A Temporary Historical past of Valentine’s Day Advertising

Once I was in grade college, Valentine’s Day was one in all my favourite holidays. There have been playing cards. There was the likelihood that your crush really favored 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 have been by no means taught that Valentine’s Day really originated with an arguably grotesque ancient festival, the place there was no chocolate or change of cute, red-and-pink playing cards.

However find it irresistible or hate it, these are the kinds of issues we affiliate with the vacation at the moment. In any case, there is a purpose roughly 114 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year — it is what’s turn out to be anticipated of us.

So how on earth did we get from an historical Roman competition 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 That story, it seems, is hundreds of years outdated — however we’ll attempt to condense it.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

Historic Rome

Supply: Christie’s

The roots of Valentine’s Day are cited by some sources to lie within the historical Roman competition Lupercalia, largely as a result of it befell yearly on February 15 — the day after what’s at the moment the noticed date of Valentine’s Day — and concerned some very primitive types of courtship and matchmaking. But it surely 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 night time 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 commentary 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 developing 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 positive 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

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Supply: Internet Archive

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 16th 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, after we rejoice love within the coldest depths of winter — in February, as an example — it is so heartwarming that it makes summer time really feel much less far-off.


Some literary historians credit score Shakespeare for the permeation of affection into common tradition along 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 specific 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 Hamletwritten between 1599-1601 — when the character Ophelia recites a song a few younger woman’s expertise with the vacation, which incorporates lyrics like, “Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,” and, “To be your Valentine.”

The 17th Century and Past

Supply: American Antiquarian Society

By the 1700s, it is mentioned that Valentine’s Day made its means from Europe to the USA, which aligns with the institution of the North American colonies between 1607-1770. It grew to become conventional, in response to HISTORY.com, “for mates and lovers of all social courses to change small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.” That was extra frequent in England, nevertheless, the place the Industrial Revolution started earlier and ultimately 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.

At the moment, 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. But it surely did not occur in a single day — let’s check out how her work paved the best way.

A Temporary Timeline of Valentine’s Day Advertising


Charles II of Sweden begins speaking with flowers, by assigning a distinct message to every sort. 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 and marketing flowers as a part of Valentine’s Day gift-giving.


Supply: The Chocolate Journalist

In England, the place Valentine’s Day had by now already been celebrated with the change 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 along 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 a substitute, 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



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


Supply: Evan Amos

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 by way of an meeting line that was largely comprised of her mates.


Supply: Viintage

The New England Valentine Firm strikes operations from Howland’s residence to a Fundamental Avenue manufacturing facility in Worcester, Massachusetts. That very same yr, the corporate publishes the Valentine Verse Book, which contained 131 “verses” that folks might reduce 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.


Supply: Worcester Historical Museum

Whitney has acquired no less than 10 opponents, together with Berlin and Jones, which had turn out to be 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 turn out to be heart-shaped.


American Greetings is based, ultimately turning into one in all Whitney’s chief opponents.

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Supply: Vintage Recycling


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 facility, it gave the impression of a kiss.

Hershey Kisses



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

Supply: Period Paper

That very same yr, Hallmark is founded. In the meantime, 1910 additionally noticed the creation of Florists’ Telegraph Delivery — at the moment often called 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.


Supply: Vintage Ads

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


As if Kisses weren’t romantic sufficient based mostly on their title, 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 crucial iconic and fantastically shot commercials was a mini-romance drama, referred to 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. Ultimately, she returns again to her lifetime of fame. As she walks down the crimson carpet, he notes all of the issues he’ll bear 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 an internet 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.”

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Supply: Wayback Machine


Experience sharing firm Uber rolls out “Romance On Demand,” permitting customers to ship flowers on Valentine’s Day by way of the app. This initiative would proceed to progress, with on-demand skywriting turning into obtainable the next yr.

Supply: Uber


NetBase, a social media analytics platform, releases a Valentine’s Day Sentiment Analysis, measuring how individuals interact 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 collection 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 provide one another Valentine’s Day presents or serenade their mates. This is one instance:

The second Doodle, released Feb. 12, 2017, features the Indian pangolin, a species native to India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan

Source: Time

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

2018 to Current Day

Lately, we have seen Valentine’s Day advertising and marketing go utterly digital with an emphasis on social media advertising and marketing. With these new alternatives, smaller corporations 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 advantageous 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. To be taught extra about this advertising and marketing marketing campaign and eight others from latest years, check out this blog post. 

What Entrepreneurs Can Be taught from Valentine’s Day Advertising

Like so many different holidays, Valentine’s Day has skilled a transition into popular culture that has formed the best way it is perceived, mentioned, and celebrated. Certain, it is typically accused of being nothing greater than a money-making advertising and marketing vacation — simply take a look at these numbers compiled by HISTORY.com. However subsequent time you hear somebody label Valentine’s Day as “Hallmark vacation,” you may have a wealth of historic info to reply with.

From our hearts to yours, Glad Valentine’s Day. We’ll be maintaining a tally of its continued evolution. 

Click here to see extra of our favourite trendy Valentine’s Day campaigns.

Editor’s Observe: This weblog publish was initially printed in February 2017, however was up to date in February 2020 for comprehensiveness and freshness.

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