to do more. It has to dig deep and understand if expressions of affection are part of its equity. If not, it would be well advised to stay away.

If affection is part of a brand’s equity, it should understand and define how. It should then devote time to engaging with its consumer on that dimension consistently, making Valentine’s Day unique to itself. That would be potent.

Merely launching another promotion or event or special packaging on the day is a bit like the 20 something rushing to the florist for flowers. Partly out of commitment, and partly out of peer pressure.

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