13th Feb, 2024

Valentine’s Day Ads: The Emotional Evolution


Valentine’s Day ads

Valentine’s Day ads are centered around showing appreciation for loved ones usually through gifts. According to data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers plan to spend $25.8 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2024. That’s an average of $185.81 per person. Though spending on gifts for significant others is expected to reach a new high this year, consumers also recognize other special relationships. Shoppers ages 35-44, for example, plan to splurge the most on gifts for pets as well as romantic partners. Many younger consumers opt for self-gifting and/or celebrations with single friends.

Whether it’s finding the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone or buying small gifts for friends, family, co-workers, pets, teachers, or classmates, recent Persado data found that consumers respond best to gentle reminders and nudges vs. loud language. 

Digital marketing messaging: An analysis of successful Valentine’s Day ads 

Based on a language analysis of 2023 Valentine’s Day campaigns, GRATIFICATION, REGRET, and INTIMACY were the top emotions. Since 2024 Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns have yet to wrap up, we took a look at 2023 data. 

To identify the top emotions, the Persado Content Intelligence team analyzed  hundreds of Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns. The data sample includes 3,943 messages and 495,526,532 impressions across four digital channels (email, Facebook, SMS, and website). The top-performers were AI-generated messages that drove the most marketing conversions (i.e. sales).

2023 was a year of surprises in Valentine’s Day ad performance

Persado’s usual top-performing emotions for Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns were low performers in 2023. These typical top performers are:

  • ATTENTION (ex: “Friendly reminder: It’s almost V-Day…”)
  • GRATITUDE (ex: “This Valentine’s Day, we’re showing *you* love”)
  • ACHIEVEMENT (ex: “Treat yourself — you’ve earned it!”)

This change could be due to the oversaturation of the ATTENTION, GRATITUDE, and ACHIEVEMENT emotions across previous Valentine’s Day ad campaigns. It also could reveal that consumers, particularly those buying gifts, have come to prefer laid-back language over overt CTAs. More casual digital marketing messaging sets the mood for a better shopping experience. Consumers feel less pressure to find Valentine’s Day gifts and instead lean into the fun of shopping for loved ones. It will be interesting to see if Valentine’s Day marketing in 2024 will see casual language drive the most conversions or if the prior norms will once again emerge as top performers.  

The emotions behind Valentine’s Day ads 

When it comes to marketing communications, emotional language is the primary driver of performance. At Persado, we classify language based on 15 emotions, separated into five categories. All of the language in the Persado Motivation AI knowledge base is tagged according to these emotions, and trained on over a decade of performance insights from Fortune 500 digital marketing campaigns. Enterprise brands leverage these learnings when creating AI-optimized language across digital marketing campaigns using solutions like Persado Essential Motivation

So what’s behind GRATIFICATION, REGRET, and INTIMACY? Why have they become the top-performing emotions for Valentine’s Day campaigns? Here’s more on what these tagged emotions mean, according to Persado, along with campaign examples. 


GRATIFICATION language stimulates excitement and interest, usually related to value. These campaigns focus on a special offer, value, or tangible benefit. It provides customers with the satisfaction that comes with putting in minimal effort to obtain a high reward. 

Examples of GRATIFICATION in Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns:

  • “Need Valentine’s Day gift ideas? That’s exactly what we’re giving you…”
  • “You’re getting something special just in time for Valentine’s Day”
  • “Compliments of us, for Valentine’s Day :)”


REGRET messaging motivates consumers to take a certain action by stressing the potential fear of missing out or being excluded. FOMO drives more decisions than we realize. These campaigns tell customers what not to do in order to obtain a benefit. The impact of this emotion increases when it’s delivered in a polite tone (ex: “please don’t ignore this.”) REGRET has only recently appeared in Persado Valentine’s Day campaigns.   

Examples of REGRET in Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns:

  • “February 14th is coming — don’t miss it!”
  • “Don’t disappoint your Valentine…”
  • “These V-Day gifts are way too good to pass on”


INTIMACY language addresses or highlights a personal connection. Different from the more traditional definition of intimacy, INTIMACY language is about taking part in small talk and relationship building before getting to business. This emotion is especially effective when marketing campaigns are personalized. Context and tone (formal vs. informal) depend on the customer relationship.

Examples of INTIMACY in Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns: 

  • “Oh hi. Welcome to our Valentine’s Day gift guide”
  • “A message from Cupid (Will you be our Valentine?)”
  • “Just in time for Valentine’s Day! XOXO”

Consumers celebrate Valentine’s Day in non-traditional ways 

The traditional Valentine’s Day celebration consisting of couples enjoying a nice dinner together and exchanging gifts such as flowers and candy is still very much alive. However, customers are also looking for non-traditional gifts and finding new ways to celebrate. 

NRF found that a third of consumers not planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day traditionally still plan to mark the occasion. This trend is especially strong with younger consumers. Specifically, 53% of 18- to 34-year-olds and 42% of 25- to 34-year-olds not taking part in a traditional Valentine’s Day still have something planned. Popular non-traditional ways to celebrate include self-gifting or attending a Galentine’s Day party with friends. 

The experience economy also comes into play. Demand for Valentine’s Day travel is on the rise. Allianz Partners reported a 15% increase in Valentine’s Day travel searches overall. Among US-based consumers, 70% of Valentine’s Day travel itineraries are for domestic travel. The most popular destinations are warm weather havens. Orlando, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale take the top three spots. Spa gift cards and other experiences are also popular around Valentine’s Day. 

Sharing the love with Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day gift guides 

Valentine’s Day gift guides have long been an e-commerce staple. These shoppable guides provide gift ideas and inspiration to customers looking to share their appreciation for a loved one. However, retailers have recently put a spin on Valentine’s Day gift guides by adding guides for pets or self-gifting. Target’s 2024 Valentine’s Day Gift Guide has categories for him, her, kids, baby, teachers, and pets. Taking a more diverse approach to gift guides that account for different budgets and lifestyles goes a long way in increasing the reach and relevance of Valentine’s day ad campaigns. 

This year, top retailers such as Walmart, Macy’s, and Kay Jewelers featured Galentine’s Day gift guides on their websites. Last year, grocery giant Kroger, shared its favorite Galentine’s Day recipes and ideas on its blog and YouTube channel. Featuring Galentine’s Day gift guides, party ideas, or decorations is a great way to increase a brand’s reach around Valentine’s Day and generate interest from those looking for non-traditional ways to celebrate.  

The future of Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns  

Valentine’s Day (and now Galentine’s Day) is a great opportunity for retailers to engage with and inspire customers. However, it’s important to approach the holiday with a diverse focus. While retailers should still run campaigns for customers looking to buy something special for that someone special, they should also focus marketing campaigns around self-gifting, sales and events, and gifts and activities for kids, just to name a few. Galentine’s Day gives retailers another opportunity to expand the reach of their Valentine’s Day marketing. 

Retailers should also consider the emotions behind their digital marketing campaigns and how they motivate customers to take action. These emotions can change as they have in Valentine’s Day ad campaigns throughout the years. We suggest performing further A/B and/or multivariate testing to further optimize landing pages and other digital marketing campaigns. 

Generative AI solutions help brands save time by increasing output and productivity. Persado Motivation AI, an enterprise Generative AI solution for marketers, further helps brands save time by generating the highest-performing content. That way, brands don’t waste time running digital marketing campaigns that don’t generate ROI or resonate with customers. 

Request a risk-free trial of Persado Motivation AI and start creating AI-generated content that outperforms your best copy 96% of the time. 


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