The good, the bad and the ugly of Valentine’s Day campaigns

Joanna Colley, Senior PR and Marketing Manager:
  • Valentine’s Day offers a marketing opportunity to any industry if creative enough
  • Content is key to the execution of a good campaign
  • Hospitality industry continues to adapt its offering for the holiday seasons

Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day will forever provide a marketing hook for brands and businesses around the world – seemingly no matter what industry they are in. (PR and marketing agencies with a conscious included too, of course).

I for one am not against a good excuse for a meal out and some chocolate, but in a year when we are confined to our homes, and many of us cannot even see our loved ones in person, how did brands adapt?

Unsurprisingly, despite the restrictions, my inbox and Instagram have still been bombarded with love-hearts and cheesy Valentine’s Day puns over the past few weeks. Here’s a handful of the most creative, the most tasteful, the off-piste and the frankly annoying campaigns I’ve spotted this year:


While in a normal year our wonderful local Cambridge bakery might be pushing a sensational afternoon tea date, in 2021 Fitzbilllies launched its “biggest range of Valentine’s gift boxes ever”. The tagline? ‘Send a little love with Fitzbillies’. Aside from Fitzbillies’ trademark colour palette lighting up my Insta feed, the thing that really attracted me to this Valentine’s promotion is its genuine ability to “send a little love”. Not only did the bakery partner with a local delivery company, Click It Local, to provide deliveries to people in Cambridge, but it also offered next-day delivery to send gift boxes anywhere in the UK. I sent a box to my family in Norwich and it was the perfect way to say I’m thinking of you, although I cannot see you! The hospitality industry has had to continually adapt over the past 12 months and it’s great to see a beloved local business innovating its offering.

University of Leeds Alumni team

Proving that, yes, any industry can take advantage of the Valentine’s celebration when a campaign is executed creatively and with strong content, I received a genuinely heart-warming newsletter from the University of Leeds alumni department titled ‘Explore tales of love at Leeds’. The newsletter proceeded to share snippets of genuine love stories from people who had met at my alma mater – from someone who fell in love with their freshers’ landlord’s niece in the 60s, to a rock-solid couple from 2016 who bonded over their six week Geological Sciences field trip to the Isle of Skye. Each story was supported with an illustration by a local Leeds-based artist and it was ultimately an excellent creative use of content that encouraged me to take note of my alumni department for the first time in a long time.

Liberty London

While a surprising number of brands have chosen to dismiss the fact that we’re in a pandemic, Liberty London’s ‘From London with Love’ campaign was characteristically tasteful, emphasising a strong ‘bring Valentine’s Day home’ message. On Instagram, the brand featured highlights from its “in-house experts” who shared their “favourite Valentine’s gifts for loved ones, near or far”. Instagram posts – while looking fantastic – expertly demonstrated ways to provide a special day to your loved one, wherever they are, from the comfort of your home. Simple, but effective.

Compare the Market

Never has there been a less tangible link than between cheap car insurance and Valentine’s Day… or has there? With the tagline ‘Falling in love with a new car this Valentine’s?’. Compare the Market took the opportunity to add to the Valentine’s spam with a pun-laden email promoting its loan checker and car insurance marketplace. Good try, but not quite.


Going completely off the Valentine’s Day rails was Trainline’s ‘Travel inspiration for Valentine’s Day’ newsletter. Providing yet another punch in the gut that no, none of us are able to travel right now, the newsletter featured content on ‘Pretty Cities’, ‘Great Date Ideas’ and, worst of all, ‘Best places to go shopping in the South’. The angle was centred around travel inspiration after the pandemic, but still, all features in the newsletter linked through to old blogs written pre-COVID, demonstrating a half-hearted jump on the Valentine’s bandwagon. I appreciate that the travel industry is under a lot pressure right now, however I think this one could have been left…

This is just a small window into the multitude of Valentine’s Day promotions and campaigns I’ve witnessed this year – there are definitely been some bigger, better and budget-backed campaigns, and I’m fairly certain there have been more cringeworthy ones too. The point is that with good content, a large dose of creativity and empathy of what the world is going through right now, Valentine’s Day can provide a valuable marketing opportunity regardless of budget and regardless of industry (in most cases).