Student/PR

Valentine’s Day campaigns – Yay or Nay?

Valentine’s Day has come under fire in recent years for a number of reasons, and it’s simply not as popular as it used to be. Slammed for marketing the idea of love – which should arguably be celebrated all year round – there are many naysayers who’d condemn the day altogether and thus, are Valentine’s-Day-centred comms campaigns dying out with it?

I mean, I remember a time when Valentine’s Day was BIG. (Which consequently led to me being mortified every year that I didn’t receive a card, until my Dad sent me one once that he made out was from a neighbour. But yeah anyway, that’s a different story.) Now, however – that doesn’t seem to be the case. I mean, in the past I’ve celebrated the 14th February in varying ways, but as time goes on, I find myself losing interest in the affair altogether. The cynics are right really, you should express your love for your other half all the time, and not just because the commercialisation of an event told you that you should.

Nevertheless, despite admittedly decreasing in popularity, there’s still a certain hype around Valentine’s Day. You’ll still see the shelves stocked full of hearts and flowers, and the popular restaurants are still demanding large deposits for bookings on the 14th (I’m looking at you, Miller and Carter) – so, if the day isn’t dead, should our comms efforts retire? Or, so long as there’s still an interest in Valentine’s Day, does that mean there’s still an opportunity to exploit it too?

I’m questioning this because, for me, there just hasn’t been as big of an emphasis on Valentine’s Day this year in terms of campaigns. I noticed a fair few last year – including the infamous ‘join us for a romantic meal at Greggs’ campaign. But this year, they haven’t been so far and wide.

Is Valentine’s Day comms a dying trend?

For me, I think where there’s a creative idea to be had – success can still follow. No matter what seasonal holiday you tie it in to (if any).

Sure, many PRs would probably tell you not to waste your time forward planning campaigns relating to events that just aren’t-so-popular-anymore, but as with any PR or marketing, if you’ve got a great idea – you should definitely capitalise on it.

What I’m saying is, don’t market for marketing’s sake. You’ll almost certainly burn-out if you antagonise over trying to pair your comms activity with every single annual celebration from here to Timbuktu. If you’re struggling to think of ideas. Don’t do it. I’d say there’s almost certainly still an appetite for good Valentine’s Day campaigns, but the really loosely related and wishy-washy-idea kind just do not sit that well anymore.

It’s almost as if, sometimes, one might see an event such as Valentine’s Day as a hall pass – an easy and quick win. But I don’t believe this is the case anymore. The practice has become saturated almost, and as the day itself loses popularity, there’s simply no place for seasonal campaigns without impact these days. They need to be clever and it’s not so much a case of ‘let’s stick the word Valentine’s Day in front of this, and it’ll get traction’.

And though there were many who were probably guilty of this last week, there were also those who proved that seasonal, moreover Valentine’s Day campaigns, are still very much alive and kicking. They all echo the exact kind of creativity that is needed to ensure a project’s success, and are prolific examples of how to do V-Day PR right. 

My favourite Valentine’s Day campaigns of 2019

Mark’s & Spencers’ ‘love sausage’

A missed opportunity for Greggs, who are usually hot on any marketing opportunities that cross their path, it was actually M&S who thought up the iconic ‘love sausage idea’ which was well received by many.

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Nothing says romance like a heart-shaped huge pig-in-blanket, eh?

The dish, which was available to customers for breakfast, has been praised for its creativity and perfectly demonstrates how the simplest ideas can actually be the most successful. Of all the Valentine’s Day content circulating on and around the 14th, this was the one that caught my eye the most.

Poundland’s gift of nothing

Poundland are the brand that can’t seem to keep themselves out of conversation at the moment. And for better or for worse, they were rifely discussed in the run-up to Valentine’s Day this year too. Their ‘gift of nothing’ was an innovative and quirky idea, but perhaps wasn’t best thought out – as it received a lot of criticism.

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I mean, it’s certainly a good response product when your irritating other half keeps insisting on ‘nothing’ when you ask what they want… Like we don’t know you want something really

I mean, the idea in itself is pretty good and quite funny. It’s so true that when you ask your partner what they’d like, their answer is almost always ‘nothing’ so Poundland allowed you to give them that for real. At first glance, this seems like a great campaign. But when you look deeper into it, amid growing concerns about dangerous plastic waste – this can actually be perceived as a really problematic product which has been slammed by many for creating pointless and polluting waste.

