20 best Valentine’s Day digital marketing inspirations

Happy Valentine’s Day! Some are waiting for it with anticipation, some are rolling their eyes at this celebration so hard that they can see their brain. For some, and I mean marketers, it’s a trap – it’s so easy to fall for mushy sentimentality and worn-out cliches. Here are 8 surefire ways and 20 inspirations for a creative V-Day digital marketing campaign, that can inspire medium and small businesses as well.

#1: Play with the stereotype

What do women want? Diamonds? Roses? Their men to pick their goddamn socks up from the floor? All of the above, but there is one thing that women want more than anything: to eat whatever they want and not to get fat. Doritos understands modern women, so they created bouquets. I know what you’re thinking, Doritos and floral bouquets do not mix. They do if it’s a bouquet of roses made out of Doritos!

McDonald’s and Heineken followed with their tongue-in-cheek proposal ads:

McDonald's and Heineken Valetine's ads

Land Rover handled this topic by telling a long-term love story of four guys and one car – they have their families already, but their love for their first car is a different cup of tea.

 

#2: Let them show love

Revlon has given a space and a good reason to show love on social media. If you posted a photo of yourself blowing a kiss on social media, tagging someone you love, and using the  hashtag #chooselove, this photo might be published on Revlon’s website. The Body Shop Marketing team must have heard about this campaign, as this year they came up with something very similar: post a photo of yourself blowing a kiss on Instagram, tag it with #SendingAKiss and win a prize. This strategy is meant to organically (and budget-friendly) reach new and relevant audiences.

the Body Shop and Revlon Valentine's campaigns

#3: Be funny

Because let’s face it, if your product is a lightbulb or renovation supplies you don’t have much choice. Be creative, be corny and make your audience chuckle. What we particularly liked is Leroy Merlin’s Mr-and-Mrs-Smithesque narrative for those with a bit longer relationship experience.

Love at first light

#4: Make it sexy…

…but for the love of God, make it tasteful and remember, that sex in fact, doesn’t sell. A recent meta-analysis of 53 studies consisting of 8,489 participants conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, and published in the Psychological Bulletin states that violent and sexual programs, and ads with violent or sexual content decrease advertising effectiveness. Science.

And IKEA, once again, proves that you can create a sexy and funny digital marketing campaign using furniture.

IKEA sexy valentine ad

#5: Make life easier

KFC is giving a helping hand to those who have no idea how to spend V-Day. If you shared the most compelling love story, you could win a heart-shaped box of chicken wings and a personalised poem for your significant other. The idea behind this campaign was to generate more clicks and show KFC as a low-key alternative for ostentatious high-end restaurants that pop-culture promotes as a default place for a V-Day date. Another great example is Snickers, who consistently plays with the idea of how being hungry negatively affects one’s life. You are not yourself when you are hungry – this is something we already know, but on Valentine’s Day you are also forgetful. But fear not, this billboard may look average, but in fact it’s made with love-letter post-its, so that you can take one and give it to your loved one. An interesting case is Starbucks partnership with Match.com. A matchmaking app and a coffee shop seem like a perfect… match. And they are ready to help their audience find one too.

KFC Starbucks Snickers Valentine's Ads

#6: Think about the singles

There is no day worse to be single than 14th of February, but 27% of those who are not celebrating, plan to treat themselves anyway or have alternative plans to survive the mass hysteria (National Retail Federation, 2018). Across the pond, in England and Wales 34% of the adult population is ‘single and never cohabited or married’ and 49% doesn’t look forward to Valentine’s Day (2017 Durex Report) – it’s a market worth fighting for.

That’s why in 2016 Virgin Trains decided to invite 24 singles for a matchmaking experience onboard a running train. A Love Carriage had (hopefully) taken the lucky singles straight into the arms of love at the speed of 125 mph.

A similar match-making idea has been introduced by Tesco. A professional matchmaker has matched people by the contents of their shopping basket. Then the matched couples met for a quick (and only a little awkward) rendez-vous in the vegetable aisle. They were then sent off to have a romantic dinner together. 

Matchmaking on Valentine’s Day may feel a bit forced – some people are not looking for love or still need to recover after a heartbreak. Here is an example of a Shred Your Ex campaign, where you could simulate the shredding of your ex’s portrait online. Still more satisfying that cutting his face out of all photos or drawing a moustache on the pictures of her you kept.

#7: Market love for a cause

Omaze, a philanthropic auction platform partnered with Idris Elba in order to support W.E. Can Lead – a charity supporting women in Sierra Leone. Donors who chipped in $10 or more could win a date with the actor in London, and we must admit, we played that video in our women-dominated office more than once. Well, a girl can dream.

#8: Don’t forget about Galentine’s Day!

Galentine’s Day started in 2010 when Leslie Knope, a fictional character from the TV series Parks and Recreation, decided to celebrate her gal-pals on February 13th. The idea is to treat yourself in the company of your best friends. As Leslie said: “Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” In a world where love seems to be fragile and hard to find and women empowerment and solidarity are on the rise, female friendships gain importance. What’s even more important, this celebration is much more inclusive – there is a bigger chance that you are someone’s gal-pal than you being in a relationship.

Gallentine's Day campaigns on Twitter

Lessons learnt

No matter how big your digital marketing budget is, you can learn from the big players and adjust your strategy. Let’s sum it up:

  1. Avoid falling into cheap sentimentality by playing with the stereotype.
  2. Let your customers show their love. How about starting a Facebook challenge, where your audience tags their loved ones and tells how they met?
  3. If your product is not very romantic – it’s great, you can use humor, you just need a good copywriter (that’s us, ahem).
  4. Remember that sex doesn’t really sell, but you can spice up your digital communication as long as it matches the context of the day and keeps it in good taste.
  5. Help your audience plan this day – they feel pressured to make it special, but they frown upon all the cliches – they will appreciate an original idea that will surprise their significant other.
  6. Don’t forget the singles, but be delicate – it’s frustrating enough to be single on V-Day, make sure they don’t feel pushed or patronized.>
  7. If you are a charity organisation or partner with one, use the positive message to make the world a better place!
  8. Reach to wider audiences and use Galentine’s Day as an excuse.
  9. Find a good match to partner up for your V-Day activity (Like Starbucks and Match.com)

 

Here is a handy list of campaigns we discussed:

  • Doritos bouquets
  • McDonald’s – marriage proposition
  • Heineken – diamond ring
  • Land Rover – a car lo
  • Revlon
  • The Body Shop
  • Superb (lightbulbs) – Love at the first light
  • Leroy Merlin – Let the paint dry
  • IKEA
  • KFC – ChickenGram
  • Snickers – You are forgtful when you are hungry
  • Starbucks + Match.com
  • Virgin Trains
  • Tesco
  • Omaze
  • Remington
  • Ann Summers
  • Everywoman Book