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BW Businessworld

To Stay With The Plot, They Lose The Plot

Valentine's Day has been hijacked by marketing to such an extent that it's become counterproductive. And it gets worse every year

Like the President of Pakistan, I have a quarrel with Valentine's Day. But not for the same reasons. Mr Mamnoon Hussain is annoyed at the intrusion of this western tradition into Muslim culture and many, like him, believe it will let loose a spate of immoral behaviours. Human beings have needed little excuse to behave immorally, if that's what love is called these days, and culture never stands still: it isn't a finite end-point which has been reached and must be henceforth followed by all like a law. Culture is ever-changing.

No, Valentine's Day annoys me because it's been hijacked by marketing to such an extent that it's become counterproductive. And it gets worse every year. And there's nothing I can do but update my spam filters and pick up paper and pen to rant. Or rather, pound the keyboard.

Every festival and occasion is now fodder for marketers. One must accept that this too, is culture now. But what is amazing is how little Valentine's Day is probably doing for some of the companies that want to ride the bandwagon, all painted with red hearts. Love may be everywhere but Valentine's Day isn't the perfect match for every company and seller out there.

As my inbox, messengers and notification panels fill up with silly love-related slogans and offers, it's all I can do to get rid of them. Unable to avoid seeing a few of marketing messages, I couldn't help but be struck at the bizarreness of these messages.

Intel, for example, sent out a mail exhorting us this Valentine's Day to share love, not our personal data - cybersecurity survey and warning. Yahoo sent out a message offering to auto-write your love letter because its email is using this AI to do that. Shopping apps, of course, have been going crazy, because everything you buy you buy out of love. Until I went in and disabled the notifications from every app on my phone, there was no peace.

If you underline every word in an article, no word or phrase stands out. And that's exactly what's happening with Valentine's Day marketing. Every single company feels compelled to "do something" whether it fits or not and whether it stands out or not. In that sea of red hearts, pink teddy bears, candy, chocolate, dates and kittens, nothing filters through any more except for when it crosses the boundary into total ridiculousness. In trying desperately to keep with the Valentine's Day plot, most just lose the plot altogether. So yeah, I'm inclined to support the Pakistani President on this one.


Tags assigned to this article:
valentines day culture society marketing