Valentine’s Day has become more than a day where individuals express love and affection, but also a day for organizations to capitalize on by peddling commodities through crafty and sentimental messaging.
Valentine’s Day has been around for many centuries. It is believed to have originated as a Christian holiday honouring St. Valentine, a third-century priest who secretly married couples when Roman emperor Claudius II banned love affairs and marriages. When St. Valentine was caught, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death for performing the forbidden marriages.
While imprisoned, St. Valentine wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter, who he had come to love a day before he was to be executed on February 14, around 270 A.D., and signed it ‘From your Valentine’ which started the tradition of sending letters to loved ones on this date.
These stories are majorly associated with the season because they sell the idea of love, romantic devotion, and exchanging love letters or cards, even in the face of danger. However, no person can genuinely tell the origin of Valentine’s Day because it has a long and somewhat murky history.
February 14th—Valentine’s Day—is arguably one of the prominent features of Western consumerism culture that has seeped into the hearts and traditions of various people worldwide. Despite its unclear and, in some narratives, gloomy origins, rebranding Valentine’s Day as the day to celebrate and freely express love is, without a doubt, a beautiful thing that touches on the very essence of what it means to be human.
MEDIA, CAPITALISM, AND THE BUSINESS OF GIFTING
The portrayal of love in various forms of media has played a role in influencing societal views. With the rise of consumer culture and capitalism, the representation of love in media and popular culture has become increasingly commercialized, creating the perception that love is a commodity that can be bought or expressed through exchanging gifts, experiences, and other material possessions.
In recent years, Valentine’s Day has become more than a day where individuals express love and affection, but also a day for organizations, both large and small across various industries, to capitalize on by peddling everything sellable with crafty and sentimental marketing messages.
It is no longer a surprise to start seeing adverts about deals, promotion packages, specially curated dinners, and romantic getaways for Valentine’s Day from the beginning of the year. These adverts appear mainly on social media sites, with the frequency and number of adverts increasing as the day draws closer.
Once Valentine’s season arrives, expect to see billboards commissioned by big brands with messages that speak to the season of love while pushing their products in the most emotional and actionable way to gain favour. In the week leading up to Valentine’s, it’s normal to notice an abundance of red in display windows of stores, the clothes people wear, and in all forms of media.
One example of how organizations and the media have embedded Valentine’s season into marketing efforts is streaming giant, Netflix, slotting in their original rom-com movie, Your Place or Mine and adding more romantic movies and series to their catalogue this month.
Similarly, during this season, Access Bank popularly launches a marketing campaign pushing its device financing services by driving its loan products, like QuickBucks, which allow people to get mobile devices and laptops to pay later.
Adron Homes and Properties Limited, a prominent real estate firm in South-West Nigeria, run Valentine’s Day advertisements, especially on billboards, offering incentives such as 30 per cent discounts, gift hampers, and special treats to entice people to invest with them. One way or the other, brands are ready to use the season of love to get consumers to spend more.
As seen with the hundreds upon hundreds of romance novels and stories published yearly, love sells all year round. Popular tropes being pushed in romance books include an ‘unbelievably rich love interest’ who lavishly treats their loved ones or a ‘partner that goes above and beyond’ to ensure they can treat their loved ones with gifts, even if it means overworking themselves.
Increasingly, globalization through the internet has given Nigerians more options when buying products from global retail or brand stores. This also meant continual growth for the gifting economy in Nigeria. Today, people don’t have to shop and curate gifts themselves because there are numerous efficient channels to explore.
For example, there are various gift shops online and physically in Nigeria whose sole purpose is gift curation. Many people have made the business of gifts a trendy and highly lucrative source of income by acting as middlemen. These shops source products from different brands worldwide to create gift packages for their clients based on their budgets.
Simply put, many organizations take advantage of Valentine’s Day to make significant profits because consumers are willing to spend a lot of money on gifts and experiences for their loved ones.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF ROMANTIC GESTURES
Social media, in particular, provides front-row seats to how other people express their love. Fuelling the need for social validation, social media encourages users to showcase their relationships and romantic gestures for the world to see. This inevitably also fuels a culture of overspending and excessive consumption all year round.
Social media has created an endless cycle of competition and comparison as people feel pressured to make grand gestures to match, surpass or keep up with their friends and followers. It has helped to both commercialize and normalize love as a commodity.
Despite the current economic challenges such as inflation and the scarcity of cash, there is still an amplified focus on Valentine’s Day in Nigeria because of how highly we value material possessions and consumerism. The commercialization of Valentine’s Day has been far-reaching and this is not likely to change soon given the growing influence of materialist entertainment and social media over our conceptions of love⎈
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