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Revered by some, loathed by others, Valentine’s Day is one of the most polarizing holidays on the calendar. For the romantic, it offers an opportunity to celebrate the love in their life. For the unrequited, it can prove to be an uncomfortable and painful 24 hours. However, these contrasting views on the holiday are exactly what makes it such a hot topic on social media year-after-year.
For brands, these passionate views and opinions open up incredible opportunities to speak to and connect with a wide variety of audiences. Knowing this, ad agencies, social media influencers, and other content creators launch their best Valentine’s day blog posts, tweets, and videos leading up to February 14th each and every year. Ranging from works that offer gift guides and DIY tips, to satirical skits and sketches, to fiery rants, these posts are rich fodder for conversations with people from around the world, comprising a variety of different demographics, who have their own relationship with the occasion.
According to Google Trends, current worldwide searches for “valentines day gifts” have doubled since 2017, while U.S. searches have almost tripled for the same time period. These numbers are commensurate with a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, which indicates U.S. consumers will spend $19.6 billion on the holiday in 2018 — the second-highest since the survey began — up from $18.2 billion in 2017.
The NRF also expects average spending per individual to increase from $136.57 to $143.56, with 25-34 year-olds spending the most at an average of $202.76. The NRF found that while the bulk of spending is expected to be focused on a person’s significant other/spouse, individuals are also giving to other family members, children’s classmates/teachers, friends, pets, and co-workers.
Furthermore, 27% of those not expected to celebrate the holiday are planning to “treat themselves” or make alternative plans.
The NRF projects peoples’ spending to focus on several popular Valentine’s Day buying categories, including candy, greeting cards, flowers, jewelry, clothing, an evening out, “gifts of experience” i.e. sporting events, concerts, etc., as well as gift cards/gift certificates.
There are huge opportunities for businesses to make an impression on consumers during the holiday through creative marketing campaigns. In the piece below, we’ll take a look at five significant and impactful Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns to see how brands have utilized Cupid’s arrow to target and connect with consumers.
Ford’s clever and engaging Valentine’s Day video to promote the Ford Mustang went viral, racking up millions of views in the process.
In the clip, a woman meets several different men for separate blind dates, subsequently inviting each to take a ride in her car — a red Ford Mustang. After surreptitiously interviewing her dates about their lives and interests, the woman hits the gas without warning, and speeds through a parking lot, banking hard, doing donuts, and drifting the vehicle. The men hold on for dear life — some scared, some nervously laughing, some doing their best to enjoy the turbulent ride.
After each of the men were sufficiently freaked out, the woman stops the vehicle and tells them that she’s a professional stunt driver (Prestin Persson) and that the encounter has all been a part of “Ford Mustang’s Speed Dating.” Bewilderment turns to relief as the men get out and meet the camera crew that had been filming everything.
The advertising spot was effective for many reasons, including its play-on-words title, clever product integration, hidden camera setup, and subverted expectations storyline. While Ford has since removed the video from its channel, the clip lives on on other YouTube channels and has acquired more than a million additional views.
Businesses can learn from Ford’s success with this video, looking for smart and unique ways to bring their specific products into holidays like Valentine’s Day.
In another clever and crafty campaign, Doritos flipped the script on men and women in 2016 by designing a bouquet of ketchup-flavored Doritos roses. At its launch, delivery was only available in Canada — specifically Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.
The bouquets quickly sold out, not once, but twice. Still, the ad campaign for the bouquet blew up on social media, garnering millions of video views and 56 million earned impressions.
This year, the popular bouquets are once again only available in Canada and, once again, are already out of stock. Thankfully, for Canadians who missed out, as well as other chip-bouquet connoisseurs from around the world, Doritos is offering a DIY guide on their site so that people can make their own versions.
The success of the bouquet campaign would seem to come from the kitschy and ridiculous product at its center, as well as its gender role-reversal premise. Additionally, the limited availability of the unique bouquets made them a hot commodity, drawing even more attention to the creative campaign. In 2018, the campaign continues, but has broadened and adopted the tagline “The Better Way to Boldly Declare Your Love.”
