In Branding & Identity, Marketing & Advertising, Marketing Strategy

Millennials, the biggest age cohort since the rise and fall of Baby-Boomers, are the center of the marketing world and they are a terrible match with traditional Valentine’s Day marketing. As promoted by Hallmark, and still practiced by too many old-school brands, the day is all hearts, chocolate, love, flowers, and GUILT. Studies show Millennials prefer experiences over goods, which means they will cross the country for a festival as long as it is authentic, but they won’t cross the street for an inauthentic fuzzy bunny, foil heart or cut, soon to die, flowers even if they are on sale. Sadly, too few marketers get the drift.

A quick history of the day… The origins of Valentine’s Day are a little vague, however, it clearly seems to have sprung from the loins of a fertility festival around 270 and was not associated with romance until the Middle Ages. In the early 1400s, the first written Valentine showed up and grew in popularity though, they were sent to friends and family as well as lovers. It was a day to show appreciation and affection and probably still some celebration of fertility. It wasn’t until the 1840’s that mass-produced Valentines were sold, thus starting the commercialization of the day and setting the stage for Hallmark and Whitman’s Samplers to turn a fertility festival – which kinda sounds like fun… into an occasion for guilt driven last-minute spending on things no one really cares about (to show they care). If they did, adults would give and receive stuffed animals and cubic zirconium heart-shaped pendants on a more frequent basis.

The commercials…Valentine’s Day advertising by major brands is struggling to find a voice that resonates with Millennials and creates a connection to the day. Dunkin Donuts’ Show Love’ campaign hits the wrong note when they sing along to the idea that America, the most obese country in the history of the world, runs on donuts. This doesn’t seem like something anyone should be pushing, especially Dunkin who is trying to drop Donuts from their nameMcDonald’s gets a cheesy pass with their comical campaign which gives away a $12,500 Bling Mac Ring to the fan who tweets the “best, most creative vows of Big Mac burger love”.

On the other hand, Google nails the right tone and message to connect with Millennials who prize experiences over purchases and authenticity with an aspirational and warm-hearted story told in searches.

Some marketers get the experience and friendship angle… People are going back to using the day as a time to appreciate friends and loved ones, rather than buying something. We see this in the rise of the brilliant micro-holiday every woman should celebrate “Galentine’s Day”, and ads supporting friendship over relationships. Nina Ricci has launched an entire Instagram campaign focused on this, and they’re not the only ones who have done so. Other ads are pushing memories by taking you back to a time when things were simple and less material. As eHarmony has successfully, if cheese-ily, done with kids.

So what about digital approaches?

  1. Content Marketing / Social Integration: Even if your brand isn’t something traditionally thought of as being part of the most romantic day of the year, that’s no reason to pass up on this marketing opportunity as long as you make it real. Social plays a huge role in this, as it’s the easiest way to share your content and keep your name in front of consumers. While not too many people are spending their Valentine’s Day at Taco Bell, they still played a huge role in the social marketing of Valentine’s Day last year by creating customizable valentines designed to be drawn on and sent to your closest friends and loved ones. By using Snapchat, people could screenshot and customize, and either send privately or post publicly, lasting past the original 24 hours that Taco Bell had the post up.
  2. UGC content: Asking your consumers to create their own content while spreading your brand message leverages the authenticity of their creativity. MeUndies hit the nail on the head with their campaign, having customers upload and tag photos with #MatchMeUndies. The tactic results in great buy-in from their customers that really represents the vibes and values of the company. Another great part of this campaign is the hashtag they chose as it’s specific to the brand and easy to remember- there won’t be an excess of irrelevant posts when people check out the hashtag.

At Upper Diamond, we understand the importance of crafting meaningful brand narratives to harness the power of trending calendar milestones in order to capitalize on the economic advantages that it can foster. We’ve worked with some of the world’s top companies and created their brand stories that incorporate cultural milestones, strategy, and social integration. Visit to find out how we can assist your company in its social marketing and content creation endeavors or contact our Client Service Director David Warren for more information.

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