The Truth About Valentine's Day

Let’s face it, a lot of men and women don’t like Valentine’s Day.

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way.

First, I want to take on some myths about Valentine’s Day. It’s simply not true that Valentine’s Day is some kind of artificial corporate concoction invented by Hallmark to help plump the mid-winter bottom line with chocolate, flower and card sales. A little bit of research reveals that Valentine’s Day is a holiday that has existed since Roman Times and was “Christianized” by the early church.

What we do know is that long before the big card and flower companies came on the scene, people were giving their sweethearts tokens of their affection on February 14th. And one interesting piece of trivia: the first mass-produced cards weren’t the product of a big company, but of a Massachusetts’s woman, Esther Howland, who liked a handmade English Valentine card she received so much that she began manufacturing them (that was in 1847).

Bottom line, you simply can’t create demand for a service, a product or a holiday – Valentine’s Day was and is something that most people want to celebrate.

So there’s no use complaining, Valentine’s Day won’t be going anywhere as long as human beings are human beings. It’s not smoke-and-mirrors marketing, it’s genuine-needs marketing.
What are those needs and, more important, what are you going to do about it in your own life? How are you going to celebrate it (remember, you can always choose not to celebrate it, if it isn’t your thing)?

My sense is that a lot of the unhappiness around Valentine’s Day comes from the fact that people forget that they are in control when February 14 rolls around. Like New Year’s Eve, they think they have to do something spectacular or else.

Fact is, just as love is a many-splendorred thing and every person and every relationship is different, every Valentine’s Day should be approached differently.

This is an excellent time to ask yourself who you are and how you want to communicate your feelings to the person you love. And, by the way, Valentine’s Day can be a good time to face facts about your relationship and the direction you want to go –and this might mean calling it a day.

The most important point to keep in mind is that like Christmas, Valentine’s Day is a gift-giving time. So like Christmas, the question is this: are you giving your significant other something that they actually want?

I’m not going to suggest specifics, but here’s one hint: suppose your girlfriend or wife likes jewelry, but every time you pick up something, she doesn’t like it? The solution might be picking out the jewelry together and making a day of it. You get the picture, it’s not just the thought that counts, it’s thinking about what will really make someone happy and doing that thing.

By the way, studies show that extravagance is low down on the list of things that women (at least) want at Valentine’s Day and confirm the idea that women want to know that the man is thinking of them and not themselves. In one study at Hertfordshire University, running a bath made the #5 on the top ten of romantic gestures.

So it doesn’t need to be grand, but it needs to be true to your brand and to the brand of the person you’re with. Get that right and you should have a very happy Valentine’s Day.

And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing in mind.

John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and the founder and president of Marketing Department of America. His book, People Buy Brands Not Companies, is being published in February.