This post was updated on February 14, 2021.
Love in the pandemic. It’s a tricky situation, especially for marketers!
There has never been a better time to disrupt Valentine’s Day and make a mark on this highly popular holiday that is a powerful revenue driver for so many businesses and brands.
More than ever, marketers are rethinking the meaning behind Valentine’s Day and repackaging the holiday to appeal to all – couples, singles, families, even nature lovers! As you can see from our annual roundup of the best Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns, this year, there is a definite shift to expanded concepts of love besides traditional romance, and novel ways to celebrate the day with clever creative ideas and moving video productions. Get some inspiration for your Valentine’s Day activities with our top selection for 2021:
Niluu – Focus on self love
This Valentine’s Day, 15% of shoppers are planning to buy a gift for themselves. Self love is the central focus of niluu, maker of sustainable, eco-friendly, and vegan kimonos and sleep accessories. The socially aware brand chose the theme of “Fall in love with you” for their beautifully produced Valentine’s Day marketing video, depicting a woman going on a sensual date with… herself, at home, in different rooms of the house! And of course, she’s wearing niluu’s beautiful loungewear.
Pandora – Getting real with real people
Authenticity is what today’s consumers crave, and jewelry brand Pandora got real and personal this Valentine’s Day with a clever video ad spot. Real couples were asked what Valentine’s Day means to them, and the result is a brand campaign that once again focuses on the customer, and not the product. Plus, the intimate, real vibe of the video makes it very watchable and relatable.
Etsy – Love and support for small businesses
E-commerce platform Etsy supported their seller community this Valentine’s Day by offering a ready-made graphic for social media posts to promote their Valentine’s Day products on the various social networks. Together with the holiday hashtag #MakeItMeaningful, sellers can draw attention to their Etsy store and drive more Valentine’s Day traffic. It may seem like a small thing, but the Etsy graphic not only grabs audience attention but also helps to create a sense of community and online buzz for Etsy sellers who need that extra support in their Valentine’s Day digital marketing efforts.
Leicester Tigers – Making it easy to spread the love
If customers can’t come to you, come to your customers! During the COVID lockdowns and social distancing, brands and businesses have to find a way to reach customers in new and different ways. The Leicester Tigers football club is making the most of the momentum of Valentine’s Day by offering free UK wide shipping from its shop for the entire weekend before the big day. Don’t get caught up in thinking that every marketing campaign has to be super-sophisticated and original. Sometimes even the simplest move, like offering free shipping, is the best way to make customers happy and get those conversions.
Yowie – Love is family
Valentine’s Day and chocolate go hand in hand, even chocolates that kids love. The Yowie confectionery brand is turning Valentine’s Day into a family-style holiday, with a range of free printable activities and DIY activities that kids and parents can do at home. In addition, the company is offering a $5 discount coupon on its chocolates with the coupon code “5spreadlove”, which can be redeemed on Amazon’s online Yowie store. This is a particularly sensitive and effective campaign, as families struggle at home during COVID lockdowns and social distancing to make holidays special.
WWF – Love it or lose it
Every year, the Valentine’s Day concept is stretched further beyond romance to take in all kinds of meanings and causes. This year, the World Wildlife Federation got in the Valentine’s Day action with an awareness campaign, “Love it or lose it”. The campaign video features a remake of Elvis Presley’s “Love me tender” and calls on everyone to appreciate and take care of our natural surroundings or risk losing it. This campaign is a great example of how Valentine’s Day and other holidays can be used to raise awareness, not just create revenue.
NHS – Go against the grain
In the wake of the pandemic, a grassroots campaign got off the ground in the UK, calling on people to ditch the flowers and cards, and show some true love on Valentine’s Day by donating to the NHS. This initiative reflects the impact that the pandemic has had on consumer sentiment, as people adjust their priorities in challenging times. It also goes to show that you don’t need to be a fancy marketing agency to go against the grain with a cool idea – these days, with the right exposure, anyone can go viral and get attention for a good cause.
Hotels.com – Anti-Valentine’s Day
Hotels.com is getting attention by not getting into the spirit of Valentine’s Day this year. The vacation booking website invited users to visit their V-Day Dumpster Stay web page and write about why their ex deserves a vacation in a dumpster. All entries go into a competition to win a $300 gift card for use at Hotels.com so they can enjoy a vacation with someone for whom they aren’t seeking revenge. It’s the anti-Valentine’s celebration, a fun gag designed to appeal to customers’ less-than-gracious side and get some attention directed towards the brand. Sometimes in marketing, doing the exact opposite can have the most potent effect.
Best Valentine’s Day Campaigns of 2020
- Best video advertising campaign – Teleflora
- Best co-marketing campaign – KFC and Deliveroo
- Best giveaway campaign – Coors Light
- Best native advertising campaign – Budweiser, China
- Best packaging campaign – Gü Desserts
- Best social media campaign – Junk King
- Best pop-up store campaign – Pip & Nut
- Best guerilla marketing campaign – El Paso Zoo
Valentine’s Day brand campaigns are definitely no longer just those sickly sweet celebrations of romance. While brands are still focused on themes of love, the best marketing campaigns have a certain edge that draws the customers in – whether it’s celebrating a welcome break up with an ex, encouraging connection with a pet rather than a partner, or exploring diversity of different types of relationships.
