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New Year's -- Our Greatest Personal Marketing Feat (Revisited.)

I originally wrote this as a blog entry a few years ago, and I thought it might be interesting to update it for 2012.


A snowstorm of white vows. I once read that phrase describing how most people begin the New Year. For some reason, we’ve come to accept New Year’s as new beginnings; more so than our own birthdays, anniversaries, or any other more personally signficant date.

What is it about the New Year that makes us stay up till 5AM, kiss strangers on the mouth, drink like alcoholic fish, make tons and tons of resolutions, and feel like we hve a new lease on life? A survey conducted by the Reader’s Digest in 2001 showed that 73% of American’s felt most “hopeful” on January 1. The same survey also showed that nothing significant ever happened in December to truly warrant that hope.

This is all, of course, rhetorical. We humans live for signs. Faith in symbolism is prevelant in even the least conforming of us. And “January 1” is about as large as a symbol or sign that one can put up anywhere—it is universal in its forgiveness, and unfailing in its approach. So much so that I know a gentleman in New York named Ken Walker who trademarked the date 01-01-00, and sued anyone who used it in the context of the millenium for royalties. Even hope, therefore, is marketable.

82% of Americans have some form of a “New Year’s resolutions” list. In their heads, on a napkin, in their diaries, on their hands, or in their hearts. Less than 2% of them will see all the resolutions through. Why? Life happens. Interestingly, though, it is us, as marketers, who cause most of the resolution drop-offs. That’s because the majority of resolutions Americans make have to do with restricting consumption of something (or someone.)

“I will stop smoking by March.”

“I will lose 30 pounds this year.”

“I will spend less on Internet porn.”

“I will pay off my credit cards.”

“I will stop making up with my deadbeat ex-boyfriend. “

I will… I will…

And then along comes temptation in the form of a credit plan with no monthly payments for eighteen months; in the guise of a buxom virtual blonde with “click me” streaked across her airbrushed torso; in the sweetness of fat-free yogurt (which, impossibly convinces most eaters that they will gain no fat by consuming it); and in the sight of two dozen roses on your doorstep from a man who fucked someone else just last week.

I’ve always maintained that marketers are born. That’s not because I believe there’s a specific, innate talent that some of us emerge without. It’s because we’ve been marketing to each other and ourselves all our lives. Every half-truth, every justification, every lie, and every blind eye we turn is part of our personal marketing plan. And New Years, my friend—note the capitalization—are our biggest personal campaigns yet.

Still, there is something romantic about the notion of creating resolutions that will probably never be carried out in their entirety. It feels good. It feels like you’re in the driver’s seat. It’s empowering. New Year’s bring about a sense of security and forgiveness. Not that you’ve forgiven anyone. It’s more like you tend to feel like you can contact that friend again, with whom you’ve had this horrible tiff, because she’s forgotten what a jerk you were last year. Or a perfect time to send one of those “sorry I dissappeared with your money” emails. This is us marketing to ourselves. We’re experts at it because, face it, no knows this customer better than we do.

 And so this year, I’ll make some resolutions of my own. I’ll lull myself into a mad dash of optimism about all mistakes being forgiven, and that anything is possible this year. So, in 2012, I resolve to:

  1. Lose 45 pounds, and get a six-pack.
  2. Take two vacations.
  3. Apologise to and make up with an old friend.

That feels good. That feels right. That feels like part of the battle is won. It feels “new”. So this year, here’s hoping that life is a panoply of pleasant surprises for you, me, and all the others we know and care for.

Dare I say it? Why not? I am, after all, feeling optimistic.

Happy New Year.

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