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2/15/2004

Love provides chance at seasonal marketing

By Stacy Cornay
Special to the Times-Call

Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

I had that poster from “Love Story,” and I believed it. I looked forward to the day when I would find that special someone who would be so closely connected that I would never have to say “sorry.”

Boy was I dumb!

Love means many things, but never having to say you’re sorry isn’t one of them. Yesterday many of you took time to tell those you love how much they mean to you. If you didn’t, you probably know all about having to say “sorry.”

Love is money in the bank for savvy marketers. According to the National Retail Federation, the average man spent $125.96 on Valentine’s Day. Women, on the other hand, got by spending only $38.22. Maybe we just know how to say more for less, or how to get more by spending less. In any event, this year more than 80 percent of Americans gave their spouse or significant other at least a greeting card. That adds up to $937.5 million, second only to Christmas card sales. More than half of the couples celebrated with an evening out. 65 percent of men sent flowers, 32 percent sprang for candy, and 21 percent went for jewelry. Perhaps in a pre-emptive strike, 15 percent of American women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day.

Our furry friends aren’t left out: More and more people are buying Valentine treats for their pets. Pet stores feature everything from seasonal novelty items to heart-shaped chew toys.

Bottom line, there are big bucks in this hearts and flowers stuff.

Retailers who cashed on Valentine’s Day didn’t just stumble upon it. Months ago they targeted their audience and pitched their marketing accordingly. From Tiffany’s to curbside flower vendors, all have learned that pulling the heartstrings makes the cash register sing.

Esther Howland, a printer and artist, was the first publisher of American valentines. During the 1870s, she sold her elaborate lace cards to the wealthy for a minimum of $5. For the big spenders, she designed cards costing as much as $35. Eventually mass production brought prices down sharply, to the point penny valentines won universal popularity. Miss Esther might be forgotten but for the fact that she was one the first to see Feb. 14 as more than a holiday. She saw it as a sales opportunity.

That’s what seasonal marketing is all about — making the events of the calendar key parts of your year-around advertising campaign.

Tomorrow is Presidents’ Day, a time for remembering and honoring leaders who have made America great. It also can be a day for selling furniture or cars or clothing or accounting services, or just about anything else that comes to mind. All it takes is foresight and imagination, mixed well with a dash of creativity.

Other special days are just around the bend, from St. Patrick’s Day to the Fourth of July and everything in between and beyond. Each holiday is unique. The opportunities for advertising and promotion are limited only by the boundaries between our ears. Here are three tips for capitalizing upon each opportunity:

•Be creative

•Don’t overlook the potential for leveraging off larger regional or national hype, and

•Don’t get wait to get started (It may already be too late).

This, too, is true — love does mean having to say you’re sorry.

If you gave your sweetheart a new vacuum cleaner for Valentine’s Day — even if it is a beautiful teal color — you probably know that.

You’ve probably had it up to here with I’m sorrys.

Stacy Cornay is owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising in Longmont. Her Web site, which contains previous marketing columns, may be found at www.ccpr.cc.