The rise of the micro-resolution: New Year fitness and wellbeing marketing trends

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Getting fit throughout the year. / Geert Pieters via Unsplash

In the midst of pre-Christmas intensity it is easy to forget that January is also just a few short weeks away; bringing with it the opportunity for health and wellness brands to take centre stage.

Far from having to scramble to get a “New Year, New You” message out for January 1 though, our research has shown that, while there is a significant wellness drive from consumers immediately following the gluttony of Christmas, in actual fact the majority of people resolve to improve their health over 12 times a year.

While January is an established moment in the health calendar, only a quarter of people buy into big seasonal resolutions, meaning that brands could create better stand out and be more relevant if they delayed their messaging and had more holistic health conversations.

New Year, new fear

This year an estimated 14.5m (29%) adults will make a resolution to lose weight and around 9.5m (19%) will resolve to improve their fitness. However, recent research highlighted that the majority of New Year’s resolutions are ditched before the end of January, which is perhaps why conversations around resolutions are so overwhelmingly doubtful.

When taking a wider look at health and fitness goals, it is clear that the New Year period is more of a spike in a bigger trend towards wellbeing than the overwhelming key moment it has always been treated as.

Google searches reveal that topics like ‘healthy eating’, for example, sees high volumes year round and specific trends in dieting, e.g. clean eating and sugar free do not experience a peak on Jan 1.

The rise of the ‘Micro Resolution’

These patterns mirror a shift in consumer habits from a big moment of reinvention to year round, realistic micro goals.

Speaking to 100 consumers on the topic of making changes to their health and fitness, a vast 60% claim to be making positive changes to their diet at least every month, and 47% were setting monthly new fitness goals. Rather than setting huge, annual goals, people are making manageable ongoing changes.

Campaigns, such as the government’s ‘Change for Life’ and, more recently, ‘Active 10’, champion this approach. Driven by the realisation that broad messages and big targets were not realistic for the average person to adopt, the campaigns instead focuses on small, daily or weekly habit changes. Change for Life saw impressive launch results, exceeding ‘sign up’ targets by 100%. (From a goal of 200,000 families, actual sign ups hit over 413,000).

Similarly, initiatives like ‘This Girl Can’ from Sport England allude to small, realistic changes, which build up to an overall improvement in personal fitness. A far cry from most sports brands, which celebrate peak athleticism, this encourages personal targets and an ongoing, realistic approach to health.

Small changes vs. huge reinvention

So, if New Year’s resolutions are no longer the aim, how and when do people make changes to their health and wellbeing? Our bespoke research has delved into the many and varied triggers that build towards making health an ongoing pursuit, and what that means for how and when brands should communicate.

Looking at the annual calendar, and setting aside new years, there are multiple, additional, seasonal triggers which are currently under-exploited by brands, including:

Post Easter: Overindulgence at Easter is an additional prompt for many people to change. This is swiftly followed by the start of British Summer Time, and a peak in summer holiday planning which focuses the mind on health for many people.

Summer: When clothes get lighter and fewer, there is a natural tendency to be more conscious of body shape, making ‘getting fit for the summer’ a message with significant relevance.

High profile sporting events: High profile events such as Wimbledon will see a push in participation of related sports. These predictable moments in the calendar also offer opportunities for brands to piggy back on increased interest.

September: The feeling of a new start in September is hardwired into the psyche of most people from their school days. Whether it is parents who see the end of the Summer holidays as an opportunity to refocus on their own goals, or just a reflection on the summer, September is a trigger for positive life changes. In fact, according to Google searches for “New Year’s Resolutions” begin in September as people look to the end of the year.

Christmas: Looking good for the festive season provides a key end of year trigger for making healthy changes. As retailers fill the shelves with party wear, again consumers become more focused on their outward signs of looking good appearance.

But, perhaps more important, are the many individual and often very personal incentives driving an interest in health and wellbeing. From birthdays to anniversaries, having children, going to weddings or taking on health challenges, conversation and interest in health is very much ongoing.

Time to move on from Resolutions?

Resolutions are as much part of the New Year conversation as champagne but, rather than jumping onto the bandwagon, brands could be of far more value if they thought in terms of a calendar of ‘resolution moments’ – ongoing points throughout the year where they sought to support personal health and fitness plans, ditching the rhetoric of “New Year, New You”.

Lucy Porter, head of planning, PrettyGreen

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