Perhaps it’s timely, at this Valentine’s Day juncture, to consider the significance of this date from a different (read: marketing) angle, as opposed to the box of chocolates and romantic dinners one. They don’t dub it a Hallmark holiday for nothing, you know. It’s around this time that I’m asked by clients to produce the “Valentines’ Day” press release, activity, or similar. Actually this request usually comes a month earlier, before the day itself, which is fitting as this is usually when the rest of the world begins to see and hear the rumblings of Valentine’s-like activities brewing during their shopping experience. Book now for your romantic Valentine’s Day dinner! It’s just around the corner…

Thankfully here in the Netherlands we’re a bit divorced from the hype that tends to go on in larger, Anglo markets, but nonetheless in this global economy and culture love hearts do have an unseemly way of blossoming on shop counters and on POS ever earlier. Same goes for Easter – chocolate bunnies in late Feb, anyone? Call it tough economic times, but with the advent of Christmas decorations and marketing in October some years ago, it’s a fate we’ve grown accustomed to. But with it so too has the incredulity of the people – at least in my circle, anyway.

This year’s a mixed bag, some predictable, others impressive, most unremarkable. There’s everything from Hello Kitty’s turn for Hooters (see image above) and T-Mobile’s twee discount deal, an American ad which is as kitschy as they come. And Moet’s approach is slightly more sophisticated – and yes – socially-driven, in ‘Tag Your Love‘. There’s got to be an app in there somewhere, I hear you say? Indeed, Heineken’s got that one covered with their Serenade platform.

Technically adept and high concept though these campaigns might be (‘Kitty’ and ‘T-Mobile’ excluded, of course), I can’t help wondering that they all still seem to exist firmly in the realm of gimmick and novelty. They’re like the digital equivalent of the box of roses, which might be appropriate given that Valentine’s Day sold out years ago to the marketing hype. Although I’m sure that there is extended PR to support these campaigns, as concepts on their own they lack depth and context. Do these campaigns really reflect brand values for the long term, or are they design-forward executions with a short shelf-life – from the wham-bam, thank you ma’am school of marketing?

They’re like the digital equivalent of the box of roses, which might be appropriate given that Valentine’s Day sold out years ago to the marketing hype

What I’m really missing in all these examples is the *story,* that narrative tale of real emotion and substance that lives beyond the app or microsite, that tugs at all of our heart strings, that compels me. We grew up with stories (not just as kids, but as civilizations); they’re the heart and soul of our culture. Storytelling has traditionally been the realm of PRs – we’re frequently tasked with ‘creating buzz’ or ‘amplifying the creative’ through earned media channels. But as we’re living in a digital world and the boundaries between the marketing disciplines increasingly blur, the interplay between the disciplines needs to be increasingly robust. By this I mean that it’s not enough these days to have a stellar app or a whizz-bang website. The app needs to link to ATL, needs to link to the BTL, etc. It’s a feat we all agree on in theory – that’s why we talk of integrated campaigns – but one that’s rarely executed in reality. And there’s a good reason that campaigns need to perfect this: stories are all that’s left in a world awash with…well, apps and gimmicks.

What I’m really missing in all these examples is the *story,* that narrative tale of real emotion and substance that lives beyond the app or microsite

Sure, you might get a few thousand sign-ups to your app (hundreds of thousands, even), or some admirable traffic numbers to show the CEO, but are you really creating that connection and strong bond with people that will turn them loyal, into advocates – dare I say it, lovers – of your brand? Or will you have to work just as hard next time to attract the same crowd? It’s time give consumers all your lovin’ with a long term relationship, rather than just a one night stand.

 

Sasha Naod is appearing on the 28th February at Amsterdam’s 1st international forum for PR ideas; the Amsterdam PR Salon - tickets are free.