The basis of innovation is about making a connection that didn’t exist before. But what about innovating within a tradition? The real history of Valentine’s Day isn’t completely clear, but the underlying theme is one of love, fertility, and marriage. Like all holidays, Valentine’s Day, once it became a tradition, has changed very little.
Traditions and rituals bind us to others, whether it’s a significant other, a family, a community, or society as a whole. They make us feel comfortable and secure, and take us back to a time in our memory when life was good. Traditions make us feel like we are a part of something bigger.
So, since innovation is about change, how do you change something that has been ingrained in our psyche?
Take Valentine’s Day. You can’t completely change a holiday. That would be too jarring. But you can change one or two variables and still keep the holiday tradition intact. The trick is to keep most of it anchored in something familiar.
Exchanging Valentine cards in the U.S. probably started in the 1700’s, but the first mass produced ones came out in the 1840’s.
The first chocolates to be given in a heart-shaped box came from Richard Cadbury, who decorated them himself. The innovative Cadbury company was also the first to sell edible chocolate. Before that it had always been served as a drink.
The custom of sending flowers started in the 1800’s. It was a way of communicating non verbally. Since each flower had a specific meaning, you could have a whole conversation using just flowers.
Cards, candy and flowers have been a Valentine’s Day tradition for many years. But other items are starting to become associated with the holiday.
Here are 3 examples of companies that innovated within a traditional holiday:
- Shari’s Berries – Shari Fitzpatrick, founder of Shari’s Berries, decided to combine her love of strawberries with chocolate. But she didn’t set out to become known as “The Strawberry Lady.” It happened through serendipity. She started out giving dipped strawberry gifts to friends and co-workers. But they became so popular, she thought she might be able to actually turn her passion into a business. Now chocolate covered strawberries are making their place among regular chocolate as a Valentine’s Day favorite.
- Teddy Bears – John Sortino put the giving of teddy bears for Valentine’s Day on the map. His first bears were sold mostly to friends, then he started selling them from a kiosk at an open air market. After a tourist mentioned that they wanted him to ship a bear, he got the idea to sell them online, and they were soon sold during Valentine’s Day as an alternative to candy and flowers.
- Pajamagram – What do pajamas have to do with Valentine’s Day, you ask? Well, women like them. Pajamagram is the sister company of Vermont Teddy Bear, so they seem to have a knack for knowing what women want.
If you’re going to come up with an innovation for a holiday tradition, make sure you keep the integrity of the tradition, while coming up with something new.