Brands can learn a lot from Doritos’ ketchup-flavored roses campaign. Like Ford, Doritos found a way to attract and engage an audience on Valentine’s Day with a product traditionally unrelated to the holiday. With proper awareness of the market and the right strategy, however, Doritos proved that brands can succeed with their products by challenging convention in fun and shareable ways.
Last year, philanthropic-auction platform Omaze partnered with actor Idris Elba to raise money for W.E. Can Lead and provide 1,000 young girls with year-long empowerment workshops in Sierra Leone. Omaze’s means for raising the funds was by offering the winner a Valentine’s Day-themed trip to London, where they would dine and spend time with Elba. Entrants were required to donate a minimum of $10 to W.E. Can Lead for the opportunity to win.
Omaze leveraged Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share two produced videos and other marketing collateral. According to the company, the campaign garnered 1.1 billion impressions, 13.7 million Facebook video views, 30,000 donors, and doubled their original monetary goal, resulting in more than $750,000 raised.
By offering a unique experience with a popular film and TV star for a good cause, Omaze was able to capture the interest of millions of people, as well as media outlets like CNN, BBC, and The Huffington Post. While not every brand has access to a celebrity to promote their message, many brands have seen social-cause marketing success with influencers.
At the end of the opportunity, Omaze reported that Elba, already a well-known and successful star, increased his Facebook following by 100,000. Moreover, each of the top six posts on his page were all related to the W.E. Can Lead campaign. The campaign also won the “Gold Distinction” in the Contest or Promotion category of the 2nd Annual Shorty Social Good Awards.
#RejectedCandyHearts isn’t a brand, product, or charitable campaign but, rather, a perennial social media movement. Dating back to 2009 and going viral on Twitter in 2011, the #RejectedCandyHearts cultural phenomenon has become a popular way for social media users to poke fun at the holiday.
Like many viral trends, the #RejectedCandyHearts concept is quite simple: Using Sweethearts — the classic, colorful, heart-shaped candies — as a backdrop, users replace the loving text on the front of the candy with their own messages. Sardonic, subversive, or risque — sometimes all out inappropriate — #RejectedCandyHearts is just the kind of thing that goes viral on the internet.
In 2014, NBC was a finalist in the “Humor” category for their #RejectedCandyHearts around shows like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and Community. While the height of its popularity seemed to be between 2014 and 2015, the #RejectedCandyHearts trend still persists on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
Businesses should pay attention to trending topics and hashtags, and play along when appropriate. However, it’s always recommended that brands think before they tweet as riding the coattails of some of these viral conversations can sometimes backfire.
It’s also wise for brands to do their due diligence on any trends they wish to get involved with. Working with a reputable ad firm, influencer marketing agency, or other in-the-know digital company that can offer guidance on these matters can also be helpful for brands.
Ingredient-and-recipe meal kit service Blue Apron partnered with top YouTube influencer, Aaron Marino of alpha m. to create a sponsored video “5 AWESOME Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas – Creative & Affordable.” As millions search for Valentine’s Day gift inspiration each year, partnering with top social media influencers to create holiday or event-centric guides can be a powerful and effective way of marketing a brand, product, or service to millennial and Gen Z audiences who are attuned to following YouTubers for timely, relevant advice.
Aaron Marino is the YouTube influencer behind the popular 3.2 million subscriber men’s advice channel, alpha m, where he offers weekly advice on topics ranging from grooming to style to diet. For Blue Apron’s Valentine’s Day marketing campaign, Marino created a sponsored video structured like others on his channel (over half a million views to date), where he enthusiastically offers advice, insights, and how-to’s distilled in easily digestible numbered lists.
Amid Marino’s top tips for Valentine’s Day gift ideas that won’t break the bank (including filming a personalized video and planning a night ending in a staycation), he incorporates Blue Apron’s meal service as the fifth and final tip — crafting a sumptuous, home-cooked meal for your Valentine’s date — even when you’re not kitchen savvy or have time to grocery shop.
To be most effective, the best sponsored content with social media influencers share an anecdotal tidbit or story drawn from the influencer’s personal story complete with an inside look at the brand/product/service, outcomes, a takeaway, and an easy, actionable way for audiences to experience the same all while properly incorporating the sponsoring brand’s messaging.