Expert Speak: Going beyond Valentine & Anti-Valentine cliches

Valentine's Day marketing campaigns

With terms such as Situationships and Ghosting taking prominence, the consumers’ approach towards love and Valentine’s Day has also been changing. Social Samosa asks experts how can brands rise above the cliches and create campaigns that truly connect.

It is that time of the year when pink hearts, teddies and chocolates are splashed across our social media platforms. The first two weeks of February, which align with Valentine’s day and its pre-celebration, are one of the biggest marketing occasions for the brandverse.

With the rise of mush, singles can feel anything from joy to sadness and loneliness. So while some consumers love Valentine’s day, some aren’t very fond of it. 

As per a report, commercialism and marketing communications contribute to consumers’ feelings and experiences concerning their love or hate for this day. For example, many ads depicting couples and affection flood the market as much as a month before February 14 – triggering feelings of warmth or disgust. While some welcome this holiday, there is a strain of anti-consumerism or anti-commercialism associated with the holiday ‘for love.’ 

A recent report by YouGov also said that across the world, men and women have a cynical view of the celebration. 42% of Indian consumers in the survey said that they believe it is a commercial opportunity. Surprisingly, younger people tend to be somewhat less hostile to Valentine’s Day than older people but the overall picture is still one of heavy skepticism across the generations. 

In light of this trend, over the years, many brands have taken the anti V-Day campaigns route. Be it AIB’s Pyaar Ek Dhokha Hai or ONLY India’s MehValentines or Cadbury Silk’s recent campaign – all the initiatives denounced the mush and cheese surrounding this holiday.

However, in the last few years, the core DNA of the audience has changed. The new age audience is dealing with things like Situationships and Ghosting. This audience is also more aware of toxic romanticism and gender roles – creating a need for brands to evolve too. Be it a Valentine’s Day campaign or an anti Valentine’s Day campaign – the need of the hour warrants communication that is in step with the changing consumer.

However, in a clutter of campaigns how do you reach out to this audience? Social Samosa spoke to NCDs and CCOs to discuss the best way to navigate these challenges. 

Changing Definitions of ‘Relationships’

Over the years, marketers have been moving away from the traditional meaning of love. This year, many have celebrated the companionship that people find in their friends, pets, and family. A few brands have looked at changing definitions of relationships, exploring situation-ships, communidating and hook-up trends.   

Also read: Valentine’s Day Marketing: How Jewellery brands add bling to the season of love

According to home-grown dating app Quack Quack, Valentine’s Day is also the time when people on dating apps look beyond romance. Among the 22 million users on the app, almost 33% of the users seek friendship. The survey also revealed that 37% of the survey participants between 25 and 30 beat their loneliness by participating in communidating, where daters use the app to find new friends and connections beyond romantic relationships. 

Its app data further saw 22% of women from tier 1 and 2 cities joining the app to find a date because they felt lonely before Valentine’s Day. 

So, with changing dating landscape, it is important for the advertising industry to keep up. Brands can remind consumers to celebrate companionship and not look for romantic partners under the pressure of Valentine’s Day. 

Aditya Mehendale, National Creative Director, Schbang says, “The dating landscape has gotten increasingly complicated and consumers want to see narratives that keep up with dating practices today and not outward affectations of love from half a century ago. The problem is even today storytellers are using products to catalyse chemistry in the most traditional ways. The days where an ice cream could win you a partner are definitely behind us and it’s about time are stories kept up.”

The growing emergence of ‘situationships’ signals a new era in modern love. Ergo, modern love, experts say, is a lot more relatable. 

“With a theme as broad as love, I believe the possibilities are endless, but the whole take on modern love makes us relate to it much more. Having said that, I also feel there’s great potential for counter takes. Enough folks are single on Valentine’s day and while a few brands have spoken about it, it hasn’t been explored enough. For example, I loved Netflix’s Stay at Home take they had for new years a few years back,” Vishnu Srivatsav, National Creative Director – 22feet Tribal Worldwide told Social Samosa. 

Valentine’s Day is, says Chirag Raheja, Creative Director, Infectious Advertising, one of the most misinterpreted occasions world over.

“What was meant to be a hallmark of love (towards anyone), has with time, become a mere celebration of romance and appreciation to one’s significant other. That being said, I’d find it thoroughly refreshing to find brands reclaiming this forgotten history,” said Raheja.  

Brands need to take a step back and ask themselves what their objective truly is.

Raheja added, “When I look at a lot of the work done for this occasion, I find that wherever there’s a couple dating, there’s a brand baiting. How can they change this? By ‘doing’ rather than just saying. Plenty of brands are urging someone to buy something for their better half. But where’s the brand’s role in the Valentine celebration? Is it just about riding the wave of calendared love? What is the brand doing to express its love to customers and followers? Beyond deals and discounts, I think there’s a love story waiting to be told.”

Keep it Authentic 

According to communications firm Cohn & Wolfe, about 67% of Indian consumers are more likely to buy from brands perceived as authentic. The Authentic Brand Index, which measures global brands’ authenticity, says that an authentic campaign should have Originality, Personal Utility, Declared Beliefs, Sincerity, Familiarity, Momentum and Heritage. 

Another study by BBC Studios said that for Gen Z, brands aren’t just an expression of what they like, they’re an expression of what they value. They are more inclined to consume brands that are authentic, as they come closer to representing their values, beliefs and sense of community. The research found that 80% of India Gen Z respondents said that authenticity plays an influential role on their choice of brands. If a brand is authentic, the Indian Gen Z are more likely to be loyal to the brand (81%), recommend it to others (78%), buy their products and services again (73%).

So, if Valentine’s Day campaigns have an authentic narrative, it would be definitely considered a green flag by young consumers. 

Sharing the most important thing to keep in mind while making Valentine’s Day campaigns, Srivatsav said, “I believe more than anything else, people need to see authenticity or entertainment in advertising. Tinder’s “Match made in hell” is a great example of this. It’s hilarious, yet insightful and authentic in many ways.” 

Consumers Embrace Self-love Campaigns

Valentine’s Day, in the past, has been all about celebrating our partners and the idea of being paired up. This year, consumers are embracing self-love and a few brands have followed their path. A report by Kantar exploring how Valentine’s day is transforming into a season of self-love, says that we’ve seen a cultural shift when it comes to relationships – having a partner has gone from being a universal goal to just one of many options.

Google trends has also seen a jump in searches for ‘Self-love.’

“Self-love seems to be flavour of the season this Valentine’s. Self-gifting is gaining traction over “a gift for someone you love”. Brands are focusing on the importance of self-care and encouraging people to prioritize their own well-being,” said Mukund Olety, CCO, VMLY&R told Social Samosa. 

Olety added that nostalgia is another big evergreen theme around Valentine’s Day. 

“Real emotions, real stories always work. I would love to see more of tech-based experiences aimed at couples. I have seen a few product innovations but definitely would love to see more,” he said. 

So this Valentine’s Day, remember to be modern, authentic, innovative and focus on self-love.