A New Year, A New You

Published on January 1, 2010

Advertisers Bank on Resolutions, Marketing Professor Kacen Says

Increased exercise as a resolution could benefit sporting goods and outdoor retailers.

Every January after the mad holiday rush, as the new year is ushered in, retailers, marketers and advertisers shift their focus from gift-giving ideas to messages tied to New Year’s resolutions.

According to a marketing expert from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business, retailers know that because many people begin the new year by making goals for themselves, they’ll be more receptive to promotional messages about fresh starts and self-improvement.

The reason for New Year’s related advertising messages appearing at the start of January is clear — that’s when consumers are most receptive, says clinical professor of marketing Jacqueline Kacen, whose research in consumer moods and behavior has been published in the Journal of Business Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology and other leading academic journals.

Resolutions generally fall into one of three categories, she added: diet and exercise (losing weight, eating healthier, walking 30 minutes a day); cleaning and organization (cleaning out closets, getting finances in order); and personal enhancement (learning a foreign language, taking an art class).

“If consumers stick to their goals, and the advertised brand, the marketer gains a segment of brand loyal customers,” Kacen said. “If, as happens in many cases, consumers abandon their resolutions by the end of January, at least the sales figures for the year got off to a good start!”

Examples of advertising linked to New Year’s resolutions are everywhere. Kacen points to the Nutrisystem for Men weight loss plan, which features commercials with sports figures Chris Berman, Dan Marino and Don Shula encouraging viewers to “get back in the game.” Another example, she says, is a Nicorette stop-smoking gum magazine ad that warns “2010 is going to suck. If you’re one of the millions of smokers who made quitting your New Year’s resolution, then you’re in for a tough start to 2010” — but Nicorette will make quitting suck less.

Advertisers also tie special promotions and offers to New Year’s resolutions, Kacen added. Coupons from Johnson & Johnson in the Sunday paper promote “the Great American Cabinet Cleanout” and encourage consumers to review health care supply cabinets and drawers, remove any items that are expired or no longer needed and replenish with quality health and wellness products — with $1 coupons for Johnson & Johnson to help with restocking. Sears also makes use of the holiday by advertising “a New Year and a New You!” with a $99.99 sale on two complete pairs of glasses, Kacen says.

“Even the produce stickers on bananas say ‘Lose Weight. See dolebananadiet.com,” she added.

The effectiveness of an advertiser’s message depends on two critical factors, Kacen says — saliency and persuasiveness. The fact that television commercials and print ads hyping New Year’s deals seem to be everywhere is no coincidence, she added.

“We can’t buy a product if we aren’t aware of it, so the advertiser must make sure we see the message, hence lots of repetition of the advertising message to the widest possible audience,” she said.

The ads also have to make the product or service seem distinct so that it stands out from other brands, Kacen says. “The marketplace is crowded with choices,” she added. “The ad should make us want that — and only that — particular brand. Special promotional pricing, celebrity endorsers and unique product benefits all help enhance a brand’s unique value in the minds of consumers and motivate brand choice.”

By Jessica Navarro