A Holiday Loved and Loathed: A Consumer Perspective of Valentine’s Day
Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 33
Posted: 16 Jan 2012
Date Written: January 16, 2012
Valentine’s Day is a day associated with lavish consumption, rituals, expectations, and commercialism. Much of the romance is displayed with store-bought and marketing-driven exchanges, contrary to the unique personalized and intimate nature sometimes associated with Valentine’s Day. The objective of our multi-method study is to provide insight into Valentine’s rituals, themes, and meanings (as expressed in the U.S.) as a basis for understanding consumer behavior for this holiday. Our three research questions focus on: consumer behaviors and rituals (both in-store and in the private spheres), key consumer meanings and emergent themes, and roles of marketing communications during this holiday.
We identify many consumer behaviors associated with Valentine’s Day (Table 2). In turn, we categorize these behaviors (also illustrated in Table 2) into the areas of: gift exchange, Valentine (card) exchange, affection, food and drink preparation and consumption, and grooming/clothing. Many of these behaviors revolve around intimacy and sexuality. Some key meanings associated with these behaviors include: 'belongingness', 'altruism', 'affection and intimacy', 'mutual expectations', 'self-gifts', and 'negative feelings'.
Specific gender patterns emerge in our findings. For some examples, we find that males are inclined to use gifts as a form of nonverbal communication. Females engage in self-gift behaviors, especially in relation to grooming rituals. Members of both sexes do discuss themes of belongingness and romance in a non-materialistic manner; however, such themes are not devoid of marketed products and services.
We find that this holiday is associated with extremes (e.g., consumers either love it or hate it). Furthermore, we find that commercialism and marketing communications contribute to consumer’s feelings and experiences concerning their love or hate for this day. For example, many ads depicting couples and affection flood the market as much as a month before February 14th – triggering feelings of warmth or disgust. While some welcome this holiday, there is a strain of anti-consumerism or anti-commercialism associated with the holiday 'for love'.
Keywords: event marketing, holiday, ritual, affect, emotion, love, consumer behavior
JEL Classification: M31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation