Enc-Roaching on Your Love

Say it with flowers. Diamonds are forever. Life is like a box of chocolates. Two of those are quips you’ll likely hear around Valentine’s Day, trying to get you to buy something for your better half. The last one is from Forrest Gump, but a box of chocolates is a pretty good Valentine’s Day gift too, and, truth be told, I couldn’t come up with an ad line which markets chocolate for the one you love. There’s probably a reason for that — chocolate always seems like a good idea and probably doesn’t need a lot of marketing support, but diamonds are expensive and useless while flowers, well, they’re relatively inexpensive but they don’t last. Which, in a roundabout way, gets me to the point: if you’re looking for an inexpensive, long-lasting Valentine’s gift — and chocolate is either too caloric or too ephemeral — here’s a solution:


Really! Just ask the the Bronx Zoo.

In 2011, the New York City institution came up with a very creative, very gross marketing idea — one which needs a marketing plan because it really, really doesn’t sell itself. For the low, low price of $10, you get to name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after your loved one. The promotion — called “Sealed with a Hiss” — doesn’t result in you suddenly having a cockroach shipped to your home (that’s probably a good thing) — the roach stays with his or her 50,000 or so friends in the Zoo’s cockroach collection. Instead, you get a certificate of honor emailed to you, celebrating the naming of your roach.

Sound ridiculous? It is, but it’s real, and it’s intentionally tied to Valentine’s Day. The Zoo’s pitch for your $10 asks “what has six legs, a surprisingly high tolerance for radiation, and is bound to crawl into your loved one’s heart?” The middle part is the key one — flowers can’t survive a nuclear disaster nearly as well as a cockroach can. That, as Zoo spokesperson John Calvelli told a local New York radio station (via CBS New York), gives us “a sense [that] cockroaches can live through anything, so they are, in a sense, eternal. And that’s how love should be — eternal.”

Okay, maybe the Zoo is overselling a bit — a cockroach’s average lifespan is only two to five years (in the wild), according to National Geographic — but the money goes to a good cause. The Zoo is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an organization which, in its own words, “has the clear mission to save wildlife and wild places across the globe.” Including Madagascar hissing cockroach, apparently.

On the other hand, unless you have a very tolerate partner, engaging in this promotion may put your relationship on the endangered list.

Bonus Fact: People (outside of creative yet icky fundraising schemes) don’t like cockroaches, and when we unfortunately come into contact with one, we often wash up afterward. But guess what? According to the National Wildlife Foundation, the same is true for the cockroaches: they don’t like us either and “have even been known to wash themselves after being touched by people.”

From the ArchivesCupid’s Mailbox: Where to send your Valentine’s to make them extra-special.

Related: A dozen very realistic-looking fake cockroaches. Under $2, and you can name them for free.