Connected or not, advertisers latch on to Valentine’s Day

Newer product categories have started making overt references to the day in the hope of gaining consumer attention


GetCarXpert.com, a car repairs and maintenance site was offering free assistance on 13 February as ‘nobody wants to be stranded on a date after all.’
GetCarXpert.com, a car repairs and maintenance site was offering free assistance on 13 February as ‘nobody wants to be stranded on a date after all.’

Mumbai: As Valentine’s Day closed in, advertisers went into an overdrive to woo customers with campaigns selling everything from the traditional mix of flowers, chocolates and jewellery to slightly unconventional gifts such as “silky red” pressure cookers and discounted shoes.

Clearly, a deluge of Valentine’s Day campaigns has always been a tactical advertising trend even though the brands associated with the messaging are often unconnected to the spirit of the time.

Typically, advertisers such as chocolate manufacturers, card and gifting retail brands, florists and jewellers are associated with the day and launch new related campaigns. Mondelez India, for instance launched a new 360 degree communication campaign for Cadbury Silk chocolates early this month, along with new product packaging specifically designed to mark the day. “While traditional festivals and holidays such as Diwali and Raksha Bandhan have been important occasions for our category, contemporary holidays such as Valentine’s Day, New Year and Friendship Day have also emerged as important occasions for us,” said Prashant Peres, director marketing—chocolates, Mondelez India.

However, newer product categories have started making overt references to the day in the hope of gaining consumer attention, throwing in utilitarian phrases such as, ‘discount’, ‘savings’ and ‘offers’ for good measure. Prestige cookware, for instance, is offering special discounts this weekend, including one on “India’s only Valentine’s Day Special Cooker in Silky Red Colour.” Shoes brand Sparx, endorsed by actor Akshay Kumar, advises consumers to “…add Sparx to your love.” Meanwhile, the ad for Vijay Sales, a retail chain selling electronics, is promoting itself with the tagline—“For the Love of electronics.”

Advertising industry experts says that such tactical advertising should be employed with caution. The tactical ads that are in the “buy today” mode may not always cut ice. Besides, “it (the message) should be relevant and should have a metaphoric connection to expressing love for your loved one,” said K.V. Sridhar, chief creative officer, SapientNitro India, an integrated marketing and technology agency. A tactical, short-term strategy purely aimed at attracting eyeballs could actually work against brand, he added, especially, when the associations are downright forced.

For instance, GetCarXpert.com, a car repairs and maintenance site was offering free assistance on 13 February as “nobody wants to be stranded on a date after all.” Or another site—PlanMyMedicalTrip.com—has been offering discounts on a host of medical procedures, tests and packages to mark the day.

That is not all, a Mumbai-based dog breeder, in his ad asks: “Why not gift your loved one unconditional love this Valentine’s Day! It’s possible in the shape of four legged companions.”

“While the motive maybe to escape the clutter, they don’t realize that they themselves are creating the clutter, merging into anonymity while trying to stand out with their messaging,” said Santosh Desai, chief executive officer and managing director at Future Brands. He maintains that most brands tend to jump onto the band wagon, the minute an opportunity presents itself without really thinking things through.

“Putting heart shaped balloons outside your store and announcing a discount to try your luck, isn’t going to fool anyone,” said Sridhar.

That hasn’t deterred Fitbit—the wearable fitness tracker—from releasing an ad that says “Fit for all kinds of love” or Dove Hair Fall Rescue shampoo from Hindustan Unilever Ltd to proclaim, “Rahul.Neil.John.Vivan. There are better things to keep count of on Valentine’s Day than falling hair strands.”