A Brief History of Valentine’s Day Marketing

Once I was in grade college, Valentine’s Day was certainly one of my favourite holidays. There have been playing cards. There was the chance that your crush truly appreciated you again. And, there was the chocolate — a lot chocolate.

Little did I do know that the roots of this vacation bore little-to-no resemblance to my childhood expertise of it. We had been by no means taught that Valentine’s Day truly originated with an arguably grotesque ancient festival, the place there was no chocolate or trade of cute, red-and-pink playing cards.

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However adore it or hate it, these are the sorts of issues we affiliate with the vacation immediately. In any case, there is a motive roughly 114 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year — it is what’s develop into anticipated of us.

So how on earth did we get from an historical Roman pageant to a vacation that compels many people to spend no less than $147 on celebrating it? That story, it seems, is hundreds of years outdated — however we’ll attempt to condense it.

How Valentine’s Day Started and Developed

Historical Rome

Picture of Circle of Adam Elsheimer The Lupercalian Festival in RomeImage Source

The roots of Valentine’s Day are cited by some sources to lie within the historical Roman pageant Lupercalia, largely as a result of it passed off yearly on February 15 — the day after what’s immediately the noticed date of Valentine’s Day — and concerned some very primitive types of courtship and matchmaking. Nevertheless it was additionally historical Rome that noticed the well-known execution of a St. Valentine on February 14, round 278 A.D. According to legend, he wrote a letter on the evening earlier than his execution to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended, and signed it, “From Your Valentine.”

Over two centuries later, Pope Gelasius ordered that Lupercalia get replaced with the February 14 remark of St. Valentine’s Day. That set the tone, some imagine, for the day’s forthcoming custom of exchanging “love messages,” maybe in remembrance of St. Valentine’s farewell letter.

The Romans are additionally credited with setting up the concept of Cupid — a god of affection typically depicted with arrows that, because the legend goes, inflict love upon those that are hit by them. The Roman model of Cupid was tailored from Eros, a god of ardour and fertility in Greek mythology. Evidently nobody is sort of certain when cupid grew to become related to Valentine’s Day, however the truth that each have origins in historical Roman tradition means that there could have been some very early overlap between the 2.

Shakespeare (and Chaucer) in Love

Picture of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, a principal inspiration for Valentine's Day
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When NPR’s Arnie Seipel got down to discover the historical past of Valentine’s Day, he discovered that it first became romanticized by classic authors like William Shakespeare within the late sixteenth century, and Geoffrey Chaucer within the 1300s.


Dartmouth English professor Peter Travis cites Chaucer’s epic poem The Parliament of Fowls, which was one of many first literary references to St. Valentine’s Day, or “Seynt Valentynes day,” as Chaucer spelled it. One such point out is made, Travis explains, alongside the road, “Now welcom somer, with thy sonne sonne, That hast this wintres weders over-shake.” In different phrases, once we have fun love within the coldest depths of winter — in February, for example — it is so heartwarming that it makes summer time really feel much less distant.


Some literary historians credit score Shakespeare for the permeation of affection into standard tradition together with his composition of “Sonnet 18” — mentioned to be written between 1593-1601 — a.okay.a., “Shall I examine thee to a summer time’s day?” It is unclear when or how this explicit work grew to become related to Valentine’s Day, however like Chaucer, Shakespeare compares like to the seasons.

“Whereas summer time days could fade and fall into” colder months, writes Shakespeare analyst Lee Jamieson, “his love is everlasting.”

After all, Saint Valentine’s day is alluded to outright in Hamlet — written between 1599-1601 — when the character Ophelia recites a song a few younger girl’s expertise with the vacation, which incorporates lyrics like, “Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,” and, “To be your Valentine.”

The seventeenth Century and Past

The first card ever made for Valentine's Day (by Esther Howland)
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By the 1700s, it is mentioned that Valentine’s Day made its manner from Europe to america, which aligns with the institution of the North American colonies between 1607-1770. It grew to become conventional, in response to HISTORY.com, “for associates and lovers of all social lessons to trade small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.” That was extra frequent in England, nonetheless, the place the Industrial Revolution started earlier and finally included the manufacturing of “fancy valentines [that] were extremely expensive to import.

