The origins of Blue Monday may well be a debunked theory and a PR industry creation - nonetheless, if done well, it is a conversation starter and an opportunity for brands to connect, engage and maybe even reinforce a customer relationship around the topic and its various extrapolations.
It is also a time for brands to miss the point of campaigns and even the basics of marketing and customer relationships completely.
The Origins of Blue Monday
Its creator, Dr Cliff Arnall - a self-styled freelance ‘Happiness Guru’, devised the anti-celebration of doom and gloom as a ‘thing’ for the third Monday in January on behalf of Sky Travel in 2005.
He delivered (or at least put his name to) an equation taking in factors such as seasonal weather, debt and work/life balance. Curiously, he also devised the happiest day of the year as a ‘thing’ for Wall’s. As a vehicle to sell more holidays at that calendared consumer sweet spot – when escapism is the only answer – the device was set and the conversation, disputes and brand hijacking were set free.
Cliff Arnall has since admitted
that it is meaningless:
"This claim is incorrect. It is unscientific. It is pseudoscientific. It is uber-pseudoscientific,"
This 2013 admission came in the face of many a takedown of the validity of the equation. The reality, that Blue Monday fast became a self-fulfilling prophecy as a focus on negativity, came into sharp focus. Should you wish to go deep on the shallow equation, explore Ben Goldacre on the pseudoscience
of it all and Dr Dean Burnett on the professional credentials
of Dr Cliff.
His credentials and grasp of algebra aside, Blue Monday is now locked into the calendar as sure as Christmas is Christmas and wholly owned by the 25th day of December, Blue Monday is a hook on which content, social and experiential activity hangs its hat.
Brands and Blue Monday
Brands and Blue Monday have been a 'thing' ever since that Sky Travel campaign. It is sort of like April Fools’ Day but without the whimsy of a Midday deadline to get your japes or social buzz complete.
Last year saw Ferrari try to own a different conversation by turning it to red. This year EasyJet
made your Blue Monday orange.
Last year NME made a contextually relevant content play with a wonderful Emo themed playlist for those that like to dwell on such things as feelings. Confused.com gave out hugs in 2015 because "87% of Britons have said a hug would make them feel happier
This Blue Monday, Valliant – of boilers fame – installed a smile-activated vending machine to vend free coffee "for those at least pretending to be happy," states Campaign Live
. Last year Pizza Express gave out free dough balls. This year they implored you to be happy and ask that you eat pizza (Not free):
Boden have followed up on last year's #BloomMonday with #HueMonday
, for those of you colour blocking this season, Darling.
The prize for Most-Specific-Prize-Going-In-A-Blue-Monday-Giveaway-Which-Begins-Promotion-On-Twitter-Only-For-You-To-Need-To-Take-A-Customer-Journey-Hop-Over-To-Instagram-Or-Facebook-And-All-To-Be-In-With-A-Chance-Of-Winning-One-Of-120-Bath-Outer-Zone-Tickets-Via-An-Unconvincing-Hashtag-Front-Loaded-With-Brand-Mention (#FirstBrightMonday
) belongs to FirstBus Bristol Bath.
Beyond the brands? If art warms your heart, a gallery in the Lake District put on a Blue Monday exhibition with "only bright and sunny paintings" and offices did their bit to turn that frown upside down. Full disclosure, we had some delicious snacks as an endorphin releasing surprise from our Joint MDs
Blue Monday has also been seized upon as an opportunity to discuss important mental health issues in the mainstream media but not without its cynics and detractors.
Blue Monday: Make it count
As we have established – Blue Monday was by a brand, for a brand and has since been developed and hijacked over the years. But does it really cut-through and add value to a customer relationship, or just create noise?
With Black Friday and Blue Monday, it is as if commercial tie-ins to calendar dates are a bruising experience and predominantly a one-way brand to consumer approach. How about if marketing turned it around and made it count for something?
"If marketing is going to make something up then make it worthwhile. Or charming in some way" said Ian Bates, Creative Director of Real Adventure.
Doing ‘me too’ activity could be detrimental to the brand. If the mechanics of the hashtag or its associated campaign are poorly executed you have a big dumb campaign that generates a bit of noise first thing in the morning but looks silly by 11am.
If anything, Blue Monday could fast become the poster boy or girl for poorly conceived campaigns where planning and data don’t even come into it – much like the original ‘scientific’ PR hook itself!
Let’s get smart with timely events and associate quality work with marketing hooks that matter or make a difference. Perhaps it could be a day where marketers combine to do something good for mental health charities (as long as it forms part of a campaign to keep it on the agenda beyond that one day). Or perhaps it could be a simple, clever and emotive hook that brightens up the end user’s day with child-like wonder, rather than trying to move the revenue needle on that day.