Strategy Director Andrew Hovells, of PHD in Manchester, tells us why understanding the power of real – not self-imposed – personal deadlines may be a better way for brands to connect with consumers trying to kick bad habits and outdated routines.
On New Year’s day, I resolved to use my iPhone a lot less. Yet, despite my best efforts I was back to checking emails in bed within a few weeks. However, most of my friends – and over 3.1 million people across the UK* – opted to participate in Dry January this year as a way to start fresh and inspire positive change in their lives. The problem is, whilst many of us resolve to break our bad habits by tapping into an inner well of self-control, these resolutions rarely last more than a few weeks.
Brands have long recognised that January is a great time to build relationships with customers. Driven by the desire to break out of old routines and develop new habits, audiences become more receptive to trying new products and services. Yet, this is only one of many opportunities throughout the year to tap into key moments of change that drive consideration.
‘Moments of change’ are short lived, but they’re commercially powerful
The need for change and personal growth is hardwired into our DNA. With so much going on in our complex brains, we rely on routine and shortcuts to get us through our day-to-day lives. However, this also limits the opportunities available to overcome our deeply ingrained habits.
Milestones – like the changing of a year – key transitions, and cultural pressure points give us permission to embrace change, creating moments when we’re open and motivated to develop new habits. This is why New Year’s is so powerful. As a key ‘moment of change’, it’s a great opportunity to recruit new customers who are driven by an innate desire for renewal and openness to trying new things.
This is the perfect time for brands to imbed into the hearts and minds of their audience. By creating associations with what people are trying to change, brand messages can be burned into the brain’s memory pathways long after our resolve has worn away. This is why the home improvement, furniture and financial services brands do so well at the beginning of the year – they go beyond traditional sales cycles to connect with the driving need of consumers to experience change and renewal.
‘Moments of change’ aren’t just for New Year
If you missed out on connecting with audiences in January, or had campaigns that didn’t perform as well as you’d hoped, fear not! There are other opportunities to reach change-focused customers throughout the year.
As the anticipation for Spring and Summer build, March yields another huge opportunity to connect with health and fitness moments. In fact, people are more likely to stick to their resolutions as the reality of a planned holiday begins to sink in. Additionally, with the looming tradition of the Spring Clean, our drive for change and renewal becomes increasingly home-oriented and the anticipation of Summer BBQs leads to thoughts about our gardens.
As temperatures rise in May, Summer resolutions begin to hot up again, with #fitness becoming the number one hashtag. Home improvement renewal kicks up another gear as the reality of having people around for Summer events becomes more pressing. Also, many of us reconnect with our January resolutions this month by vowing to get out more, be active and try new outdoor hobbies.
For brands, understanding additional moments of change throughout the year is useful. Firstly, it offers another bite of the ‘change cherry’ as Winter fades and Summer builds, but more importantly, sales opportunities increase significantly as audiences are faced with real deadlines. Unlike January, beach bodies, having people over and a limited window to enjoy the outdoors become looming realities. Though it’s human nature to procrastinate, nothing drives action like an actual deadline.
Which brings us back to Dry January
Like my ill-fated attempt to spend less time with my iPhone, Dry January and other New Year’s resolutions may well be the first of many opportunities to tap into our desire for renewal, even though it usually doesn’t create lasting change.
Though resolutions may well put us on path to sobriety, or realising a better version of ourselves, it turns out that reconnecting during moments of change with real deadlines might be the best way for brands to help us finally kick those bad habits and outdated routines.
Andrew Hovells is Director of Strategy for PHD in Manchester. He can be found on Twitter @AndrewH.
*YouGov/Alcohol Concern, Nov 2017.