At LOOMIS, we specialize in helping challenger brand companies take on market leaders and win. We’re the Voice of the Underdog. And while the vast majority of our work is what we’d call, corporate, we recognize this time of year, there are a whole lot of personal underdogs out there who could use a little help too. That’s why this year, we’re publishing our first “Underdog’s Guide To Romance” to help you guys outthink, rather than outspend your way to Valentine’s bliss.
Now, the first thing you have to understand about making a great impression on Valentine’s Day is that the whole thing has become way too commercial to begin with. At this point, roses, chocolate, a card and dinner are cliché, provided like most guys, you’re running into Kroger and grabbing a bunch of flowers out of the buckets by the checkout lane, grabbing the Hershey’s Heart next to that, grabbing the first card you can find and taking your significant other to the one restaurant where you could still get a reservation – today. While not a complete give up, the truth is this sucks. It shows no imagination, no forethought and will most likely be met with tepid appreciation. But, with some creativity, even this basic lineup can be money.
This is Valentine’s Day, on a Saturday this year no less. This is the year she’s expecting you to pull out the stops. Remember, other than doing something spectacular for her birthday, this is the most important romantic day of the year. And while it’s not completely necessary for you to spend a fortune, it does require some imagination.
Here are just a few thoughts to get your started. If you don’t like them, you live in the age of the Internet. Do some research and figure it out!
The key here is to do something special and thoughtful. If you can’t boil water, your only real option is to take her out. But if you can cook, you already have a leg up to create a magical evening. But remember, we’re not talking about throwing burgers on the grill, or cooking something you have every week. If you’re going to cook, plan a nice menu. If she likes steak, go buy two center-cut 8-10 oz. filets, some fat asparagus you can serve with Hollandaise, or Béarnaise Sauce, get some nice mushrooms and simmer them in some butter, garlic and wine and you’re off to the races.
If she’s more of a chicken, fish, or lamb girl, try that, but don’t cook a new recipe for the first time on Valentine’s. That’s not the night you want to be apologizing for anything. When you’re cooking, women appreciate the effort, but only when the result is really delicious. Otherwise, it’s a disappointment and a stark example of the meal you didn’t take her out to have. There are a gazillion cooking show websites with great recipes and videos that walk you through all the prep. Just remember, dinner is only part of the experience.
If you and your date live apart, spend the day cleaning, or having your apartment, or house cleaned from top to bottom. It should look good, smell good and generally feel fantastic. In other words, a pleasant surprise for her. If you and your date live together, the same applies, except to make it a surprise you need to get her out of the house. A spa day is an outstanding way to free up the house for 4-6 hours. If you have to, get one of her girl friends to help you out. Once the house is clean, put fresh sheets and pillowcases on the bed. Arrange her favorite flowers on the table, scatter some subtle but nice smelling candles around the house (remember, the light is the effect you’re going for, not the smell), put on some great music (mood setting music that you can talk over and ideally a special playlist you put together just for her). If she’s staying over, prep the bath and/or the tub with candles, bath salts and a big fluffy towel in case she wants to relax later.
Beautiful flowers are nice but they’re also temporary, which means there’s no reason to spend $100 on an arrangement that’s going to die within a week. If fresh flowers are an absolute for her, go to a nice Kroger, Central Market, Whole Foods, or Market Street and pick up a dozen roses, two dozen tulips, or whatever flower she loves. If you don’t have a pretty clear vase, buy one. Cut the stems so the flowers reach 3-4” above the top of the vase and put them on the table. Put a second arrangement in the bedroom if plan to be there later, along with a few white candles. Another thought, find some really nice silk flowers (don’t go cheap, or this will backfire big time) and put arrangement on the table, in the bedroom and in the bath. Nice silk flowers are beautiful, look real and last forever. You can even get scented oils that make them smell real.
Like flowers, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get great chocolate. But you do have to know what you’re doing. First, what kind of chocolate does she like? Does she like Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, or White Chocolate? Does she like flavored chocolate, say Hazelnut, or Raspberry? Does she like like fruit, or nuts in her chocolate? Once you understand what she likes, there are all kinds of fantastic chocolates to choose from both international and domestic. Again, the upscale grocery stores will have more choices than you could want, or for something truly incredible, check out Dude, Sweet. She’ll LOVE it!
Choosing her favorite wine is always a solid move, but branch out and find some others that are close and maybe a little nicer. It’s always fun to try new things and spending a little more on a bottle honors the special occasion. If her favorite is a sure thing, get 2-3 bottles. If you’re trying something new, get at least a couple new bottles. It’s a classy add to the evening. If she’s a wine lover, there are a number of online wine clubs that will send new wines to try every month. Perfect to show her you’re thinking about her every month!
Let’s be honest – most of the greeting cards for occasions like Valentine’s Day suck in a big way. If you really want to give her a card and want to impress her, make your own. Get out the construction paper and the scissors and the crayons and pens and glitter and glue and get creative. Write something from the heart and make her a card she’ll never forget. She’ll appreciate the effort and the creativity and she’ll think you’re super cute for thinking of it.
Finally, a word about gifts. The key word here is thoughtfulness. Sure it’s nice for you to buy her perfume, jewelry, or even something pretty to wear (provided you know what you’re doing), but don’t just buy her something to buy her something. The best gifts are always the ones that are really thoughtful. Ask her. She’d far rather have something you put time, effort and thoughtfulness into than something you simply purchased.
Recently, a friend of ours made his wife a special “I Love You” box for when she was having a bad day. On 100 square cards, he wrote out reasons his wife was special and why he loved her so on bad days, she could reach in and read something to cheer her up. He will never give her anything more special than that.
Another guy we know stretched Valentine’s Day into a two-week event by making his girl friend 14 gift bags. Each one (the basic .99 paper gift bags in different colors) held something special for her (her favorite candy, a book, a bottle of wine, lingerie, a fun game, tickets to concert, a gift card for a massage, etc.) and a card with a sweet message. She opened the first bag on Feb. 14 and then opened one a day for the next two weeks.
You’ve probably seen “Lover’s Coupon Books” in novelty stores, but don’t underestimate the reaction you’ll get when you make your own, customized to all the things she likes: her movies, her restaurants, her clubs, her wine. Wash her car, rub her feet, give her a massage, take her on a weekend getaway. Even if she never actually cashes in one of the coupons, the thought and effort that goes into the gift is what will mean the world to her.
Start thinking, start planning and have a very Happy Valentine’s Day!