“Make Your Registration Count! Weight, VO Max, and Body Fat Monitoring available to all new January members! You will definitely still be here in February! You won’t just let the membership fee recur for six more months while you try to find the motivation to use it!”
“Resolutions Made Easy – Literally! We’ll send you a box with rich, nutrient-dense foods every day! Blend it, drink it and watch your body transform! Your mouth will not want cupcakes anymore. Pineapple and chia seeds are the same thing but better!”
“Talk to Your Doctor About WellChant! Make 2019 the last year you smoked! It is definitely that easy and won’t affect your work and personal life in the meantime at all, and even if it does, that’s totally fine!”
“Bins 30% Off! Shelving 40% Off! Organize Your Garage and Park 2019 Behind You! You will definitely not stack the bins on the shelving in the middle of the junk in the garage making it more impossible that a car will ever be parked in there.”
“Planners! PLANNERS! You WILL write everything down this year! Of course you will.”
January is the season of one of the most prolific and most false advertising narratives of them all: The New Year’s Resolution. From every direction, brands bombard us with instructions on how to improve ourselves and our lives with their products. The obvious ones are gyms, healthcare practices, pharmaceutical companies, fitness equipment companies, housewares, food services, but almost every brand is involved. Travel bucket lists must be ticked, carbon footprints must be reduced, workout playlists must be updated, cars must be brand-new, holes in literally anything must be patched – even if your business is just cupcakes, your slogan is probably “You Earned This Cheat Day” throughout the month of January.
It’s unreal. You cannot walk into a restaurant or retail establishment without seeing SOME display, SOME menu announcement pertaining to the “New Year, New You” theme. You can’t scroll through a social media feed without 50 stick figures selling you their paywalled home workouts. You would think it would be white noise at this point, year after year with this same cacophony of cheerleaders and cynics pushing us to change/start over/purposely fail.
And we just. Keep. Falling for it.
Why? What is so ingrained in ourselves and our culture that makes audiences want to believe that THIS year will be different? Why do gyms fill up like clockwork in January, only for the floor density to fizzle out by March? Why are there still smokers? Obesity? Full garages? Empty day planners? If we have these handy New Year’s Resolutions and an annual blank slate just waiting to be filled with all the habits we think they SHOULD be filled with, what is stopping us?
The answer to that is simple: life, the universe and everything.
That’s not to say we cannot reach our #goals. The adage “people don’t change” and its cliché cousins “leopards/zebras don’t change their spots/stripes” are untrue, too. People DO quit smoking, they DO lose weight, they DO become happier, make more friends, travel more, worry less, and employ the use of closet organizers when they never had before. And they WANT to do that, hence the repeatedly successful New You advertising blitz.
The problem isn’t that we don’t want to change, it’s that we want it to be easy. So for brands just looking for that spike in sales during January, they will literally mirror what their audiences do: make big promises, build momentum, fizzle out by mid-February. But for those that want to glean some lasting insight that could lead to a long game of mutual brand/audience improvement and continued relationships? Well, read on.
Now that it is February, there are two ways we should examine the “New Year, New You” phenomenon to understand why it works and where it falls short:
1. Why is this narrative effective? What does it say that we need that blank slate, that reason to get us off our rears and make changes happen? What is it about “new” that motivates us to improve? How could we replicate that feeling for audiences in, say, May, to keep new members coming into the gyms all through the year?
2. What really motivates people to make real and sustained changes in their lives? And is it even motivation? Is it strategies they can employ around their habits? Is it a deeper look into themselves? How can brands dig deeper to become part of that change and build a lasting relationship with audiences?
Over the next month, MODIV will explore these two questions in our After the Resolution series. We will pick apart why we think resolutions ultimately fail and consider how they could succeed. We will discuss human psychology surrounding what motivates us and what kneecaps us two steps from the starting gate. And we will help you understand how to apply this information to reach audiences who want to reach their goals in a sustainable and meaningful way.