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Just A 'Hallmark Holiday'?

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A quick online search reveals that Valentine’s Day was not, like Lucy claimed of Christmas, just some excuse to sell product created by a “big East Coast syndicate.” Since I’m not writing a term paper about the history of Valentine’s Day, I'm not going to get all detailed here, but the whole Valentine deal finds its roots in the days of Ancient Rome, involves pagans and martyrs;the giving of cards evidently got started in the United Kingdom around the 19th century.
Some might call Valentine’s Day a “Hallmark Holiday,” which, according to our friends at Wikipedia, means “a holiday that is perceived to exist primarily for commercial purposes, rather than to commemorate a traditionally or historically significant event. The name comes from Hallmark Cards...that benefits from such manufactured events through sales of greeting cards and other items. Holidays that have been referred to as 'Hallmark Holidays' include Grandparents Day, Sweetest Day, Boss's Day, and Secretary's Day. Some people also consider St. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day to be such days.” Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallmark_holiday.
As a PR pro, this gives me pause. For something to be dubbed a “Hallmark holiday,” isn’t exactly complimentary…on the other hand, how interesting is it to have your company name appear in a conversational phrase, to be part of the American common man (and woman’s) vernacular?
It’s nothing new. For example, people suffering from the sniffles are more apt to say “Hand me a Kleenex,” versus, “Hand me some tissues.” People don’t say, “Make a photostatic copy of this,” they say, “Make a Xerox of this.”
So is this a good thing? P.T. Barnum, the man who liked to say “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” might say, heck yes.
Me, not so sure…particularly since the use of this term only serves to feed a cynical thread, that your company is just about inventing ways to make money versus identifying life moments to celebrate.
Referencing back to Wikipedia, Hallmark’s response looks like this: “The Hallmark corporation denies that it creates such holidays and claims that it ‘wish[es] it were so easy that we could dream up products and people would flock to our stores to buy them,’ and that they only do it when there is ‘a real consumer need that we meet with our products.’”
You know a PR person crafted that part about “a real consumer need that we meet with our products.” Well put. As I tell my PR students, being in this field means you have one foot within the company and one foot outside of it. Yes, you want your company to be successful (people flocking to your stores), but you also want to be sure that your company is working toward meeting REAL consumer needs.
So maybe what I might do is to create a kind of tongue-in-cheek YOUTUBE video that attempts to put a more favorable shine on the phrase, “Hallmark holiday.”
Maybe we make it a contest. We ask people to send in their OWN videos about what constitutes a true Hallmark Holiday. This would require DEFINING what Hallmark thinks this means, say “a time to celebrate, to cheer and be cheered, and to share that good feeling with friends and family…” or something to that effect.
In other words, make it a GOOD thing for an event to be called a “Hallmark Holiday.” Of course, the one drawback is, you’d invariably getting people submitting, or just posting on their own, their satirical, SNL-style spoofs of this idea, like “Transsexual Nigerian Steeplejack Day” with the sort of images et al you might imagine in such a case.
But then again, that’s why social media platforms like YOUTUBE are the place to do this—show you have a sense of humor about your business, that you can take some ribbing, you become LESS a CORPORATION and more a “bunch of actual human beings.”
It makes your organization look REAL. Look HUMAN. And a little humble. As my Dad, who would have made a great PR person if he had decided to go that route, would say, “People LOVE humility.”
With that in mind, I humbly conclude today’s Valentine’s Day post. Have a happy one!

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