This post is by Rebecca Swift, Director of Creative Planning, iStock by Getty Images

Valentine's Day is a major pinnacle event in the UK retailing year, inspiring over £5.4bn in online spend from UK consumers last year (source: Fourth Source). Some £1 in 3 of this is spent online. With a vast amount of potential incremental spend available around this impending calendar date, a range of different businesses will be using this as an opportunity to market and secure a share of this spend. However, creating genuine standout around the event can be difficult, amid a sea of hearts, flowers and chocolates. With the annual celebration of love fast approaching, how can marketers tap into the latest visual trends to effectively to stand out and engage with passion-seeking consumers this February 14th?

Romantic love has the most visual clichés associated with it, often in the form of scenarios: proffering bunches of red roses, drinking champagne, sharing food, hugs and kisses, offering chocolate, a ring, or other jewellery. But more recently we have seen a subtle shift away from the homogeny of clichéd imagery and instead brands are tapping into a more real, evocative and moving way of telling their brand's story.

Modern love is all embracing and we are seeing consumers responding more readily to imagery that is different and intriguing. Anything communicating character and individuality, or conveying comfort, confidence, happiness and contentment – the emotions associated with relationships and commitment – will resonate with audiences looking for inspiration, and show an understanding of the shopper and the feelings they are hoping to celebrate with the gifting of flowers, a romantic meal or jewellery. We only have to look at jewellery designer, Tiffany & Co's take on the modern couple for its latest campaign. Using a series of couples who had just popped the question, we see the use of same sex couples and the portrayal of a diverse range of ethnicities.

Gaining standout is often achieved through daring to be different and adopting another take on the tried and tested Valentine's imagery. One such example is the recent campaign from which plays on sensual imagery from around Europe. The print ad includes images of seductive and suggestive sculpture, food and landmarks from around the continent. In using imagery to convey the unexpected gems of European travel, the brand clearly demarcates itself from competitors and builds excitement in the target consumer.

The "Connection" that Valentine's Day imagery often aims to re-create with human love, can even be extended to animals, their connection with each other and with humans. Humans' anthropomorphise animal behaviour and when we see animals snuggling each other or touching noses, we transfer our own feelings about those actions. This concept can also be applied to inanimate objects as can be shown with the ad campaign and also in IKEA's imagery that shows two chairs in a suggestive position.

For brands that still want to use traditional imagery of love such as hearts and flowers, they can approach visuals from a different angle. For example, use different materials, textures and shapes, or move away from the overused red and pink colours associated with the day. Or more simply, try to use people in winter rather than summer to give the visual a different tone and feel to set the brand apart.

Wherever brands choose to take inspiration from, thinking differently about imagery and applying design trends, brands can stand out from the crowd. Modern love in all its shapes and forms can be adapted into imagery to tell the brand's story in a more unique way and secure the brand that all important market share at one of the most competitive times of year.