10 February, 2012

From roses to jerky, the gift is love

Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday February 10

There's a florist near my place who has been on holiday most of January, just locked the doors and went away. But he's back now and will pay for his leisure time by staying open, day and night, the whole of February 13 and 14.

Yes Valentine's Day is coming, the pot of gold in every florist's year. Behind them of course are acres and acres of greenhouses where careful growers plot and scheme to make sure that a million roses will open up at just the right time so as to be not too buddy and not too bloomy when they are ribboned and presented.

Valentine's Day is a great example of "occasion marketing" - when an occasion or tradition is seized upon by marketers as an opportunity to sell more of their goods. We've just been through a couple of these, called Christmas and New Year.

Truth be told, there is no reason why one person should buy a gift for another just because of a day of the year - but without these days, our retail economy would be even more dismal and subdued. Our love lives and marriages would suffer a severe downturn too, if the partners neglected to observe the occasion.

The Valentine tradition we know today can be traced back to 1797 when a London publisher put out a booklet of sentimental verses called The Young Man's Valentine Writer. The real St Valentine was martyred by the Romans in 289 AD and as a bishop, was unlikely to have had a secret lover.

The tradition has grown in size and value for two centuries, to the point where it is spreading world-wide. In recent years, relentless marketing has planted the Valentine - the gift-giving part, anyway - in Asian cultures like China, Korea, Singapore and Japan. Not always on February 14 and not always boy to girl.

In Japan girls give chocolates to their male office colleagues. In Taiwan it's men to women. All very confusing but with one essential ingredient - a massive increase in expenditure on certain products.

So, you must have wondered, how can you get your product in on this buying flood? Can you disguise your widget as a Valentine gift?

Well plenty have tried. Obviously the makers of greeting cards, chocolates and teddy bears got into the act early in the piece, as did restaurants.

You'll find this paper will do a roaring trade next Tuesday with columns of personal ads decorated with hearts and flowers as all and sundry Romeos declare their love. Your message will be seen by a million and a half readers - one of which, hopefully, will be your love.

Later sales steps were a bit of a stretch. In the '80s, American jewellers started promoting diamonds as a suitable gift. No doubt to remind the girl of her other best friend. Some may think it's a bit of a leap from an embossed gift card, but hey that's marketing.

The rule is never miss an opportunity, which is why this year Interflora have launched a campaign aimed at gay and lesbian lovers.

Then come the ideas which must have struck their creators in the middle of a sleepless night - "I've got it!"

How about a message in a bottle, delivered in a little box. Or giving her name to a star. As our own Milky Way has two hundred billion, we won’t run out of stock.

But some show real imagination. One firm is promoting beef jerky treats. No, not for the girlfriend's teeth, but to let her know you also love her dog.


1 comment:

Pam Abeling said...

Nice piece Ray. Pam