Valentines’ day is one of the most “commercially successful” holidays in Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. According to Wikipedia, this holiday was first introduced in Japan in 1936 when a company ran an advertisement aimed at foreigners.
Later in 1953, it began promoting the giving of heart-shaped chocolates; other Japanese confectionery companies followed suit thereafter. In 1958, the Isetan department store ran a “Valentine sale”. Further campaigns during the 1960s popularized the custom. The custom that only women give chocolates to men may have originated from the translation error of a chocolate-company executive during the initial campaigns. In particular, office ladies give chocolate to their co-workers. Unlike western countries, gifts such as greeting cards, candies, flowers, or dinner dates are uncommon, and most of the activity about the gifts is about giving the right amount of chocolate to each person. Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of the year.
Nowadays, many female students around me complain expensive, poor-quality chocolates. However, some want to take this opportunity to express their feelings to others. Few are brave enough to make their own chocolates. Certainly, very few succeed in creating “the only” chocolate for their boyfriends, colleagues, or significant others. Recently, I met a clever solution at a Japanese department store: a do-it-yourself kit for chocolate. This is probably the best solution for those who do not want to waste money on buying ready-made chocolates but want to voluntarily invest an adequate amount of effort to create only one.
In one of my favorite research paper titled as “Why Consumers Enjoy Constrained Creative Experiences,” Darren Dahl and Page Moreau nicely articulated why DIY kits work.
We used a combination of qualitative research and CET to understand why consumers participate in creative activities and the conditions under which they enjoy these experiences… Respondents consistently noted a motivation for personal accomplishment, which was achieved by satisfying the needs of both autonomy and competence… Importantly, this study also provides insight into the influence of external constraints (e.g., target outcomes, instructions) on consumers’ creative experiences. Indeed, the pros and cons of these creative products (e.g., kits, models, patterns, recipes) highlight the tension between consumers’ desire for instructional guidance and their need for individualism. Hobbyists value the feeling of competence that creative products provide, and they create their own strategies to overcome the constraints that such products impose on both the creative process and the outcome. (Dahl and Moreau 2007, pg. 367)
Who knows? We may see a lot of chocolate-only chefs in the near future who do not follow given instructions but use their own ingredients to develop new chocolates. 🙂