Americans spent an estimated $17.6 billion  this year on Valentine's Day dinners, flowers, chocolates, and other seductive gifts. But in this era when brands struggle to cozy up to their customers 365 days year, it seems like the perfect time to give brands some advice about creating love that lasts year round.
1. Stop telling and telling and telling consumers how much you love them.
Yesterday I got an email that said "Spotify Loves You." I barely know them, so how can they be so enraptured with me? Even--or especially--in the era of "friends" and "likes," love isn't to be bandied about too promiscuously.
A brand that drops "I love you" with abandon ends up with the credibility of a Las Vegas lounge singer. And a brand that's too unrestrained with its PDA can rapidly ramp up the creepiness factor. Neediness just isn't attractive, no matter where it's coming from.
2. Know when to keep your distance.
Even couples madly in love need their time alone. But brands have forgotten the old "absence makes the heart grow fonder" adage. So they make the mistake of showing their manufactured love with relentless pressure, professing their undying affection on Twitter, Facebook, through email, and whatever the next channel for love declaration might be.
Brands need to modulate their demonstrations of love through a kabuki cadence that embodies the fine art of seduction. Learning to play it cool isn't something they teach at Harvard Business School.
3. Don't forget the power of makeup sex.
People have fights with other people. And people have fights with brands. And unlike an interpersonal relationship, when you fight with a brand, the brand is always wrong. The question is: What happens when the screaming stops?
Brands must learn how to emerge from a fight with intensified erotic passion. That means over-delivering with big, bold, unanticipated gestures. In private, please: We don't want to read on Twitter how Comcast chooses to have digital makeup relations with a customer they kept waiting six hours.
4. Not all brands are equally loveable.
I've been in dozens of meetings where social media strategies are discussed, and for the most part, the conversations are generic. But the way consumers bond with brands, and experience them emotionally, are wildly different. You're not going to love or like an airline, air freshener, or air mattress in the same way. Yet marketers spend far too little time thinking about the subtle yet vital differences in the way consumers relate to their products. And in turn, the way those relationships should lead to a digital experience that aligns the strategy and the expectation.
In short, it's easier than ever for brands to get closer to their consumers. But closeness, on Valentine's Day or any day, isn't a simple matter of a superficial smack on the lips.
[Image: Flickr user Gopherkc ]