Valentines: The Saleable Commodity of Love

I hate Valentine’s Day. But at least it’s one time in my life when I’m not alone in my loathing; everyone hates it. For singletons it’s a cruel reminder of how truly alone they’ve become, staring lifelessly into their Tesco’s Value ready meal, sobbing as the gun pushes gently against their temple.

Couples on the other hand… also hate it. For most people in long-term relationships it’s just a reminder of how little time they actually spend doing things together. It forces them to set a pre-determined date to actually sit down and try to look each other in the eye without growing awkward or just vomiting all over themselves.

The only people who seem happy about Valentine’s Day are fresh-faced couples who’ve only just met. And even they don’t count as they always seem happy, the puppy-eyed bastards!

“We’ve stretched Valentine’s Day so thin that it can’t even benefit our own corporate gains anymore”

So if everyone hates Valentine’s Day, why are those of us in Marketing and PR so obsessed by it? All of a sudden every tiny little company, product, or brand has to start peddling their wares alongside the saleable commodity of love. From Valentine’s Day coupons to Valentine’s Day cabbages, everything must jump on the heart shaped bandwagon.

It’s almost as bad as the Olympics. When so many people try to promote off the back of some single event, all that happens is you get lost amongst the din. Ironically those who don’t get involved on Valentine’s Day are probably most likely to stand out. But PR doesn’t understand this. PR isn’t romantic. Nor for that matter is web design (or anything else which involves coding). We have to accept that certain skills are just better at pulling off romance. Artsy things, like playing an instrument, painting or singing do well in this respect, not PR.

There’s been a long standing question in our field of whether PR is an art or a science. A question which, when it comes to romance, is easy… it has to be a science. It has all the raw sex appeal of an acne ridden physicist hunched over a microscope. (Before nerds start writing in, I am well aware that physicists don’t often use microscopes)

I’d love to have a skill which made me look like some deep, mysterious, bleeding-heart in front of my girlfriend. Unfortunately coding, web design and PR make it look like I have all the loving compassion of a Cyberman.

So how could I use these skills this Valentine’s Day? I could always take my girlfriend out for lunch? A sort of, romantic networking opportunity? Maybe if it goes well I’ll even add her on LinkedIn.

Or perhaps, in the same way as artsy types write songs, I could make her a romantic social media campaign …oh wait; no I couldn’t, because that’s shit.

You see, social media and websites just can’t convey any real feeling; which is why it bewilders me that marketers believe that they can. I’ve heard agencies talk about how their new digital campaign has to generate feelings of attachment, caring, sensuality, and other such bollocks. But in “real life” would anybody choose to portray these feelings through a medium such as HTML?

“Darling, I’m afraid I can’t express my love for you this Valentine’s Day, as my stylesheets haven’t loaded.” – All the romance of an infected bladder.

Like I say, some people’s skill sets just don’t lend themselves to romance: The HTML coder, the airfix model maker, the humble bassoonist. Much in the same way, some products just can’t be romanticised, no matter how much marketers wish they could

People say that words like “love” are thrown around too much nowadays. When it comes to marketing campaigns, I think I have to agree with them.

I don’t want to “fall in love” with my supermarket-brand trifle. Nor for that matter, do I want a Valentine’s card from my bank. If it helps, I’m also not really interested in a romantic encounter with my bottle of toilet duck.

We’ve managed to take an already commercialised sham of a holiday and have stretched it so thin that it can’t even benefit our own corporate gains anymore. Its little original meaning has been stripped down to the point where even those few who ever cared about it, can’t begin to remember why.

And on that note…
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Alex Warren
Alex Warren
Miserablist, whiskey-drinker, and general tinpot shambles. Alex Warren has a weary pessimism for all things media, politics and tech.