It is mentioned that one American girl, Esther Howland, was so intrigued when she obtained her first English valentine greeting in 1847, that she grew to become infatuated with the concept of producing them within the U.S. She was an early entrepreneur, and instinctively believed that there could possibly be an American marketplace for these formal, English-style greetings. After procuring supplies like high-quality paper and lace from her father, a stationer, she created what many credit score because the earliest American Valentine’s Day greeting playing cards.

Immediately, Howland continues to be honored with the nickname “Mother of the American Valentine,” with many citing her work as the beginning of a multi-million-dollar industry. Nevertheless it did not occur in a single day — let’s check out how her work paved the way in which.

A Temporary Timeline of Valentine’s Day Advertising


Charles II of Sweden begins speaking with flowers, by assigning a distinct message to every kind. This custom allegedly assigned love and romance to the red rose, setting the stage for this flower to be exchanged throughout the later, commercialized period of Valentine’s Day. Nevertheless, it stays unclear if a particular model is liable for first advertising flowers as a part of Valentine’s Day gift-giving.


The first ever Cadbury heart shaped chocolate box
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In England, the place Valentine’s Day had by now already been celebrated with the trade of presents and playing cards for a few years, the Cadbury chocolate firm sells the first heart-shaped box of chocolates.


In Massachusetts, Howland produces a dozen pattern Valentine’s Day playing cards and sends them off together with her brother to distribute throughout a gross sales journey for his or her father’s firm — S.A. Howland & Sons — hoping to earn $200. As an alternative, he returns with 25X that amount, indicating a a lot higher-than-expected demand.

This is an instance of a card Howland created round this time.

Howland Valentine's Day Card

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The primary print commercial for Howland’s playing cards seems within the Worcester Spy.


Necco Candy SweetHearts, the first ever in Valentine's Day history
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Dialog candies are developed, when Daniel Chase — brother of New England Confectionery Firm (NECCO) founder Oliver Chase — makes use of vegetable dye to print words onto confections.


Howland incorporates her booming card enterprise because the New England Valentine Company, working out of her residence through an meeting line that was largely comprised of her associates.


public-domain-images-ester-Cover of a Valentine's Day book published by Howland's company
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The New England Valentine Firm strikes operations from Howland’s residence to a Foremost Road manufacturing unit in Worcester, Massachusetts. That very same yr, the corporate publishes the Valentine Verse Book, which contained 131 “verses” that folks might lower out and paste within playing cards that got here with out a greeting — or these with a greeting that the client did not like.

1880 – 1881

Howland sells the New England Valentine Firm to the George C. Whitney Company.


Workers creating and mass-producing Valentine's Day cards
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Whitney has acquired no less than 10 opponents, together with Berlin and Jones, which had develop into New York Metropolis’s “largest manufacturer of Valentines.” Ten years later, the corporate strikes to large-scale headquarters on Worcester’s Union Street.


The Hershey Chocolate Firm is based, bringing what was beforehand “a European luxury product” to the U.S.


Dialog candies develop into heart-shaped.


American Greetings is based, finally changing into certainly one of Whitney’s chief opponents.

Valentine's Day card advertisement by American Greeting
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The Hershey Chocolate Firm introduces its Hershey Kisses sweet product. Curiously sufficient, the product was allegedly named Kisses as a result of each time a bit of chocolate was dropped on the conveyer belt on the Hershey manufacturing unit, it appeared like a kiss.

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That January, a large hearth destroys a lot of Whitney’s headquarters. Nevertheless, many of the Valentine’s Day merchandise had already been shipped for the season, having little impression on that specific vacation.

Valentine's Day advertisement with red roses and a woman in a gold dress
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That very same yr, Hallmark is founded. In the meantime, 1910 additionally noticed the creation of Florists’ Telegraph Delivery — immediately often known as FTD — which pioneered the distant ordering and supply of flowers, offering a strategy to ship them to far-away family members.


