Mendoza School of Business

When lovey-dovey won’t do

Published: February 14, 2007 / Author: Heidi Writer

The photo depicts Timmy, a blond-haired boy who is 6 or 7 years old, posing for a picture in his living room circa-1970s gripping a homemade card.

He almost wants to smile as he holds an unevenly cut heart affixed to the card, the camera capturing his innocence, and a time in life when love is pure.

When anything is possible.

Even heart break.

“The next day, little Timmy had his heart broken,” reads a caption that sounds unfair and unjust but at the same time is, well, kind of funny. The inside of the card reads, “Valentine’s Day sucks.”

American Greetings isn’t the only company to take a satirical approach to a lovey-dovey, mushy-gushy holiday. Barnes & Noble bookstores feature a table of anti-Valentine’s books beside more typical reminders and titles of love and affection.

For those who’ve been jilted, dumped or forsaken, Best Buy offers a discount online on certain DVD titles that will take the schmaltz — or sting — out of the holiday.

Even the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., the Chicago-based maker of Altoids, has embraced “the bruised, blackened and broken hearted” this year with new dark chocolate dipped mints.

What has happened? Have we given up on Cupid?

Blame it on Census Bureau statistics that show a growing number of single people and a decline in marriages.

Blame it on the shift from a largely marriage-focused society to more of a single-and-career-focused culture, and on the growing number of cynics who believe Feb. 14 (today) is aimed to
exclude rather than include.

And blame it on the detailed demographic data such companies as American Greetings are able to compile and dissect today while developing new card lines and planning marketing strategies, a University of Notre Dame professor said.

“Organizations like American Greetings and Hallmark are monitoring cultural trends and demographic trends all of the time,” Mike Etzel, professor of marketing at Mendoza College of Business, said.Intricate information is now available that allows researchers to recognize and capitalize on niches in the market, Etzel said. As the information about consumers has become more detailed, companies can target smaller and smaller groups.

“Instead of defining it as a broad market to share a particular holiday greeting, they now know there are all these groups out there that are very different culturally and psychologically. They can change a message to appeal to a segment of the market,” he said.

Like the love-scorned.

And single women.

“It’s OK to be a woman and choose to be single. I’m not so much picky, personally, as I am deciding what I don’t want by seeing what (relations are) out there,” said Alana Campana, program manager for Valentine’s Day cards at American Greetings.So is a new card that reads, “I promise, you won’t be alone forever. I know how much you like cats,” appropriate for everyone? Of course not, she said.

Neither is the anti-Valentine depicting Timmy, the boy who will have his heart broken.

“It makes people remember, fondly, making Valentines and passing them out in school — with an anti-Valentine spin,” Campana said. “Everyone can remember what it’s like to be single and can sympathize, although there’s really nothing to sympathize with. People are staying single longer but that’s not to say marriage is dead.”

American Greetings has not abandoned romance. Quite the contrary is true, in fact.

Most of its 2,500 Valentine cards reflect the degrees of intimacy, romance and friendship. More messages this year are aimed at casual and flirtatious relationships, but only 10 use the anti-Valentine theme.”People are now celebrating the holiday in unconventional ways,” Campana said. “In the past you might not have been able to find something to fit your relationship. And when you see a card that’s a little quirky, you can’t resist wanting to pick it up and share it with someone.”



Topics: Mendoza