The Most Commercial Holiday

Valentine’s Day has a huge reputation for being a “commercial” holiday. Skeptics argue that it’s not based on history or religion, it was created to drive consumerism. This is supposed to be a criticism.

Of course, being in marketing, that makes us wonder: Is it really such an insult to be considered a “commercial” holiday? And should advertisers really be critiqued for taking full advantage of a holiday with a reputation for being all about, well, advertising?

Thanksgiving, for one, is founded in historical significance. However, it’s become increasingly commercialized over time with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, etc. First companies observed the trends in spending, and then they named them and capitalized on them. Can they be faulted? It seems like the obvious move, and it was born out of observation of how and when spenders shopped. This year, there was backlash as many companies (notably Wal-Mart) extended Black Friday deals into Thanksgiving itself, because more open hours means more sales. Others started Black Friday sales early online in order to capitalize in another important way: drawing attention to their social media outlets and building relationships with consumers through the Web. As much as there was outcry about the poor taste of merchants encroaching on a family holiday, it raises the time-old truth: These campaigns are only successful because there are people willing to buy into them. If enough people boycotted early Black Friday sales, they would cease to exist. But as long as there’s demand, there will be supply — even if business have to manufacture the demand in the first place.

So it goes with Valentine’s Day. You don’t have to be a florist or jeweler to reap the benefits of this holiday’s themes. Almost anyone can sell love, romance, friendship and even being single.  And let’s not forget lust, infatuation and sex. If you can successfully market your brand through those themes around Feb. 14, why shouldn’t you? And if people respond to it, then why is it such a bad thing? As long as you find a way to do it without alienating your current audience, and continue to draw in a new crowd, detractors who don’t like V-Day tactics shouldn’t invalidate your advertising efforts. It’s only tacky if it’s tacky: So, as ever, just keep it clever and keep it classy. Don’t pander. Stay true to your core values, public image and brand strategy. As long as everyone’s happy at the end of the day, who cares if it’s the end of a “commercial” day?

Click through for a few of the cutest (and some risque) marketing ideas that sprang up from Valentine’s Day.

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