4 things all PR pros should know about Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day
Image (C) Joel Bombardier
It might be pushing it a little to claim you can already feel love in the air. There’s a bit of a chill, and every city centre from Manchester to Milton Keynes and back is full of the signs of passion, but realistically the overall ambience is still that of Britain, bleak mid-winter.
Nevertheless, Valentine’s Day is almost upon us (next Friday, in case the calendar isn’t to hand), meaning right now plenty of people in the public relations and marketing industries are knee-deep in associated campaigns. But when a celebration dates back to the Roman age (with the martyr St. Valentine of Rome supposedly imprisoned for marrying soldiers who were forbidden from marrying and performing ceremonies for Christians, who were persecuted at the time), it’s vital that we don’t get too bogged down in traditionalism. After all, whilst going out for a romantic meal on 14th February hasn’t fallen out of favour, from a PR’s perspective the worst place you can ever be filed is in the drawer marked ‘just another uninspiring attempt to sell’.
So what can we learn from the last few thousand years of February love? Here at Smoking Gun PR we put our heads together, and came up with the following four things all our peers in the field should know about Valentine’s Day, all of which have been gleaned from the amorous archives, so read on if you want to know more.
 
1. Romance sells products. Sex sells more. 
Come into contact with any given jewellery store right now and chances are the same old messages are being issued about love being forever. Which is logical, as few people would spend money on a watch or ring if they only just met the recipient last week. If you don’t make a living selling diamonds and pearls, though, there are abundant ways to subvert the traditional view that Valentine’s is saved for established couples. Consumers in 2014 respond well to cheekiness, not least when it’s barefaced, and as such we’d advise investigating alternatives to sentimentality, whilst still sticking with the theme of passion.
 
2. Valentine’s Day also has a dark side. 
Picture the scene. It’s 14th February 1929 and Chicago’s cops are fighting what would appear to be a losing battle against mobsters profiting from the proliferation of the black markets that resulted from U.S. prohibition. Seven members of the North Side Gang are lined up in an alleyway and executed by rival criminals, some of which were disguised as policemen. The event would come to be known as The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, and given the ongoing obsession the public has with a (heavily Romanticised) image of The Mob during this era, we’d say this is well worth taking into account.
 
3. Consumer habits are changing 
According to research by photo book gift maker Albelli, 40% of British shoppers do not buy a gift to give on Valentine’s Day at all, and half of all UK consumers believe that a gift doesn’t really matter for this occasion. Reading between the lines then, it’s not hard to see that people could respond just as well to campaigns focusing on things to do, places to go, and stuff to see, rather than merely what presents are on offer for this year’s most intimate non-holiday. Providing, of course, there’s some element of ingeniousness behind the concept.
 
4. The anti-Valentine’s market is (arguably) bigger than the Valentine’s market
If the graphs and statistics published by MailOnline in 2011 are to be believed (and the trends revealed therein have not been reversed), divorced, widowed and single adults in the UK now outnumber those who are married, with singles accounting for 30% of all over-18s. Given that age group is the main target  demographic for most PRs on Valentine’s Day it’s unsurprising recent years have seen a huge rise in public relations and marketing campaigns focused on what to do come 14th February if you don’t have that special someone.