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Romance in the Business

November 24, 2009

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I guess that makes this Valentine’s Day Eve. Perhaps an appropriate time to comment on the business in romance and romance in the business.

As usual, the boss is always the last to know what’s going on. I attended the wedding of John the printer and Jan the sales secretary several years ago, but I hadn’t observed the courtship that took place outside my office during the previous nine months.

Those old enough to have witnessed first hand the commercial beginnings of Sweetest Day, might well be suspect as to origins of Valentine’s Day. While it is an obvious boon to their business, Valentine’s Day is more than a conspiracy conjured up by florists, candy bakers, and greeting card makers.

There are three different historical versions for the beginnings of the Valentine’s day tradition. The Romans celebrated a festival of Lupercalia on February 15th. Because of the date and the festival’s connection with fertility, the origins of Valentine’s Day is often linked to these early festivals.

Old English lore held that birds picked their mates on February 14th and humans picked up where the birds left off. In those days, the Julian calendar had February 14th located in the warmer months than today’s Gregorian calendar. A more hospitable season for mating.

The early Christian church had two saints named Valentine. One of the Valentines, contrary to the command of Emperor Cladius II who wished to keep his young soldiers single, secretly married young couples. The other Saint Valentine, after he was imprisoned by the Romans, received loving notes through the bars of his cell from the children that he had befriended.

Legend has it that one of the Valentines was executed on February 14th. Some two hundred and fifty years later, around the year 300, Pope Gelasius named February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day, as we know it, probably is the product of all three legends.

While not started for commercial purposes, traditions developed and commercialism followed. A welcome boost for post holiday sales.

While it is assumed that in the current decade women have begun to play a significant role in business, it was a women, Esther A. Howland, who is credited with being the first manufacturer of valentines in the United States. Using the labor of other women, she developed an assembly line for the production of artistic cards and built a thriving enterprise.

The truth be told. The card makers of the world didn’t make Valentine’s Day, they were just entrepreneurial to take advantage of it. I’m sure that Valentine’s Day has made many a card maker.

With an increasingly sexually integrated work force, romance in the work place is a frequent, and frequently discussed topic. A quick reading of the covers of several popular magazines for young professional women will erase any doubts. From job hunting tips, “find jobs where the good men are”, to more practical on the job advice, “how to handle dating at work”, the office romance is a topic of the 80’s.

As symptomatic of litigious society, when “courting” is going on at the office, it won’t be long before someone gets dragged into court. In the old days it was divorce court, today it’s courts of a different sort.

The personal relationship of two upper level managers of a major company was recently the subject of ligation when the relationship broke up. In this case the relationship that broke up was between the company and one of the employees, not the personal one. When one half of the couple left to join a competing firm, the company, citing conflict of interest, ordered the remaining half of the couple to terminate the relationship or resign! In a February 14th judgment, the court decided in favor of the multi-company couple and ordered the company to pay damages for invasion of privacy.

Another recent court decision elicited a loud sigh of corporate relief. A woman, whose husband divorced her to marry a co-worker, sued the corporation for permitting the affair to take place. Again, in what was reported to be another a Valentine’s Day decision, the court ruled for romance, the second one that is.

The lessons to be learned on this Valentine’s Day are obvious. It is an effective, long term marketing strategy to develop an emotional association between your product and a special “day”. As you stare at your unsold inventory tomorrow morning, just think of all the little candy hearts that are being bought today. Remember what Thanksgiving Day has done for the turkey growers (don’t think about what it has meant to the turkeys). And don’t forget that Sweetest Day hasn’t been around that long.

On this Valentine’s Day there is a lot of business being done in romance. As to romance in your business, the courts have spoken, that’s a personal matter.

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