This year is expected to be the biggest Valentine’s Day ever, with overall spending forecast to reach $27.4 billion, an increase of over 30% from last year. How are brands worldwide cashing in? What is the best Valentine’s Day marketing strategy we’ve seen in a range of categories? Let’s take a look:
1. Video advertising
There’s no better gift you can possibly give on Valentine’s Day than flowers. That’s the message by Teleflora, the floral wire service, in their series of funny Valentine’s Day video ads showing different love-gift fails. Like a clingy coffee mug that drives the recipient crazy at work. Or an annoying talking teddy bear. According to Teleflora, “Flowers Say It Best”, and the video ads do a great job of convincing the viewers!
Brand: KFC and Deliveroo (Singapore)
In Singapore, couples are declaring their love over fried chicken with a co-marketing campaign by KFC and Deliveroo food delivery company. It’s not the first time the two brands have joined forces for Valentine’s Day to offer couples a little extra love on the special day. This year, with the “Will Delive-roo be my Valentine” campaign, couples can pre-order home delivery of the KFC love meal combo, which includes a delicious chicken dinner, plus a limited edition KFC bucket ring designed and crafted by local jewelry brand Gemnesis. A ring and chicken? It’s the perfect combo for powerful (and tasty) brand recognition!
Brand: Coors Light
Ever heard of “cuffing season”? It’s the cold winter months when singles get together to have someone to cozy up to. And for this year’s Valentine’s Day, Coors Light beer brand is calling for a boycott of cuffing season, and encouraging people to adopt a dog instead! And they just might be onto something. According to the National Retail Federation, total spending for pets on Valentine’s Day was forecast at over $800 million in 2019. In this creative giveaway campaign, Coors Light offers $100 towards dog adoption fees to the first 1000 people to qualify. It’s a great way to brand itself “The Official Beer for Skipping Cuffing Season” while promoting a good cause.
4. Native advertising
Brand: Budweiser, China
Valentine’s Day is not just in February. The Qixi Festival is the Chinese festival of love, celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which means it usually falls sometime in August. For Qixi 2019, the Budweiser beer brand launched a video ad celebrating diversity in love, featuring several couples and their unique relationships. It’s raw, heartfelt, authentic, moving and engaging – everything a native video ad should be. Cheers!
Brand: Gü Desserts
Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to indulge in sweets, and the British Gü Desserts brand is taking full advantage. They’ve released a Valentine’s Day campaign called Love Notes, a series of love-themed packaging for selected Gü desserts, each with a love song title adapted to the Gü brand. So, you can buy salted caramel cheesecakes for your loved one, complete with packaging that states “I’m in love with the shape of Gü.” Or perhaps you prefer to gift the berry flavored shortbread cheesecakes that sing “I can’t take my eyes off of Gü.” Whichever you choose, this smart love-themed packaging gets the message across in a totally brand immersive way.
6. Social media
Brand: Junk King
How does the holiday of love tie into junk removal? For Junk King, the answer is obvious! It’s Dumptruck or Lovestruck! The junk removal company is sending bright red dump trucks to several major US cities, where people can dump the junk left behind by their exes for free! But the company is also taking a more positive spin, with a social media competition for couples who are moving in together. They have a chance to win a free dump truck service to get rid of all those things they don’t need after the big lovestruck move. Couples must submit a photo of themselves on Facebook with the hashtag #JKLOVEStruck and tag their local Junk King franchise for the chance to be in the running.
Heavy hearts deserve a junk haul. Whether you’re full of love or loveless, Junk King will win you over this Valentines season. Contact us to see whether the Lovestruck or the Dump Truck will roll up to your local Junk King. pic.twitter.com/13RIMrJqOy
— JUNK KING (@JunkKingCorp) February 9, 2020
7. Pop-up store
Brand: Pip & Nut
Pop-up stores are a fast-growing marketing tactic, and they are often used for seasonal or holiday marketing campaigns. That’s what nut butter brand Pip & Nut is up to in London. They’re opening a pop-up store over the Valentine’s Day holiday, called the “Love Lab”, where customers can create their own custom blends of nut butter. It’s a great example of an interactive pop-up store experience that drives brand awareness and engagement and enables the brand to get face-to-face with customers. Plus, the company is donating one jar of nut butter to a local food bank for every jar created during the campaign – that’s true marketing love!
8. Guerrilla marketing
Brand: El Paso Zoo
Valentine’s Day is not always about love and light and lollypops. El Paso Zoo in Texas is making a memorable mark this year with a truly guerilla (or cockroach…) marketing campaign. For those who recently went through a breakup, well, revenge is a dish best served to a meerkat. The zoo is giving people the opportunity to name a cockroach after their ex, and all the offending creatures will be fed to the meerkats and other animals during a three-day period over Valentine’s Day 2020. Named “Quit Bugging Me”, the anti-Valentine’s Day campaign is a tongue-in-cheek testament to love…gone wrong.
The most important thing is to maintain a sense of humor, and that’s easy to do on Valentine’s Day with parody sites like Amazon Dating (spoiler – it’s fake) or the major faux pas by cell phone carriers in the UK, who unwittingly sent out old Valentine’s Day messages to dozens of people – in November.
But make no mistake. Valentine’s Day marketing is serious business, involving billions of spending dollars. Consumers today are smarter, savvier and better informed than ever before. Traditional Valentine’s Day campaigns are falling by the wayside as brands move towards edgier approaches and tongue-in-cheek love messages.