Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is a marketing phenomenon that is here to stay. Stores turn pink. Flowers make their way centre stage. And every candy sports a new shape and wrapper. According to the National Retail Federation’s Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey, more than half of all Americans will celebrate the day of love this year and spend as much as $19.7 billion in the bargain. And yet, brands are finding it increasingly difficult to cut through the cloud of lace and candlelight and endear themselves to shoppers. But in recent times, a few daring brands have won wallets by looking at the retail occasion through not-so-rose coloured glasses and developed a new mantra for a V-Day win.
Differentiator #1: Open up to new audiences
One way brands are standing apart is by expanding their view on relationships. This heartwarming spot
for Sweethearts candy celebrates love in all its forms, starting with Jack and George who were finally married after 55 years together. Meanwhile Teleflora opened hearts of all shapes and sizes by embracing and promoting love in all its diverse forms
from mother and child and best buds to all types of romantic love. Pets are also getting in on the V-Day game
with 1 in 5 people buying gifts for their non-human companions and getting wet, puppy kisses in return. This inclusive approach helps brands reach new audiences, contemporises their message and helps people think of all the people they love while doing their V-day shopping.
Differentiator #2: Shake up traditional roles
Ford is disrupting the category with a whole new view on the roles of women, dating and driving
. This might well be my new favourite campaign as it not only recognises the increasing purchasing power of women (which is tipping 65% of all automobile purchases) but also defies gender stereotypes in the process. Not only does Prestin Persson offer to drive on the date, she flips the script on macho men when she reveals herself to be a stunt driver and puts the Ford Mustang through its paces to seal the deal. As one man says, “best date ever!” And I have to agree. In fact, total sales of Ford Mustangs among women were reportedly 40% higher in 2015 compared to the previous year.
Differentiator #3: Make new associations
Now, who doesn’t think of eggs for Valentine’s Day? Um apparently most people! One of my favourite V-Day breakthroughs is this campaign for Cadbury Eggs
. The candy maker enlisted the help of the Dublin Gospel Choir to bring an unlikely treat to the party. Fans of the brand were invited to submit their best pickup-lines to be recorded and sung by the choir. Top fans received deliveries of the chocolates while others received a video email of their hook-up lyrics hooked up to song. Suddenly Cadbury Eggs was a favourite Irish V-Day treat. Way to Trojan Horse the holiday, Cadbury.
Speaking of Trojan, Trojan Condoms has been helping NYC taxicabs with safety for the past two Valentine’s Day holidays. The brand created a fun, interactive sex-ed experience for riders in select areas of Manhattan, Greenwich Village and NYU. Passengers were quizzed about their sexual health during complementary rides ensuring big city dates were both smart and sexy. So even though condoms are not likely on the top of gift-giving lists for V-Day, Trojan ensured they were still top-of-mind.
Another clever disruption of traditional V-day messaging showed up in Ikea Australia’s simple little ad for a crib. The brand got couples to think ahead to baby’s rooms with a free crib for babies conceived on Valentine’s Day, sparking conversation well beyond the reach of the ad. Ikea is back, this time with a new take on beds. This clever ad
puts furniture in a whole new light, driving consideration and fun to otherwise unlikely V-Day purchases.
Differentiator #4: Be imperfectly perfect
Not everyone buys into the rose-scented fuss of Valentine’s Day and some clever brands have flipped the script on the perfect date night to reignite brand love with their more disenfranchised consumers. A campaign for Red Velvet Oreo
inviting consumers to laugh at themselves and their lees-than-ideal love life. The spot presents to strangers the cookie’s aphrodisiac qualities in a series of situations that keep the brand top of mind for a sweet bit of V-Day indulgence even if it’s for a self-inflicted pity-party. With a light-hearted view to the holiday and going counter-trend to the lovey-dovey, the brand brilliantly leveraged the opportunity.
Whether heart-warming, heart breaking, laugh-inspiring or just plain fun these campaigns show us that unique and clever ideas stand out amongst the predictable approach to Valentine’s Day marketing. Marketers will do well to break old models, redefine the new reason for the holiday and tap into what it means in the lives of today’s shoppers. Going a new direction will draw the attention of new consumers and new gift givers, expanding their relevance to new people, places and spaces. With a bit of wit and daring, brands have the opportunity to reframe the holiday itself as well as their role within it.
Heidi Schoeneck is executive creative director at Geometry Global New York