There are several popular theories as to where the holiday of love originates, with the most prevalent train of thought linking back to the gruelling ancient Roman festival, Lupercalia (around 278 A.D.). To save you from every gory detail, just imagine a little less secret gift giving, and a little more primitive courtship in the form of animal sacrifices and blood pacts.

But it wasn’t until the 18th century that recognisable Valentine’s Day traditions started to become popular among citizens of all classes. Exchanging small tokens of affection and handwritten notes soon became the norm between friends and loved ones every February 14th.

By the turn of the 19th century, gift exchanges had been a societal tradition for the best part of a century. Cadbury chocolate company was the first to tie the knot on mass-produced Valentine’s Day goods, launching the first ever heart-shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in 1868.

Valentine’s Day in the modern world

Data from 2020 estimates that, on average, we spend £35 per person on Valentine’s Day in the UK, and this figure is ever increasing. A mere box of Cadbury’s may no longer be enough to satisfy a lover on the big day – even if it does arrive in a heart-shaped box. But the primary reason for this overspending is thanks to the multitude of alternative gifts and experiences pushed by brands each February. So, among the swathes of Valentine’s Day ads in the modern age, which brands have managed to capture their audiences’ hearts?

WWF – Love it or Lose it.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the global conservation charity, launched a national brand marketing campaign across the US in February 2021. The messaging clearly highlights the interconnected relationship between us and nature, and more importantly showcases what we will lose if we fail to conserve it properly. Diversity lies at the core of the campaign, which features a breadth of different people, places, and species throughout. This poignantly hits home the truth that failure to love our planet will result in everything being lost.

But the campaign runs deeper. It’s no secret that Valentine’s Day is a period of excessive consumption – from the intensive farming of fresh flowers to the damaging impact of shipping, it is becoming increasingly harmful to the planet. So, by launching the multi-channel Love it or Lose it campaign in February 2021, WWF reached consumers at a time where they could make a conscious effort to change their Valentine’s buying habits for the better.

Clover – Spread the Real Love

Social media leads many to live a life of aspirational comparison, with people chasing a false, unattainable version of themselves online, which is why Clover’s 2021 Spread the Real Love campaign was so poignant.

With an increasing number of ‘perfect’ family situations portrayed across social media, television, and film, more than three quarters of mums claim to experience guilt to lead a perfect life. Concurrently, 6 out of 10 parents feel the pressure to maintain a perfect family image on social media. It’s for this reason that Clover went against the grain. Through several 6-second shorts, the leading spread brand successfully captured the realistic imperfections of family life. By implementing some heart-warming, authentic creative which depicts true happiness in a family setting, no matter how messy, Clover encourages its audience to break away from the relentless social pressure to be perfect and instead ‘Spread the Real Love’.

Deliveroo – Third Wheel Kevin

Over the past decade, ‘third wheel’ has become a term that has cropped up more and more frequently to describe the only single person hanging out with couples. There’s often a stigma that, to be a third wheel on Valentine’s Day, you must be a bit lonely or awkward.

That’s why, in February 2017, Deliveroo chose to tell the story of single Kevin.

In a minute long video ad, the food delivery service created a mockumentary showcasing Kevin carrying out a series of activities for two and failing. From see-sawing without a partner to aimlessly throwing a frisbee to nobody, the advert was successful in capturing the humorous, strange, and false clichés associated with being single. Rounded off with a “Third wheel meal deal” offer, generous couples could claim a free meal for their painfully lonely single friend.

Renault – An Amorous Valentine’s Day

In a print ad published for Valentine’s Day 2003, Renault refused to hold back on subtlety. Showing off their fully reclinable driver and passenger seat, laid back side by side, the copy reads “Renault wishes all young lovers an amorous Valentine’s Day”. Leaving little to the imagination, it’s difficult to fault the French auto-mobile manufacturers’ valiant attempt at humour. Renault have always championed intellectual and emotional creative, and whilst this campaign strikes a more jovial chord, it remains successful in provoking that Va Va Voom feeling that we all associate with the French carmaker.

Should my brand run a Valentine’s Day campaign?

If you’re questioning whether your brand is the right fit to run a campaign for Valentine’s Day, there’s a good chance that you already have your answer. Marketers often forget that seasonal holidays and awareness days are some of the noisiest in the calendar. These are periods in which all brands love to shout about their limited time offers and new product releases, making it extremely difficult for your message to be heard by your target audience. As the case studies above show, a great Valentine’s Day campaign isn’t an afterthought. It should be a strategically considered piece of creative, which takes time and investment to land on.

If you’ve missed the boat this year, why not select a quieter period in your marketing calendar to create your own brand holiday? This way, you can create a memorable campaign with absolute alignment to your offerings and ensure that your voice is heard over competitors. Just a thought.

Drop us a line here if you’d like to talk through all things seasonal, we’re always keen for a chat.