February 13, 2012

What's Love Got To Do With It?

A lot. $17.6 Billion to be exact according to the recent survey conducted earlier this month by the National Retail Foundation on Valentine’s Day. Or, for all intended purposes of this article, V-Day.

It's V-Day again, and no doubt every media channel, radio spot, and even your inbox hasn’t failed to remind you. This holiday, gift card sales are expected to reach $1.1 billion (second only to Christmas), jewelry sales are expected to hit $4.1 billion, and $3.5 billion will be spent on a special evening out. While many people all over the world bask in tears of joy, so too will Hallmark, Kay Jewelers, and 1-800 Flowers.
It's safe to say that the business of love is the business to be in this quarter.

To say that Valentine’s Day is a well-played marketing scheme would offend all the lovers and romantics out there who are punch-love drunk today, so I won’t do that. Instead I’ll just call it a great case study of good ole classic advertising, a much more dirtier word than marketing.

You must admit even if you are the most romantic at heart that there's some truth to the phrase "Hallmark Holiday" when it comes to V-Day.  I mean check out Heineken's brilliantly placed "engagement ring" ad, although I'm not sure what engagement has to with beer.

Or Hallmark's tear-jerker last year:

And when tear-jerker doesn't work, go in for the sex tactic like this year’s Super Bowl’s V-Day commercial. Its obvious sexual undertones and tagline of Happy Valentine’s Night sends a clear message -- give her flowers and you’ll get, well, you know . . . (Or, if her accent doesn't sell you, maybe her plunging neckline will).

Now, before you go on chastising me as an anti-V-Day skeptic, I'm not one. I am a romantic at heart and I love Valentine's Day . . .no truly I do, well . . . kind of . . . actually scratch that. To be honest, I like V-Day only when I'm getting something because I like getting gifts, especially gifts that sparkle. And getting something that sparkles is more likely to happen on Valentine's Day, otherwise I become slightly sick at the thought of it because its loaded with expectation.  Every Valentine’s Day that I’ve experienced with someone looks like an episode from this week’s Up All Night. When it wasn’t stressful, “What says I like you in the I-like-where-this-is-going-way and not the I-want-to-tie-you-down-and-have-your-babies-way? Or awkward, “Oh you got me something sweet that says love on it and all I got you was a card because I’m really not sure where our relationship is. Weird." It was puzzling, “Really, a life size teddy bear . . .Thanks babe.”
But I do believe in clever marketing, and the marketing of love is right up there with the bottled water industry. Ridiculously smart.  So smart that I wish it was my idea.  Love doesn't stop at your special someone. Love is for your friends, your family, your children, your son or daughter's 3rd grade playmates, your favorite teacher, even you pet. The segments are endless. Pretty soon, we'll be getting Valentine's for ourselves.
But back to the love. 
To give Valentine’s Day a fair chance of losing the Hallmark Holiday stigma, I decided to do a little market research to see how people really felt about it. A week before Valentine’s Day I sampled 48 people with 29 female participants and 18 male. I asked questions such as how they felt about the holiday, if they thought it was a geared solely for women, and if they felt pressure to participate.
Based on a fairly even split of feedback from single, married, and those in a relationship:
  • 46% didn't care about the holiday and 43% do think it’s a hallmark holiday but don’t mind it
  • An overwhelming 80% felt “neutral” about the holiday (verses excited or hated it)
  • 42% felt that it is geared toward women but enjoyed by both with 40% saying it was a holiday solely for women
  • The average dollar range spent will be spent $10-50

But the most interesting thing was that:
A large majority felt like Valentine’s Day put a large amount of pressure on their relationship.

I expected to hear this answer from my male participants, but I also heard the same from female participants, too.  I can relate (see my previous stated experiences).  And we can thank the marketers for perpetuating the machine of commercialization that suggests that chocolate, flowers, jewelry and lavish gifts are the way to make someone feel special and that if you're not giving, then you're not loving.

If you're celebrating with your sweetheart today or just spending some quality time with you, yourself, and Irene Happy V-Day folks. And just remember, all anyone wants is to feel like they are loved, respected, and appreciated. Saying I love you doesn't cost a dime.  But then again, what's love got to do with it

To Love and Profits

Thanks for reading

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