5 Awesome Valentine’s Day Marketing Campaigns

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Art, Content Marketing

Using Valentine’s Day as an advertising vehicle is not a new marketing tactic. Obvious candidates like Milky Way and Whitman’s Chocolate have been doing it for decades, but when other, more unlikely brands find a way to spin the holiday of love into a sales promo, it’s quite endearing.

Ironic Valentine’s Day marketing is a great way for a brand to engage with its audience, but it’s not just companies and brands that have used this holiday to garner unsuspected attention. First lady, Jaqueline Kennedy, gave a Valentine’s Day tour of the White House in 1962, and the Empire State Building hosts a wedding for brides every year on Valentine’s Day. What makes these events stand out on a day like Valentine’s Day is that neither the White House nor the Empire State Building are places that are typically associated with this holiday. Nonetheless, a bit of clever marketing puts them at the forefront of the minds of onlookers on an unexpected day like Valentine’s.

Below are five creative and irony-laden marketing campaigns that use Valentine’s Day to sell products or services that normally wouldn’t be associated with the holiday.

#1 Ford Speed Dating Prank

This cute three-minute video, ending with a “Happy Valentine’s Day” message from Ford, garnered attention with a quite literal interpretation of “speed-dating.” The prank involved unsuspecting male speed-dating participants and setting them up with a female professional stunt driver. Their dates take place in a Ford Mustang while the stunt driver shows off her driving abilities and ultimately shocks her suitors. Their reactions are the best part of this creatively unique way to make Valentine’s Day about a Ford Mustang.

#2 White Castle Takes Fine Dining Valentine’s Day Reservations

Anyone planning to take their date to the popular White Castle fast-food franchise on Valentine’s Day must make reservations. Patrons must have reservations to visit the restaurants where they are seated by hostesses and provide table-side service. Participating locations turn into fine dining establishments for the evening of Valentine’s Day, complete with holiday-themed decorations.

The genius here is the company turns what could be a terrible day for sales being the last place someone might take a date on Valentine’s Day, into a sought-after experience that White Castle fans have been flocking to for 32 years. The “cravers,” as White Castle lovers are coined, apparently love dining at the fast-food chain on Valentine’s Day because reservations fill up quickly. To build even more buzz around the event, White Castle has recently unveiled Valentine’s Day-themed merchandise to commemorate the exclusive date-worthy experience.

#3 “A Valen-Heinz to Remember”

Heinz Ketchup’s “Ketchup Caviar” glamorized the common condiment by turning it into caviar but without the fish eggs. The catch was that only 150 opulently presented jars would be released and available just in time for Valentine’s Day. The fact that Heinz was able to transform their everyday product into an exclusive and elegant rarity is marketing brilliance. While only 150 ketchup lovers got to enjoy the delicacy, the real value of this campaign was the hype it generated amid thousands of tweets on the Heinz US Twitter page where the company announced the promotion.

#4 Heart-Shaped Pizza

Another genius marketing move by a company that might otherwise see a decrease in sales for Valentine’s Day is Papa John’s. For more than a decade, the pizza delivery chain has used Valentine’s Day to play on the weakness of their customers’ love for pizza. With their heart-shaped pizzas, they found a way to make ordering pizza on that special day okay. From its start about ten years ago, the chain sells around 60,000 heart pizzas annually. This number is relative to pizza fans’ love for pizza and continues to grow, as does the US’s love affair with pizza. They aren’t the only chains taking advantage of this trend, either.

#5 Publix Valentine’s Day Commercial

Publix’s Valentine’s Day cake for a friend commercial uses a sentimental expression of Valentine’s Day love to play on the emotions of their audience to get their undivided attention. In the commercial, a boy asks his mother to help him bake a heart-shaped cake.

Despite the son’s apprehension about revealing who the special cake is for, the mom obliges his request and helps him bake the cake.

An interesting secondary purpose to this ad is revealed in the visualization of showing the audience how to bake a heart-shaped cake. The marketing department that created the commercial likely hoped to send subliminal messages to shoppers conveying that they could also bake a cake like this and maybe even share in a loving and joyful experience with their children. The mere one-minute commercial tells the whole story flawlessly and with a surprise ending that pulls at the heartstrings.

The Psychology Behind Ironic Marketing

One of the best ways to market a product is through ironic advertising. It can make a lasting impression on an audience, whether subtle or blatant. This type of advertising uses a hidden meaning to deliver a message ironically. Using irony in advertising does more than just attract the audience’s attention. Marketing campaigns that ignite a need for cognition (NFC) make a difference in how consumers interact with ads. As a result, the consumer’s attitude towards a brand is affected in a positive light. Thus, when the audience experiences interaction with an ad, it leads to favorable impressions of the brand.

Ironic marketing is a means of tapping into the audience’s emotions. Good marketing plays on the audience’s emotions, whether in a comical manner or when it evokes a sentimental response. Psychology Today explains that emotional connections play a big part in the choices consumers make: “Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).”

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Haylie Kramer

Haylie Kramer is a freelance web content developer and copy editor from the South. In addition to writing and editing, she has a dual career teaching and tutors English at a local college where she enjoys sharing her love for the English language. Her degrees are from Kennesaw State University, where she studied English (BA) and Professional Writing (MA). Haylie has been writing and editing for various genres of web content for almost 20 years and has written and edited a little bit of everything in both B2B and B2C formats. She has spent the majority of her career optimizing copy for the purpose of SEO and affiliate marketing, as well as editing books and also has experience in editing advertising materials and copyediting for non-profits. Haylie's versatile background and willingness to tackle any project put in front of her makes her a well-rounded professional, but if you ask her, editing is her superpower.