It’s a good idea – but perhaps if they were to reintroduce it next year, they’d consider a sustainable packaging for this gag gift. What do you think?

Poundland’s £1 rings

Appearing twice this year is Poundland (hello again), who’ve clearly gone all out this year in their creative campaigns, and it shows. Alongside their gift of nothing, which has received a mixed response, they also made headlines through introducing a £1 engagement ring just in time for Valentine’s Day. Again, this product was met with its fair share of criticisms but was actually supposed to be positioned as a cost-effective placeholder while you and your new fiance or fiancée can buy the real deal together. Many people overlooked this of course though and branded the act as cheap and offensive.

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I still want one of these… 

Love it or hate it, thousands were talking about it and I think Poundland is a brand who’d see that as their endgoal from any creative marketing activity they carry out. You can read more about that infamous product here (and spoiler, I’m very much in its favour).

Morrison’s rainbow roses

You’ll all know by now that I’m a big fan of any campaign with a cause, and this one by Morrison’s is certainly a proficient example. Ahead of Valentine’s Day this year, their florists created bouquets of (pretty lovely looking I must say) rainbow roses. The proceeds of the sales would go towards helping homeless LGBTQ+ youth. For every rose sold, 50p will be donated to the Alberty Kennedy Trust, a charity which provides safe homes and support to young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bi or trans.

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You can’t ask for much more than a beautiful product for a beautiful cause, can you? 

So not only is this an example of PR going that extra mile, but it’s also a great creative campaign that proves that if your idea is inventive enough – it can still be a success amid the heavily saturated Valentine’s Day bedlam.

Hemsley’s ‘name a cockroach after your ex’

Because there’s nothing like petty revenge, right? I wrote about this one last month, and I’m featuring it again because amongst the grand number of campaigns, this one really stood out for being incredibly inventive and effective, yet so simple too. It probably cost them next to nothing to execute, yet they recieved extraordinary coverage and popularity not just nationally but globally too.

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It’s bizarre but is also perfect for the trivial amongst us

Yep, since Hemsley Conservation Center announced their Valentine’s Day project, I’ve seen a handful of similar businesses piggyback off the idea. I even recall seeing on Twitter that a stateside zoo was offering you the chance to name a fish after your ex that would then be fed to a bear. Neat!

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, which proves beyond ends that this Valentine’s Day campaign was a great one.

Lush’s suggestive bath bombs

And finally, a quick mention of this one for its repeat appearances in the press, not least its initial hype. Lush, who are renowned for their quirky products and their strong brand values, released two emoji style bath bombs ahead of Valentine’s Day. One a peach, the other an eggplant.

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This harmless emojii-styled product has been wildly misconstrued, but it’s gained all the more popular as a result

They’ve been credited to be ‘hilariously’ suggestive and have generated enough hype to warrant calling the said bath bombs the product of a successful seasonal campaign. However, this isn’t the only reason I’ve placed them on my list.

Actually, a little while later after the products were available in stores, the brand appeared in the press once more – asking their consumers to not do… Inappropriate things with the bathtime accompaniments.

Was anybody even doing what they said? Who knows. All I know is that this repeat visibility across global news platforms was what cemented their Valentine’s Day campaign as one that generated a host of valuable and topical attention.

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Doctor states the obvious, more like

What’s your opinion on Valentine’s Day, and any other seasonal campaigns for that matter? And do you have any favourites from this year that I haven’t included?

Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

P.s. – thank you!

pr marketing comms finalist badge

You know the score by now, I have a little endnote to post. I’m in a small but brilliant pool of talented and creative writers, and I really do often feel as though I don’t belong here. Therefore, to be in amongst the finalists for the UK blog awards for best PR, Marketing and Comms blog means so much to me… Beyond words.

It’s amazing in fact.

Therefore, I just wanted to say a big… No, a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who voted for me in the awards. If it wasn’t for the people who read my blog and support me every day, I almost certainly wouldn’t bother. So for that, endless gratitude is in order.

Thank you.

While you’re here, please subscribe to my blog by heading back to my homepage and entering your email on the right-hand side of the page.

PR and lifestyle blogger jessica pardoe

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