‘Valentine’s Day’ typically connotes a twilight date, illuminated by a candle, awkward conversation and hesitant eating. At least that’s what we perceive. Valentine’s day is rather a construct, an economist’s gift, where the motivation and compulsion behind a seemingly important emotion can be explored.


Valentine’s day is more of a commemoration of St Valentine’s death, than a trivial effort at relationships. It was first commented on by Geoffrey Chaucer who said it is the day to “choose their mate.” Perhaps inspired by the mating seasons of mammals, Valentine’s day proves to be a highlight of people in a relationship. However, in the last two centuries, there has been greater public appeal, largely due to marketing strategies. No wonder they say that economics has the power to unite.


The earliest known advertising campaign starts with the bringing of Cupid into western European culture, caricatured as a dictator of love with a mischievous tint. The symbolic heart and arrow can be perceived as the final attainment of love, much like hitting bullseye (difficult and rewarding), but also reveals an ominous undertone where love can be seen as fragile and delicate. This is ironic since it reflects how love isn’t something for one day and needs constant upkeep, contrary to the whole idea of a Valentine. Cupid has since proliferated, seeping into letters, greeting cards and emojis. 


However, the most significant corner for the success of Valentine’s Day lies in the desperate lovers’ market on the 14th February. Entrepreneurs (a term which originated at a similar age when Cupid was believed to be a pagan deity) see this period of time when there is a clear need from certain individuals and an obvious gap in the market. A fundamental theory in economics and businesses is when there is a gap in the market, there is one thing very certain to follow (if executed properly): profits.


A gap that has emerged recently is for dating apps, something not possible in the last millennia, and is the cash cow of many firms. With its market segmentation, it can target like-minded individuals and quench their thirst for a Valentine. An economist sees the fortunes as a result of the entrepreneurs reward, and the various other dating apps that pop up later as desperate reaches to capture the market share. Moreover, some firms are literally and metaphorically hitting two birds with one stone, such as Treedom. This firm plants and gifts a tree to your Valentine as a method to grow the forests and to grow your love. It fills in the forests and fills in your empty date-night hands. It fights climate change and fights the awkward conversation. Some firms have also played upon the biggest trend of 2020: veganism. And thus there are apps which locate vegan restaurants and ranks them where you can meet and dine with your Valentine. 


The message here is clear, that Valentine’s day benefits individuals, children and firms and the underlying success is the prevalence of economics and its impacts, which now dictate every aspect of our modern lives.

By Divy Dayal, Wilson’s School