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The first step in any marketing brainstorm is always a discussion around potential news hooks and what might be coming up soon, so brands love to jump on celebration days as a way to get people talking.

From Christmas special editions, to April Fools’ Day stunts, a national day can be a great chance for brands to share their message, and Valentine’s Day PR hijacking is no exception.

Here I’ve taken a look at seven Valentine’s Day campaigns from this year, with a focus on UK and global brands...

York Castle Museum: world’s worst Valentine’s Day card

York Castle Museum released an image of what it claimed to be the worst Valentine’s Day card in history, as part of an exhibition themed around Valentine’s Day.

The card, which was dated to about 100 years ago, is aimed at the single lady, has real facial hair stuck to the front in the shape of a moustache and is captioned "For The New Woman! With St. Valentine's Heartiest Greetings and Best Hopes that she will receive another (moustache) - With A Man Attached". 

The campaign was executed through PR, with the Telegraph among others running the story and images, and the public were encouraged to join in the debate through social media channels by sharing the worst Valentine’s Day gifts and cards they had received.

Google Doodle: virtual chocolate box

Google regularly replaces the standard Google logo on the search engine homepage with something linked to news or anniversaries, called the Google Doodle.

Google’s previous Doodle stunts range from celebrating the 30th anniversary of Pac-man with a playable version through to a moonwalking Michael Jackson moving image overlayed on the Google logo to mark what would have been the popstar’s 51st birthday.

This year for Valentine’s Day the search giant allowed visitors to select from a range of virtual ingredients to blend personalised virtual boxes of chocolates to send to loved ones via email, social media and as YouTube video links.

The activity works well as it’s interactive, has potential to go viral and is a great use of social media channels. 

HMS Daring sends Valentine’s Day message back to loved ones

200 servicemen and women on HMS Daring have been at sea for nine months without seeing their loved ones. Now on her way home, the ship’s crew spelt out an I Love U (sic) message on the deck which was photographed from above. 

The image spread through traditional and social media and would have made many people consider how much the armed forces give up to serve their country.


SportsDirect blogging competition: Valentine’s gifts in unusual places

SportsDirect launched a competition for bloggers to write about the products from SportsDirect that they would like to give to their loved one, with a cap of £100.

The rules stated that the blog must include five products and mention SportsDirect.com as the source of these products. A google blog search finds plenty of entries, all linking back to Sports Direct, although the quality of blogs varies.

A winner was chosen at random in Teas and Tales. This activity looks like a good backlinking exercise on a low budget, however in order to reach a much bigger audience the stakes could be much higher, as those with big audience blogs are unlikely to be swayed by the chance to win less than £100 of Sports Direct goods.

The Naked Sledding World Championship 2014

The strangest Valentine’s Day story I saw last week was from www.chillisauce.co.uk, an events agency. It was marketing weekend packages to watch the Naked Sledding World Championship 2014 on 15th February as the perfect Valentine’s weekend away. 

The event took place in Germany and Britain was represented for the first time this year.

ASDA supermarket matchmaking and longest married couples

ASDA is well known for stunts and great marketing, who can forget the £200 ASDA wedding collection? One area that ASDA are very strong is localisation of stories and campaigns.

This year, two local campaigns appeared to be running, matchmaking events and searches for the longest married local couples.

The matchmaking events saw shoppers offered red (no thanks), orange (maybe) and green (single) stickers, which meant they could flirt with other greens in the aisles. This took place in Pudsey.

A search for the longest married couples in Gloucester, Weymouth and Widnes, among other stores, saw couples being asked to present their wedding certificate at customer services, with a prize for the longest married.

Both of these activities played out well on social media channels including Twitter, and show how big brands can localise and be relevant to the community.

Maynard Malone Facebook love-in infographic

Digital agency Maynard Malone used Valentine’s Day as a B2B marketing opportunity, creating an infographic that showed the relationship people have with Facebook and explaining how brands can win consumers’ love through social media, all with a Valentine’s Day theme.

The infographic showed that people on average now spend more time looking at their smartphone than they do with their partner and was used to position the agency as experts in digital strategy.

Nathalie Agnew

Published 18 February, 2014 by Nathalie Agnew

Nathalie Agnew is PR director at Muckle Media and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter.

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