How brands are making the JanUary ‘blUes’ more about ‘u’…what we’ve been reading this week at Brand Genetics

There is no question that January is a dark month for us all… Dreary weather, limited daylight, a bank account ravaged by festive hedonism, and overambitious resolutions crumbling faster than they can be scribbled down. It is little wonder people turn to 30 days of sobriety and veganism in an attempt to give themselves something to aim for, and ultimately something to look forward to.

Despite this post-Christmas gloom, the credibility of the 3rd Monday in January being brandished ‘the most depressing day of the year’ feels questionable at best. Especially with Euro 2020 just around the corner!

At Brand Genetics, however, understanding the consumer is in our DNA. As such, we have been asking ourselves whether ‘Blue Monday’ is indeed the psychological trough we’ve been led to believe — and if so, how brands should look to approach this.

Why so blue?

A term coined by psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall in 2005, ‘Blue Monday’ was used first by a marketing agency partnering with Sky Travel. With ‘the January blues’ already recognised as ‘a thing’, the campaign attempted to encourage people, where possible, to take a positive outlook on the time of year as an opportunity for new beginnings and change.

However, people soon saw through this, acknowledging it as nothing more than an attempt to boost holiday sales at a time when people are looking to cut back on needless spending. Furthermore, the ‘science’ behind it was considered a mathematically nonsensical formula and was discredited almost as soon as it was announced.

Despite this, and the derisive opinion of mental health charities, brands continue to use this annual landmark as an RTB for their products and promotional activations.

But rather than dispelling the notion of ‘Blue Monday’ entirely, we felt it important to assess which companies have been using this annual low point as a means of reconnecting with their consumer and helping people concentrate on ‘u’ rather than the blue.

Liverpool ONE — Blue Monday NIL

Grosvenor-owned retail complex, Liverpool ONE, have once again sought to provide joy for those navigating the dark and gloomy January days.

As part of its plan to inject cheer to the city, the staff left hundreds of bunches of brightly coloured flowers across John Street, Peter’s Lane and Paradise Street for lucky commuters to pick up on their way to work. The blooms were packaged into pairs, encouraging people to keep a bouquet for themselves and pass the other onto a friend, colleague or even a stranger to share the joy.

Stepping up their efforts to bring a smile to visitors’ faces, Liverpool ONE also offered a series of one-off gifts, free pampering sessions and complimentary treats. These enterprises show the real value of brick and mortar retail in leveraging human to human connection to spread positivity, in a way that online retail can only dream of.

Sometimes all u need is a hug

Confused.com ran an online campaign designed to encourage people to share hugs to boost “happiness and warmth”. It claimed that 87% of Brits say a hug would increase their mood, and thus the Cardiff-based firm decided to share an infographic showing us all how to ‘cwtch’.

The online comparison website is not alone in their bid to spread the love. Pret A Manger encouraged us to “Make Someone Smile” in 2016, while, in 2017, greeting card business Moonpig and mental health charity Mind launched a pop-up garden and a wishing well post box on the South Bank, urging passers-by to send a card for free to a friend or loved one suffering with a mental health problem.

u CAN do it?

Our favourite (see photo if you don’t believe me) came from the team at TENZING. On the ‘gloomiest day of the year’, the soft drinks start-up decided to drop free cases of their product to offices across London to make the day blue, but in a different way — ‘a more energising, uplifting, TENZING blue kind of way’.

While a number of fast food chains and Highstreet retailers offered discounts and deals, TENZING decided instead to give the gift of natural energy to help their consumers ‘crush’ their day.

As people look to remain on the straight and narrow and become increasingly aware of corporate wellness, products providing natural functional benefits in the workplace are always likely to be a hit amongst consumers.

And giving them away for free? In January? You’re onto a winner!

HX Learnings

With wellness now a crucial factor in our everyday lives, there is a far greater understanding that happiness should no longer be seen as a separate entity, but rather part of the overall notion of ‘health’.

As such, brands that promote positivity, a sense of togetherness, and are willing to talk openly about the struggles faced by their consumers (especially in dark times) have real appeal in today’s climate.

With this in mind, we would encourage brands to tell the stories that matter, rather than taking centre stage themselves. Shine a light on the issue you feel compelled to take action on and do it in an authentic way that allows consumers to join you on the journey.

Simon Hall is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an insight and innovation agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With a background in reinventing big businesses at pace, he has experience in creative problem solving, thought leadership and reframing human insight and has worked in strategy, leadership and change across business sectors

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics www.brandgenetics.com

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