Valentine’s Day: An opportunity to express genuine love for the important people in your life? Or is it something else?

Here at DI, we wanted to discover what people really think about Valentine’s Day. In order to do this, we analysed (a startling volume of) UK social posts via Brandwatch to get to the heart of what Valentine’s Day is all about for us Brits.



We ran our live Brandwatch data from Wed 1st to Wed 8th Feb and drew down over 150,000 mentions of Valentine’s.  Now, we closed off our query on Wed 8th to give us time to provide meaningful analysis of the data.  But it’s worth noting that between the period Thu 9th – Tue 14th an additional 264,000 mentions drew into our query!

So this blog analyses 34% of all 414,000 UK posts about Valentine’s as conversation around the subject heated up significantly over the past week.


We quickly identified that advertisers were swamping our dataset so we set about isolating these to allow us to look more closely at expressions made by individual members of the public.

This carve up shocked us a fair bit.  58,000 (39%) mentions were made by the public, 92,000 (61%) by brands and businesses.  That’s almost 2:1.  Almost 2 adverts for every 1 member of the British public talking online about Valentine’s. Wow.  

We all know how significant social now is as a B2C channel for brands but this feels like a saturation point for selling love!


Can you guess? Of course you can.  We found a clear gender split with 28% more women discussing Valentine’s than men.

But this topic split by gender map gave us a lot of laughs in terms of the stark contrast in conversational complexities by gender and the dominance of the words money, sex, grabs (!) and night on the male side.



Our next step was to investigate where people were talking. When it comes to romance, which is the hottest place in the UK? In order to determine this, we started with a heat map of our Valentine’s Day data, which showed a high concentration of conversation around London.



Romantics in the nation’s capital were excited about Valentine’s Day, tweeting very high levels of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of spending some quality time with their partners. Aww.

Some requested help with choosing the perfect present while others joked or griped about giving receiving untraditional presents. Examples ranged from a request for a “lint roller and flowers” to a razor and electric toothbrush…. Imagine the inscription on that card….”to my hairy halitosis love”

But does this mean that London the most romantic place in the UK? Not quite.



In order to gain a fuller picture of the Valentine’s conversation in the UK, we had to dig deeper into the data. As we all know, the population of London is significantly higher than anywhere else in the UK.

So we crunched the numbers further and investigated which locations had the highest proportion of posts for the size of their population. The results were surprising.

Of the big cities in the UK, London still came top so when it comes to the big urban centres, Londoners are still pretty darn romantic. However, it trailed behind some rural areas.

The top area for valentine’s-related conversation in the uk relative to its population is the highland council area.

The Highland area comprises the north of mainland Scotland and includes Inverness (but excludes the islands). So what do romantics in this part of the world get up to for Valentine’s Day?

They treat their partners to experiences like overnight breaks and discuss Valentine’s Day playfully, including a popular ‘will you be my valentine’ game.  Considering broadband availability and the geographic detachment of population hubs this is all super impressive behaviour.


We then turned our attention to an overall look at topics dominating all valentine discussions by the UK public.



Just because people were talking about Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean they were all hopeless romantics. In fact, those discussing the day as a romantic occasion accounted for only 23% of the London data set and 21% of the Highland data set.

But what else was everyone talking about around the whole of the UK?

Brandwatch lets us look at the topics that users mention as a word cloud. This is useful for finding overall themes in relation to one another, providing a understanding at what users are saying at a glance.

Digressing for a moment, most word clouds are extremely random and often unfathomable.  But our DI hearts melted when we saw this one. This is one of the loveliest (and funniest) word clouds we’ve seen

We quickly counted up this awesome bunch of love-words to get a clearer idea of their frequency of use; noting below that the top 5 were “find”, “buy”, “single”, “pass” and “6 inches”….. (more on those 6 inches in a bit)….


One particularly eye catching topic was the use of the word ‘good’. With almost 1,000 mentions we hoped to find a great pool of content where users talked about their upcoming plans for the 14th.  We expected to see people talking positively about their relationships, but the data surprised us. For example, a number of posters used the word good as part of a plea to get a date before Valentine’s Day with tweets like:

“Valentine’s Day coming up next week. So if any of my followers has a secret crush on me, now is a good time to let me know ♥️️

In order to see if this was an anomaly or an overall theme, we filtered all mentions of being single or alone on Valentine’s Day. We found over 4,000 mentions of people talking about the fact that they don’t have a date on the international day of romance.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Many of our audience are looking on the bright side of their independence:

“Valentine’s day will be good this year, since it’s on Tuesday, and I am getting two pizzas for myself 🍕🍕”

“You don’t spend money on Valentine’s Day if you’re Single 😉


And some seem to have their day all planned out:

“Can’t wait to spend Valentine’s Day stuffing my face with half price chocolates 👍”

Needless to say, the fact that people used Valentine’s Day as a time to express their independence was a surprising discovery. Overall, those who don’t have someone to spend Valentine’s Day with are a substantial part of this commercial holiday’s conversation, with hashtags like #single4lyf or #ForeverAlone used to express self-deprecation about feeling left out. ☹️



Every so often an audience take a marketing campaign and interpret it in a fascinating way. Further analysis of the most used keywords showed over 1,600 mentions of ‘6 inches’. This represents a great example of how brand campaigns can have a life beyond that which is created by marketing teams.

It turns out that today Subway is running a Customer Appreciation Day campaign, where selected stores are giving customers a free Subway for buying any large drink.

A great campaign to encourage lunchtime loyalty on this special day.  They know their lunchtime products aren’t at all as a way to treat a romantic partner on Valentine’s Day.  So they cleverly rebranded the 14th February as ‘Customer Appreciation Day’ making it an inclusive event, relatable for single people as well as couples.

Promotional content did not feature the phrase ‘Valentine’s Day’ or ‘6 inches’ – these interpretations were attached to the campaign by the public after the campaign gained traction on social media in the form of (e.g) customers being “very happy with a 6 inches that won’t disappoint on Valentine’s Day.”



Subway’s example might not have set out to sex-up their most popular lunch time bite but the public ended up having a (very positive and very humorous if unexpected) reaction to their Customer Appreciation Day.

All of these insights present interesting challenges for brands.

Does the tone of Valentine’s Day branding match the way people talk about Valentine’s Day?

Will irreverence and a break from typical tone cut through the current saturation of brand content on socials?

How can your next Valentine’s campaign leverage crystal clear insights around gender and geographic nuances?

The simple answer is, let DI help you to love your next Valentine’s Day campaign and results 🙂


This blog was powered by data from Brandwatch, good people who LOVE big data and social insights as much as we do here @DI_Insights

© Disruptive Insight 2015.