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Hugh’s Hot Takes: Valentine’s Day


By Hugh Allspaugh

Valentine’s Day is THE KING of Hallmark Holidays. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day this year. That’s more than Easter and almost double Halloween. And according to the Society of American Florists, we’ll spend an average of $77 a person on flowers. That is a lot of love.  

So why is my inbox flooded with love messages with some of the most unromantic suggestions from companies that have no business in the love business? Let’s be clear, Valentine’s Day is NOT a content strategy or a relevant contact trigger for most brands. So why does almost every email I have received today have a love pun or a heart emoji in the subject line? Have marketers lost their minds? Are they flooded with endorphins? No, I think they are just extremely lazy.  Let’s start with my favorite today:

Mr Duct.

Dear Hugh,

Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂

We still have the note in our system about the past canceled appointment.

Hoping to put you back on the schedule.

What? Mr. Duct, would you be mine? You might as well send a box of Sweethearts that all say “Miss You.” Duct cleaning and Valentine’s Day . . . let’s not go there.

Level Vape

Or how about this one from Level Vape. Subject line, “Get some Love in @LevelVape.” Open to an image of a big heart made of vape smoke and the oh-so-original “The Love Sale.”

Really? Vaping is my key to love? I haven’t been anywhere near your store in over two years and this is how you choose to re-engage me? The only thing that would have made this better would be Barry White singing “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Baby.” Unsubscribe.

Prudential Retirement

Next up, undying love.

This is an important message, and perhaps Valentine’s Day is a day to reflect on the importance of designating a beneficiary for someone you love. But the subject line of the email was so flippant: “Hugh, swipe right.” NO! The Tinder reference is so off topic, off brand, and off the chart wrong. Could have worked. Fail.


Subject line: “A sweet recipe for the perfect pair.” Ok. It isn’t a bad email, it’s just awful timing. I really could have used this a couple of weeks ago to remind me that Valentine’s Day is coming rather than making it obvious that I totally forgot to get my loved one a present which is why I came home with a box of crappy chocolates and a $77 bunch of wilting roses.


Now these people know their audience and they know how to use email. Subject line: “How do we love pets? Let us count the ways.” I’ll even let them plagiarize Shakespeare because I love that cute doggie so much.

Bottom line, I don’t participate in Valentine’s Day because in my house, every day is Valentine’s Day!

Hugh Allspaugh | Associate Partner, Strategy
With 30 years of branding and integrated marketing experience at agencies that include Grey Direct, Ogilvy & Mather, Euro RSCG Worldwide and JWT, Hugh’s client experience covers a range of global B2B and B2C brands including American Express, BP Fuels, Cargill, Citi Cards, CME Group, First Data, Google, Northern Trust, Sappi North America, and SJ Johnson. His approach to strategy is guided by two core beliefs: Simplify complexity, but not overly so; and, without data, it’s just an opinion.