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Reshaping Valentine's Day Marketing

February 14th, 2021

By: AJ Gastélum

Valentine’s Day is synonymous with romantic gestures, boxes of sweets, and pink and red designs overflowing in storefronts.

This Valentine’s Day may seem just as normal to us as any other one. But what we might not have noticed is the steady changes in how Valentine’s Day is marketed to us through the years. It has grown to become more than just a simple day for romance, it has become a perfect example of how marketing needs to adjust to changes in traditional audiences in order to maintain relevance in a shifting marketplace.

Past and Present Traditions

Valentine's Day in the US has been around for decades. Vintage advertisements for the romantic holiday were emblematic of time periods. This led to a wide range of marketing, from World War II Valentine's day cards to misogynistic advertisements that are not shown in this article. Aside from insensitivity, most Valentine’s Day advertisements of the past would not be very successful today. That is because the perception of Valentine's Day has changed.

The Rapid Increase in Single People

One of the greatest shifts in marketing has been seeing Valentine’s day as a celebration of gratitude and friendship, moving away from the idea of a solely romantic-based holiday. Since the early 2000s we have seen this shift, and today more ads than ever focus on enjoying Valentine’s day no matter what your relationship status is. This has been credited to the widespread increase in “single” identifying individuals, both in terms of marital status and relationships. This year it is projected that 45% of Valentine’s Day gift spending will be intended for non-romantic recipients. Teachers, friends, pets, and close family members are all being shown gratitude, which has created products and services with a more diverse array of receivers.

Number of single-person households in the United States from 1960 to 2020. (in millions)

We see the increase of more general Valentine’s day themed products, such as Dunkin Donuts Valentine's Day menu, or Apple’s Valentine's Day marketing push using the phrase “Even more to love when you shop Apple.” Companies still want to cultivate the idea of gift-giving, resulting in more of their products being bought. But in order to maximize the market that they reach, they have expanded to make their products relevant to everyone on Valentine’s Day.

More Inclusivity Leads to More Success and Happy Customers

Another major change in companies' approach to Valentine’s Day has been in more diverse advertising. Companies have realized that a large segment of the market simply doesn’t relate to the traditional Valentine’s Day ads being shown and that they are losing potential customers.

While they still have a long way to go, advertisements have become much more inclusive in recent years. Ads that feature elderly couples, LGBTQ individuals, POC, and interracial couples have slowly started to become more prevalent. This has corresponded with financial success and greater customer attraction.

Lush Cosmetics Advertisement (2017)

Applications to Marketing as a Field

Companies have come to realize that celebrating Valentine's Day looks different for everyone and that in order to survive in the modern marketplace, they have to expand their idea of what advertising looks like for this holiday. This principle is both relevant and applicable to every situation in marketing today.


AJ Gastélum is one of the Co-Content Directors this semester. He is a sophomore at NYU Stern studying Marketing with a minor in Studio Art. Check out his article on Digital Marketing!

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