Hallmark produces its first Valentine’s Day card.


First ever Valentine's Day advertisement for diamonds
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The De Beers diamond firm launches its “A Diamond is Forever” marketing campaign, sending the message that gifting high-end jewellery can be utilized as an expression of affection.


Within the ’80s firms like Hallmark started launching extra Valentine’s Day associated commercials. In 1985, one industrial, which dubs Hallmark as “The Valentine’s Retailer” reveals off the entire playing cards and heart-shaped merchandise you should buy for your beloved of their areas.


As if Kisses weren’t romantic sufficient based mostly on their identify, Hershey’s enforced them as a Valentine’s Day staple with one slight design tweak. The corporate started packaging Kisses candies in pink and red foil particularly for Valentine’s Day.


As entrepreneurs continued to embrace new media, we noticed an inflow of high-quality and insanely high-budgeted commercials mark the vacation from the ’80s till now. One of the vital iconic and fantastically shot commercials was a mini-romance drama, known as “Le Movie,” selling Chanel No. 5 fragrance.

Within the advert, a person falls in love and runs away with a starlet, performed by Nicole Kidman. In the long run, she returns again to her lifetime of fame. As she walks down the crimson carpet, he notes all of the issues he’ll keep in mind about her, together with the odor of her Chanel No. 5 fragrance.


Valentine’s Day begins to go digital. On February 14, 2005, YouTube — which originated as a web-based courting website — makes its debut. Co-founder Steve Chen nonetheless credit its invention because the brainchild of “three guys on Valentine’s Day that had nothing to do.”

Image of YouTube when it was a dating website
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Journey sharing firm Uber rolls out “Romance On Demand,” permitting customers to ship flowers on Valentine’s Day through the app. This initiative would proceed to progress, with on-demand skywriting changing into accessible the next yr.

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NetBase, a social media analytics platform, releases a Valentine’s Day Sentiment Analysis, measuring how folks have interaction with and talk about the vacation on social media. In complete, it measured 9 million mentions of Valentine’s Day, with the overwhelming majority of them mentioning a particular model — Netflix. The highest hashtag was #happyvalentinesday.


Within the earlier years of the Google Doodle, Google used Valentine’s Day to unfold consciousness of a uncommon species. In 2017, a sequence of Google Doodles proven within the days main as much as Valentine’s Day highlighted the tales of pangolins, the one mammal species with scales, as they offer one another Valentine’s Day presents or serenade their mates. This is one instance:

Google's Valentine's Day Doodle, released Feb. 12, 2017, features the Indian pangolin, a species native to India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan

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Whereas, at this level, Google did not have to market themselves with Doodles, this reveals an early instance of a model that used its platform to creatively market one other trigger on the vacation.

2018 to Current Day

Lately, Valentine’s Day advertising campaigns have gone fully digital, with a very sturdy presence on social media. With these new alternatives, smaller firms that do not have Hallmark’s finances can simply unfold consciousness of their very own manufacturers throughout the vacation. This is one instance of an Instagram publish which highlighted a nice Italian restaurant forward of Valentine’s Day:

Whereas these actual canine’s mimicking Girl and the Tramp grabbed consideration, particularly from the animal lovers on Instagram, this publish’s caption encourages audiences to work together with the model.

What Entrepreneurs Can Study from Valentine’s Day Advertising

Like so many different holidays, Valentine’s Day has skilled a transition into popular culture that has formed the way in which it is perceived, mentioned, and celebrated. Positive, it is typically accused of being nothing greater than a money-making advertising vacation. However subsequent time you hear somebody label Valentine’s Day as a “Hallmark vacation,” you will have a wealth of historic info to reply with.

From our hearts to yours, Pleased Valentine’s Day. We’ll be keeping track of its continued evolution. 

Editor’s Word: This weblog publish was initially revealed in February 2017 and has been up to date for comprehensiveness and freshness.

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