February 21, 2024

Are new year’s resolutions dead?

Our Marketing Director’s plea to brands to help us ditch new year’s resolutions once and for all



Just over one month in, Marketing Director, Bec Peel, questions the effectiveness of new year’s resolutions and asks how brands can help us all to form healthier habits instead

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Thank goodness. It’s over.

The time of new year’s resolutions and abstinence, done and dusted. But then so were my ‘resolutions’ by the second week of January. 

And it seems I'm not alone – ‘Quitter’s Day’, the second Friday in January, is apparently a thing in the US, when around 80% of Americans have also abandoned their resolutions.

But if more than two thirds of the population are making resolutions in the first place, why are we all finding it so hard to stick to them? Surely we can’t all be lacking the motivation or willpower it takes to succeed?

‘Quitter’s Day’ – apparently a thing in America – falls on the second Friday in January

The origins of resolutions

Setting new year’s resolutions isn’t a new thing. In fact, it can be traced back to the ancient Babylonians some 4,000 years ago. According to the History Channel

“During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king.

“They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favour on them for the coming year.

“If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favour – a place no one wanted to be.”

More recently, it has become the norm, fuelled by marketing campaigns that get bigger every year – anyone sign up to Veganuary or Dry January?

Each year, food and drink brands entice us with the latest product that’s going to change our lives, and fitness brands and gyms promote reduced memberships. Everything looks rosy.

Learning something new is the most popular resolution for the third year in a row

What’s our true driving force?

But for me, this is the root of the problem.

In the past, we’ve either made promises to ourselves to lose weight, stop drinking, eat more plant based or exercise more because brands are lining up to help us achieve our goal.

But often we’ve made these promises because it’s easy; it’s expected, or we feel pressured into making them.

We haven’t taken the time to identify why we want to do these things, what’s driving our motivation to do them and what’s actually going to make a difference to our future, or make us happier in the long run. 

However, things are starting to change. Brandwatch consumer research illustrates some key findings:

– Learning something new is the most popular resolution for the third year in a row

– Travel is up to third most popular, from ninth

– Saving money is up to fourth, from tenth

– Mentions of losing weight is down -12.6%

Our resolutions are increasingly becoming more about our mental health, future happiness and enriching our lives, rather than about conforming to society norms.

So what are the opportunities for health and wellness brands to help us with these new types of goals?

New Year's resolutions centred around losing weight are down -12.6%

01. Understand their specific role in mental wellness  

I recently read about how goal setting can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety rather than being the motivators in our lives – because goals usually focus on a specific outcome, and if that doesn’t happen we feel we’ve failed. 

Yet the idea of a value-driven life, encourages us to focus on “process, experience and inherent growth… values don’t require us to ‘achieve’ them ― we embody them.”

The traditional resolutions come from a place of deprivation, but increasingly we’re learning to embrace who we truly are. We’re scrutinising our own values, looking for ways to authentically live them consistently and then hunting out brands that can help us do that.

02. Demonstrate ways to form healthy, sustainable habits

Taking this idea further, if we focus on the process and personal growth, it becomes about forming healthy, sustainable habits.

Brands should avoid January quick fixes and instead look at how they can deliver encouragement and positivity so that we feel confident in our ability to become our best future selves.

03. Show us their fun side

Emotional engagement has consistently been shown to be the key to brand success, and  particularly at every stage of The Creative Effectiveness Ladder by James Hurman and Peter Field.

Perhaps the most obvious example is John Lewis’ ownership of the Christmas tearjerker to ensure it became an ‘enduring icon’. 

More recently, the global pandemic saw the majority of brands change tack to take a more serious tone, focusing on safety, belonging and community.

But surely now we’re ready for a bit more fun and playfulness?

Some brands have already spotted the opportunity. Facing the ever-more popular ‘Dry January’, this year, Hendrick’s Gin has decided to reinvent itself as a gym for the month.

Indeed, the Brandwatch study also highlights the rise of ‘silly resolutions’, where people refuse to take themselves too seriously:

– “Eat as many different pasta shapes as I can” 

– “High five someone every weekend”

– “Send the weirdest postcards I can find”

Perhaps the opportunity for brands here is to embrace their fun side to connect with people based on genuine human insight.

So, as a final plea to brands, help us to be better. Help us ditch the torturous cycle of resolutions. Help us to embrace our true selves, to be proud of who we are and empower us to face our future with confidence. 

If you'd like to learn more and speak to a member of our team, email


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