Valentine’s is a lovely day… for marketing

It is Valentine’s day. A day for showing your loved ones that you care… right?

This is a date that has been heavily commercialised, and where consumers’ behaviours (including boycotting rituals) are filled with meaning.

valentine in london
Valentine’s display in London (Covent Garden)

The key meaning from this date seems to be showing that you care. But how you do it varies widely.

The study ‘A Holiday Loved and Loathed: A Consumer Perspective of Valentine’s Day’ found that, in Western societies, males tend to focus on purchases – gifts for those that they want to impress, or an expensive meal. Females, on the other hand, tend to focus on rituals: grooming, buying a new outfit or preparing a romantic meal, for instance.

There are also international variations. For instance, in Japan the tradition is for women to give chocolates, and that includes male co-workers, nut just romantic partners. Though, when in a romantic relationship, men are expected to offer something in return that is at least two or three times more valuable than the gift received (according to Wikipedia).

Love is everywhere?!
Love is everywhere?!

Valentine’s day is also a day that evokes many negative feelings.

On the one hand, there are those consumers that do not like Valentine’s day at all. For some it is because it brings them memories of failed relationships, for others it is the idea of having a determined day to show affection, and for others still because of the behaviours adopted by couples celebrating the day.

These consumers, too, represent a marketing opportunity. For instance, some establishments offer singles’ nights, others promote self-gifts such as spas or other forms of self-pampering. And, of course, for those that can not stand the idea of being single on Valentine’s day, there are now ‘Facebook Girlfriends’.

Facebook Girlfriends

There are now businesses and ‘entrepreneurs’ who offer to pose as your girlfriend on social network sites like Facebook. They will change their status to declare a relationship with you, comment in your postings and write romantic messages on your wall. More information here.

Interestingly, the main buyers of these services seem to be men – or, let me put it another way, the main ‘product’ offered by these providers are fake girlfriends. In my view, this raises a very interesting question about who really is the target of valentine related marketing efforts.

All in all, Valentine’s day is a nice opportunity for marketers. Those that are in a relationship, are targeted as potential buyers of expensive gifts or experiences. Those that aren’t, can be tempted with virtual girlfriend services. And for those that embrace their ‘single status’ there are plenty of non-romantic, but very profitable, options.

How are you celebrating?

I bought a lovely hand made card (see picture).

Handmade by Barbora Chromečková
Handmade by Barbora Chromečková

These cards are made by one of my students, Barbora, who is fundraising for a charity trek to the Everest. Please consider visiting her blog and supporting her initiative.

2 thoughts on “Valentine’s is a lovely day… for marketing

  1. Although I think that showing you care should not depend on rules or dates set by others, but should be done always, I still celebrate Valentine’s day. Mostly by buying a gift for my better half, and, of course, write a poem for her. I might make some nice things to eat tonight, but going out for a nice dinner is too much of a hassle on this day. Everything booked, and mostly people who only go out to eat once or twice per year. No, we’ll eat out and celebrate caring and love another day :).

    By the way, I saw a great ad from that Swedish furniture shop, offering a type of cot for free to babies that will be born on 14 November this year. Yep, that’s right: nine months from today… What do you think about that?


  2. I saw that ad, too! A bit risky… something I might expect from the Virgin group. But sure caught the public’s attention amid all the other lovely-dovey stuff.

    Oh, and by the way, you got it right. The poem is the way to go – according to the study mentioned in my post, women value the rituals more than the items bought.


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