There is no getting away from the commercial circus that Valentine’s day has evolved into. A day which should historically be used as an opportunity to display a gesture of love and affection for another person has seemingly become more materialistic and expensive, filled with pre-made sentiment.
Just as most are recovering from the financial trauma brought on by the Christmas festivities, we are surrounded by Valentine’s day merchandise and although we consumers are fatigued by the endless conveyor belt of ‘special’ celebratory days, why not indulge in a little old-fashioned soppy romance anyway? We can be cynical on the matter or we can take it and roll with it.. It is these key days across the year which continue to be serious golden commercial opportunities (spending is set to reach £1bn this year!), despite the eye-rollers!
Companies can ride the wave of predictability or try their best to be more original in their efforts.
Having looked at this year’s efforts here are some watch outs of Valentine’s day, which can equally be applied to any of the hundreds of holidays and celebrations across the year...
Value that matters
There are plenty of opportunities out there to make someone feel that much more special and even without spending an inordinate amount of money. You can bet your favourite supermarket has you covered with a 3-course oven-and-go extravaganza paired with a perfectly palatable bottle (or two) of bubbles which isn’t going to break the bank.
Lidl speaking to the masses, highlighting the value of their brand by promoting a range of their products: three courses, flowers, chocolates and Champagne from their store costs same as just the one bottle of Champagne bought elsewhere. A simple message of why spend more on less?
Most restaurants choose a similar set menu for most key dates but tweak an ingredient to give it stand out, become topical and elevate the dishes. Promoting special cocktails like Browns, limited edition or specials dishes to make the menu feel more indulgent like Miller & Carter.
Keeping it safe, set menus aim to speak to everyone; guests can have a treat meal out but foreseeing the bill before they even take a step inside the restaurant, but having standout amongst the noise is essential to ensure those bookings keep coming.
Introducing a limited edition or new product that has standout or suggestive connotations, like Marks and Spencer, (or ‘Hearts and Spencer’ as their logo currently says on social) who made some ripples in the media by introducing their gimmicky limited edition, cheekily named ‘Love Sausage’. This one product has been discussed within most media outlets, podcasts, radio, newspapers and TV news, and with the hype, sold out within hours of being on the shelves. Lush also bought out a contemporary love inspired range for Valentine’s day, which talk to ‘emoji-using' millennials. These are products that go one step further than your stereotypical expected merchandise and create intrigue and excitement!
Don’t just jump on the band wagon. If you are going to do something, make sure it is good
Brands introducing their limited-edition heart shaped products can be perceived as either cute and topical, or easy and lazy: Morrisons promoted a range of ‘Sweetheart steaks’ which were launched this week, Pizza Express with their heart shaped dough balls, Papa Johns heart shaped pizza and Aunt Bessie’s heart shaped Yorkshire puds.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with the obvious, can you push your ideas further, introduce a new product, new flavours, something to create more intrigue and buzz?
One size doesn’t fit all. Know your audience.
Some brands decide to use conversational urban tone of voice or subject matter to reach out to younger audiences, and target other days that don’t just speak to love in the romance sense. ‘Galentine’s day’ on the 13th February, this fake celebration day invented by a US sitcom is widely recognised and rides the wave of the main day itself but is perhaps more on point for the Millennials and Gen Z among us. Basically, it's a day dedicated to showering your closest friends with love and attention...more than you do every other day.
Well done to New Look, The Body Shop, M&S and 3 Mobile for knowing their audience.
Get the TOV right
Getting noticed for the wrong reasons and causing a ‘social media storm’, Revolut caused some controversy with their ‘You ok, hun?’ comment in their Valentine’s day campaign. Some saying their joke about their customers spending habits was patronising and ‘Single-shaming’ instead of sharing the Valentine’s day love.
So, Valentine’s day, what do we consumers really want? To feel like that someone special has thought about us. They understand us. They care. A thoughtful gesture. Perhaps nothing too OTT. Something brands can heed as well as a loved one.