Did brands succeed in staying relevant on V-Day?

19 Feb,2020


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Valentine’s Day 2020 is just another day. For a majority, this templated festival of expectations, the celebration of love and care would come and go like the other such days, Rose Day, Proposal Day… associated with it.

It was Valentine’s Day, and the prices of roses expectedly hit the circuit-breaker around February 14. In the era of proximity, floating or fleeting loyalty, the app-led search for love and commitments, high cost of expression and permanence of tattoos, it was templated.

It was celebrated because the marketing community had put peer pressure for you to celebrate it. The ritual of love, roses, gifts and dining were performed. It was no longer about what you wanted to do but about what you should be doing.

For the brands addressing young adults, It was an opportunity to stand apart, be quirky, cheeky and leverage the festival mood.

In my timelines, WhatsApp was full of silly jokes around love, sex, wife, girlfriend ex or otherwise, commitment and future relationships.

For me, the evening was spent with wife dressed in Valentine colours at the St Andrew’s College Auditorium, Bandra. Ad Club COO Bipin Pandit and his group of specially talented singers and musicians under the banner of Khumaar, a celebration of love and romance kept one entertained with songs of love and romance.



One of the regular readers of my blog (thanks) sent me two clips. In her view, they were a great example of brands attempts to remain relevant. The brands were willing to innovate within the constraints. And that made me think.




Oh, Yes, the nation again saw some groups disturbing couples in a few cities. The self-proclaimed extra-vigilant valentine social regulators took upon themselves to draw the line according to their ill-defined interpretation of culture and social expectations.

Brand Manforce after having burnt their fingers during Sunny Leone Navratri hoarding some year back recognised this unbridged gap in the era of video traping. It urged young couples to exercise caution during Public Display of Affection (PDA) and digitally capturing their moments of intimacy. It was purpose-led safer sex. #YouAreNotAlone follows their earlier campaign #ShutThePhoneUp. Lovely, to see a brand continuing to focus on the same idea.

Durex, the other condom, moved towards 365 days of love, care and sex. Three years back, the brand asked couples to connect on Valentine’s Day and give your mobile a rest. The brand has been slowly evolving. And if you see their international work, you will realise they are at different point of evolution across countries.

So, Durex now sees the redundancy of Valentine’s Day. Who needs it when every day could be Valentine’s Day. It seems to talk the language of the current generation, always-on, curious, and questioning traditional relevance.




Netflix, on the other side, has a finger on the pulse of young adults. Their message ‘We are sincerely and terribly sorry for all the drama we’ve caused before. We promise to be better’ was definitely beautiful and relevant. Netflix apologised for all the fights it has started. It silently made the point of its high viewer engagement and involvement. It is a nice cheeky way to leverage the festival with strong product service association. It was treated like a Netflix original and starred ‘Maskaby’ cast, a Netflix original to be released later this year. I hope the audience loved it.



The Burger King and McDonald’s rivalry is well-known and documented. The brands have given us many moments of wow. This one is no different.

This year, way Burger King looked at Ronald (the McDonald Clown Mascot) and branded it as the most lonely person on earth, it is just superb. The script remains true to the valentine ethos while refocussing on the competition.

The communication is cheeky. The loneliest man in the world has always been in front of their eyes. Burger King asks customers to go ahead give company to the loneliest man on earth, take a picture or two and tag @burgerkingindia to get a free Whopper this Valentine’s Day. #LonelyNoMore. Must compliment the team that saw this opportunity.


Now compare Netflix, Manforce with a brand like Pepsi using an overexposed fifty-plus star for Solo Swag. The timing absolutely bang on. The message and brand ambassador choice questionable. The spot has high visibility and attracted millions of viewers. Hope, the brand does not misinterpret views with brand affiliation.


BOROSIL in the changing societal environment tries exploring the first Valentine Day for the same-gender couple. The idea is excellent. The curtailed expressions of the same-gender couples in the earlier era have been well-captured. ‘I hated Valentine Day, not because I did not have someone to share, but because I did’ is brilliant and powerful.

The brand missed because of a weak product association. And whatever was left was destroyed by adding the end-super about Supreme Court’s favourable verdict on section 377 in 2018! Should it be the first or the second Valentine’s Day? The subtlety was lost, and the forced brand integration is fragile. It happens when brands search for a purpose and find one that is constrained.



Few brands remained functional, so they played safe with their communication on Valentine’s Day, neither gaining or losing. Brands like, Hide and Seek, KFC (Bucket bae), and Platinum Bands.

Kalyan Jewellers tried to play the patriotic card to align with the feelings of women missing their husbands who are on duty at the border.

Don’t forget ‘The Man Company’ trying to make it simple for all kinds of love. ‘Love knows no age, religion or gender’. Very stereotyped expression.



Here is the one I loved until it exposed itself as a pure selling tool. Upping the game fell flat when it got down to giving brand items as a gift. Melorra campaign was was bubbly, strong, confident, cheeky, empowering and full of attitude and then it was just about sales. #UpYourGiftingGame



The one that I would rate highly is SBI INSURANCE Valentine’s Day ad. Watch it to know how it touches the chord. It is an excellent example of emotion and product linkages. ‘Hira Kya Zane Tumhari Umar’.


Leave it, if there are no dots, stop connecting them. If you have a real purpose that is brand linked and allows you to leverage an opportunity- go right ahead. Otherwise, it is a waste to do forced integration.



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