With the world’s most loved and loathed day just on the horizon, The IMPACT Agency’s consulting Behavioural Economist (BE), Kris White, shares some insights into the psychology, opportunities and risks for brands who swipe right on Valentine’s Day.

Like a bad tinder date, consumers will know if a Valentine’s Day campaign isn’t genuine

Brands work by creating associations in people’s minds. These associations are built over time and include conscious elements like product and service features; however, most associations are subconscious impressions, feelings and emotions.

If a brand is credibly and consistently associated with positive elements like love, warmth, excitement, sensitivity and passion, then these will shine through to customers.

Inauthentic or poorly executed Valentine’s Day campaigns run the risk of being seen as manipulative and opportunistic. Humans have evolved to detect insincerity – thoughtless campaigns will always invite backlash.

Like Kim K says – haters gonna hate – but that can open a door for brands too

Psychology tells us that people are motivated to confirm their prior beliefs and assumptions. Cynics may hold the view that Valentine’s Day is a manufactured corporate holiday. But it is also possible that cynicism is a defence mechanism for some.

By devaluing the day, they don’t need to feel so bad about not participating in it. This non-participation is a choice that also signals a message; and there may be an opportunity here for brands too. Mindful of people’s cynicism, it’s important to find authentic expressions of the intention of the day. This could mean focusing on the day-to-day and real stuff that makes people’s relationships special.

Be real – tell them how you feel!

When it comes to creating a Valentine’s Day campaign that truly connects with people there are a couple of important BE and evolutionary psychology insights we can draw on”

  • Gifting and reciprocity: People have evolved a whole culture around gift giving and receiving, as well as responding to people in-kind. In some ways it is a reaffirmation of a relationship, and its value to the people within it.
  • Hot state and commitments: Holidays and special days can be behavioural triggers. Even though we know those New Year’s resolutions don’t stick, Valentine’s Day might just be the day someone builds up the courage to show someone how they feel. It’s a moment for action. Maybe it could become a moment to renew and commit to making a relationship better.
  • Virtue signalling: As a highly-social species, little is more important to humans than our reputation. Much of our behaviour is targeted at signalling things about ourselves to others. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to do this. We can signal that we are a loving partner or have a devoted lover. Think of the joy seen when a colleague receives a gift or flowers at work – it’s a very public display or signal to their peers.