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Brands find unique paths to step out from clutter on Valentine's Day

Brands are embracing Valentine's Day to create long-lasting relationships with consumers, but the challenge is to stand out in a sea of romantic-themed campaigns.

Brands such as Pizza Hut, American Greetings and Free People have been trying to find a unique way to leverage mobile in anticipation of Valentine?s Day. Since there are so many campaigns this time of year, a simple, standard campaign is not going to cut it.

"We know based on learning from neuroscience that we are more likely to pay attention to advertising that is seen as relevant," said Ann Green, senior partner of client solutions and innovation at Millward Brown, New York. "And that relevance can be elevated by seamlessly integrating into a seasonal need

"Having said that, there can be a great deal of clutter around the holidays so to truly get noticed, one has to go beyond hearts, cupids and warm sentiment and leverage a truly differentiated approach," she said.

"It is important to remember that most seasonal advertising is typically short-lived. It is rare to have a seasonal ad that creates long-term brand associations beyond the holiday ? Cadbury?s Crème Eggs talking bunny ad is a rare example of an ad that has had a lasting impact."

Valentine?s Day ramp up
The Valentine?s Day, consumers may intend to be a one-time shopper, but brands are attempting to leverage mobile to convert that interaction into a more permanent connection. Around Valentine?s Day, consumers may venture into stores ? physical or online ? to purchase a one-time gift, but this creates an opportunity for brands to engage that consumer and keep them around for longer.

Brands can reach out to new consumers and turn what may have been a small bouquet of flowers into a frequent customer.

?Based on the overall growth in mobile over the last few years, it?s a safe bet that brands are focusing more on mobile this Valentine?s Day than in years past,? said Catherine Tabor, founder/CEO of Sparkfly, Atlanta, GA. 

?Brands and retailers are using Valentine?s Day deals to generate awareness and drive consumers into stores, and the intention is definitely that the end result will not be a single purchase but a sustained relationship,? she said.

?Additionally, as long as the brands can track and measure their campaigns, they will gain valuable data and information on the role mobile played in the overall path-to-purchase, and this will help with future customer acquisition and new customer retention.?

Beyond the actual conversions, Valentine?s Day also presents a great opportunity for brand awareness and consumer engagement. With love in the air, retailers and brands can tap into that positive atmosphere and shift the focus to their own products.

"If the goal of mobile engagement is building a trust relationship, Valentine's Day allows the brand to reach out with a message that says, 'I care and want you to opt-in to my community,'" said Gary Schwartz, Toronto-based author of ?The Impulse Economy? and ?Fast Shopper, Slow Store.?

Social Valentines
A number of this year?s Valentine?s Day efforts seem to intertwine mobile and social.

For instance, Pizza Hut?s #CommitToGreatness campaign invites consumers to use an Instagram video or Vine to ?propose? to Pizza Hut. Consumers can submit proposals until Feb 21.

Pizza Hut created an OKCupid profile to entertain these romantic, creative proposals.

The QSR will be selecting the best three proposals to compete in challenges and other "meet the parents" activities in the company?s headquarters in Plano, TX. The final winner will be selected on March 14 and will receive a lifetime of free Pizza Hut.

?Valentine?s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for pizza companies,? said Doug Terfehr, director of public relations for Pizza Hut at Yum! Brands, Louisville, KY. ?Be it an easy dinner option for companies or something to get the babysitter and kids, pizza is a very popular choice during the holiday.

?We love celebrating our fans and what better way to celebrate them around Valentine?s Day than through a proposal?? he said. ?This was happening organically on our pages, and it led us to development a fun partnership with OKCupid to more formalize our relationship status.?

Specialty clothing brand Free People also leveraged mobile and social for a special Valentine?s Day short film.

The brand released the video ?Spark,? starring fashion icons Poppy Delevingne and Nicole Trunfio, in partnership with, a new video sharing app that brings professional grade video effects and styles to users of any skill level. The video highlights the moment when a couple first meets and sparks fly.

Consumers are asked to respond with their own love story videos via Cameo, using the hashtags #freepeople, #spark and #lovestory. Free People will then compile the brand?s favorite videos.

?We were looking for a fun innovative way to launch the short film, and we loved the app as soon as we started using it,? said Jed Paulson, director of ecommerce and marketing at Free People, Philadelphia. ?We see our customer engaging and interacting with our content, and by teaming up with we made it easier for them to participate.

?We love the user generated content component of this campaign,? he said. ? is an extraordinary app that allows users to create and share professional grade videos easily, so they were the perfect partner for the launch of Spark. The Free People customer is creative and loves to get involved. We can?t wait to see what she shares through

?Our customer seems to react and engage with the theme of love. Valentine?s Day is obviously the perfect time to celebrate love, and with Spark, we were able to do that in a light-hearted, fun, authentic way.?

Mobile gifting
Uber and ProFlowers are teaming up for a joint Valentine?s Day promotion. On Valentine?s Day, the companies will give more than 150,000 roses to Uber riders in 28 cities.

Consumers will also be able to get a 15 percent discount on their first order through the ProFlower app by using the code ?Uber.? This deal will last until March 31.

RetailMeNot tackled the flower theme as well and launched the ?Loves Me, Loves Me Not? sweepstakes in time for Valentine?s day to drive new downloads of its mobile application (see story).

American Greetings also tapped into the Valentine?s Day craze with some new mobile experiences.

The company added a new gifting feature to its popular mobile card app JustWink. Not only can consumers easily send mobile cards to their valentines, but now they can also add a gift card to the card to select retailers.

JustWink partnered with digital gift card service Gyft to create the new feature. Consumers can select from more than 30 retailers, such as Fandango, Sephora and Banana Republic.

?Valentine?s Day is one of the biggest card-sending holidays, and at American Greetings we want to make sure we are there with the best cards to suit our customers? individual needs no matter which channel you choose,? said Lisa Wascovich, director of boutique brands at American Greetings, Cleveland, OH. ?With the meteoric rise of smartphone usage for social expression, we have created a suite of apps that fit all your card sending styles.

?Over 60 percent of the U.S. population currently has a smartphone with the numbers rising every day,? she said. ?We recognize that smartphones are integral to our consumer?s lives and know the power of receiving a personalized message through a greeting card, therefore providing mobile apps to keep people connected is a natural extension for American Greetings.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York