Valentine’s Day is one of the most competitive in the PR calendar – perhaps the only annual hook which sees more PR campaigns pegged to it is Christmas.
However, the window for Valentine’s coverage is a smaller one – just a couple of days in reality. Although as with most calendar hooks, we have seen some brands go out earlier than ever. Perhaps the earliest Valentine’s story this year was from Poundland with the release of its £1 engagement ring in mid-January.
The landscape this year has been as competitive as ever, with a huge slew of interesting campaigns being activated. Here is a roundup of some of the key ones from the big brands:
Ford’s clever campaign certainly fell into the ‘useful’ and ‘entertaining’ categories, by using technology to solve a common problem – one half of a couple hogging the bed. As well as helping to solve an issue many of us will be able to relate to, it also squarely promoted the company’s technology that keeps cars in lanes.
Ketchup purveyors Heinz introduced tomato caviar to make any meal a ‘fine dining experience’. Taking something as everyday as ketchup and transforming it into a food item that is a byword for luxury was a nice move.
Pizza Express went big by arranging a surprise wedding for a couple at one of its restaurants. I’ll leave you to decide if the couple were in on it or not. But – according to the press release at least – the oblivious couple, who had been engaged a year, were surprised by a member of staff.
Full disclosure – this was a 3 Monkeys Zeno campaign. But we’d have loved it even if it wasn’t. Based on the insight that half of couples don’t know how to make the first move on a date, Fridays created the world’s first electric powered table that allows couples to choose how close or far apart they want to be from their date. Combining a technology-led solution to a timeless dating issue ensured the story was a winner.
Morrisons has been selling rainbow coloured roses – and all for a good cause, with 50p from each sale going to Albert Kennedy Charity, a national LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity. The story ticks a lot of boxes – worthy? Tick. Visually striking? Tick. Something you can actually get your hands on? Tick.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre launches covered by mainstream tabloid media is Smooci. Proving the adage that any press release which starts with the words ‘Uber-style app’ – or is related to sex – will gain media attention, Smooci aims to make hiring an escort as easy as hiring a cab. Just don’t get the apps mixed up or you might not get the kind of ‘ride’ you were expecting.
Having strong brand equity can certainly help gain cut-through – and you can’t get much better than having ‘Royal’ in your name. To ramp up the Britannia stakes further, Royal Mail has adorned post boxes with words from famous British romance poets such as Robert Burns and John Keats.
Poundland (take two)
If a £1 ring hasn’t upset your other half enough, Poundland is offering the opportunity to really stick the boot in with the gift of ‘nothing’. It is, quite literally, heart-shaped plastic packaging with nothing in it. Given the current anti-plastic sentiment amongst consumers, some may not be head over heels for this one.
Simple ideas from Lidl, Aunt Bessie, ASDA and M&S
Sometimes an idea doesn’t have to be particularly clever to work. Lidl has generated national coverage by simply lobbing £1 off the price of its prosecco, ASDA has created a heart-shaped pizza, Aunt Bessie has created a heart-shaped Yorkshire pudding and M&S mangled a long sausage into the shape of…you guessed it…a heart.
So, what can we take from this year’s Valentine’s activations?
It is interesting to see some very straightforward ideas – the sort that would perhaps be dismissed as too obvious in many a creative brainstorm – generating national coverage. But sometimes the mantra of KISS (how relevant…) ‘Keep it simple stupid’ can be just the tonic.
Stories that are entertaining, useful, or worthy at their core have done well. Something which can be applied to most successful brand stories – Valentine’s-related or not. Great image and video content also do a lot to ensure stories are shareable and can travel easily on social media.
And whilst brands with strong equity often find it easiest to have their stories (and journalist pitches) heard, it isn’t just about heritage. Brands that have endeared themselves to consumers through regular comms and activations with proven creative resonance were nicely set up to have success with their Valentine’s stories. The key lesson? Put in the groundwork throughout the year and it will help when you go out with your big bang, big budget calendar-hook activation.