We’re looking at how brands can get it right with their Valentine’s Day marketing.

Ah, Valentine’s. The time of year that we pretend to ignore while it hurtles straight at you in a headache-inducing clash of pink and red.

It’s not that cool to enjoy Valentine’s these days. Unless of course you’re an influencer promoting an extortionately priced pair of flimsy PJs, or you’re Regina George (OG version of course). However, it’s not exactly cricket to completely ignore it either. This puts brands in a very sticky (no, not the Lovehoney kind) situation – just how can Valentine’s Day marketing be done well?

Valentine’s Day marketing: why it’s a love/hate relationship for brands

On the one hand Valentine’s Day is still one of the largest retail events of the year. In 2022 the UK spent an approximate £990 million celebrating it. On the other hand, it is kinda trash. JK. Valentines isn’t all bad. But it is a hard nut for brands to crack. Why? Because historically it’s seen as rather exclusive (i.e. for cringey loved up couples) and it’s also quite polarising. People either love it or hate it. Which is why sometimes it’s easier for brands to simply just ignore it.

Campaigns are expensive. And if you put all your quarterly budget eggs into a heart-shaped basket you risk alienating your faithful singleton customer base. Or worse, you end up having to dispense your entire comms team to put out fires in the comments section. Not very sexy.

Sometimes, however, brands do get it right. Here are some of our favourite examples from the last few years…

Toblerone adds a lil’ love insurance

There is quite simply nothing worse than the anxiety that comes at the start of a relationship. Couple this with Valentine’s Day, and people lose their god darn minds. Do you get them something? Is that too keen? Will they get me something? What does it mean if they don’t? Will I be left counting down the days until Taylor Swifts next album if I mess up?

Well over at Toblerone, they capitalized on this exact fear. Packaging up their Valentine’s Day marketing campaign as a little love insurance.

To get their hands on this premium insurance, customers simply had to visit Toblerone.co.uk to buy the brand’s special edition chocolate bar. This gift then came with an insurance token. The idea is that if the relationship falls flat, the couple can register the purchase with @TobleroneUK on Instagram to receive an online voucher. This way, neither the Toblerone, nor their relationship, feels like a failure. GENIUS.

Cadbury 5-star crusades against cringe

Now, full disclosure, we only stumbled across this campaign while looking for a regular Cadbury’s advert. After all, they do Christmas and gift-giving campaigns so well. Secret Santa Postal Service anyone? But as it turns out, the mighty chocolate powerhouse has not indulged in any V-Day-specific marketing for some time. Très interessant and a fine example of why it’s not necessary to jump on every marketing bandwagon when you’re winning in other areas. ANYWAY, Cadbury’s Indian sister company, Cadbury 5 Star, has been bringing the HEAT on Valentine’s adverts for years now. And boy oh boy, are we impressed.

How chocolate fought love and won

Whereas Toblerone erred on the side of caution, Cadbury 5 Star has gone all-out war against the day of luurve. It started back in 2020 with the “what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?” campaign. To ease the pressure on those wanting to dodge the dreaded question, the brand took over an island off the coast of Karnataka and renamed it “my cousin’s wedding.” This was so consumers without a Valentine could say “I’m busy actually, I’m going to my cousin’s wedding.” Obvs this was a big ol’ stunt, no one is THAT flush for cash. But, for a chance to access the island, consumers could scan the special Cadbury 5 Valentine’s Day packs to win a trip.

Roll on 2024, and the out-of-the-box thinking doesn’t stop there. Just 5 days ago their 2024 Valentine’s Day campaign: Erase Valentine’s Day launched. Partnering with celebrated space scientist Nambi Narayanan the advert calls on volunteers to board a ‘time-travel ship’ to cross the International Date Line in the mid-Pacific Ocean at the stroke of midnight on February 13th, 2024. Effectively skipping Valentine’s Day. The event is due to be live streamed and customers will be able to win t-shirts that will have ‘time travelled’ on the vessel. From the concept to the landing page to the ad itself, this V-Day campaign ticks all the boxes. Bravo.

Stella Artios nails animated poignancy

Nope, it’s not just chocolate brands that can pull off a great Valentine’s campaign. In 2020, the football fan’s beer brand of choice, Stella Artois created a 15 second animated YouTube advert that gets the whole love thing just right.

The video shows the growth of a couple, suggesting that their relationship started, and endures, via a shared love of Stella Artois. The video is simple, heartfelt, and captures the spirit of Valentine’s. No really, it does, please go and watch it it’s SUPER CUTE. It’s also, in our humble opinion, a very good example of what can be done with a well thought out animation. The campaign was a huge hit and garnered almost 3 million views on YouTube, what’s not to love about that?

What does this all mean for my brand?

Now that we’ve warbled on for long enough about what other brands have done. How should you approach, create and launch a Valentine’s Day campaign of your own? Well, after a closer look at the success stories above, here’s a few strategies many of these brands have used:

  • Get noticed: There’s a lot of content being churned out around Valentine’s Day. So, to stand out, you’ve got to catch your audience’s attention with something entertaining or valuable.
  • Stay true: Don’t get lost clichés. Aim for authenticity and relatability and consider sharing stories your followers can connect with – or featuring user-generated content to keep it real.
  • Explore new avenues: Every brand is different, so why stick to the same old platforms? Experiment with different channels to see what works best for you, and don’t feel the pressure to spread yourself too thin across different mediums.

2024 might not be your year to smash a Valentine’s campaign out of the park, but that shouldn’t mean you can’t be inspired. For help planning your next scene-stealing idea, drop us a line. We’re ready to make sure your customers fall in love with whatever you’ve got planned next!