A plan to beat Blue Monday.

20/01/2020 is Blue Monday – this is the gloomy title assigned annually to the third Monday of January, also known as the most depressing day of the year.

For a while, claims circulated that a university professor discovered this recurrence to be the result of a complex mathematical formula that quantified factors such as gloomy days and cold weather (in the Northern and Western Hemispheres), plummeting motivational levels, and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills.

It soon transpired that the calculation was a PR stunt by holiday company Sky Travel, but there is still a certain amount of truth to the notion. The maths may not be sound, but with the glittering fairy lights that brightened up the wintry darkness long gone, and the return to the daily-grind in full swing, there is a general post-festivity comedown that can take a heavy toll on mental health.

In our 2019 edition of Map – Your Mind Matters – we explored different ideas around understanding and improving mental health, as well as the power and, some may argue, the responsibility that brands have to make lives better. One of the key themes that emerged was the importance of breaking the silence and eliminating the stigma around the topic, encouraging open, honest and supportive conversations among family, friends and colleagues.

Organisations operating in the mental health space have already started communicating on this: the Samaritans have their Brew Monday campaign, which encourages people to fight the blues by connecting over a warming cuppa. In a similar vein, earlier this month, Public Health England teamed up with the FA Cup to delay its third round of fixtures by one minute, showing a short clip that encouraged fans to focus on their mental health.

 

But how can other brands help to enable this dialogue at this challenging time of year? One way might be to support and slightly reframe some of the more popular New Year’s resolutions: Dry January and, more recently, Veganuary.

Both involve cutting out “sinful” or unhealthy ingredients and habits, as a way of taking better care of body and mind. However, this should not feel like a punishment and, more importantly, it should not come at the expense of one’s social life.

Over the last few years, we have seen many products emerge offering countless types of zero alcohol alternatives, adult soft drinks, and a wide variety of vegan options. There is an opportunity for the brands behind these products to design experiences that help us follow the same social rituals that bring people together and trigger conversations.

For example, the Impossible Burger (by Impossible Foods) is presented with vibrant, mouth-watering photography and language that comes across as anything but a deprivation. It looks, feels, sounds and ­– according to many – tastes as delightfully “junky” as the original. Greggs have taken a similar approach to the styling of the campaign for the launch of their Vegan Steak Bake, also borrowing from the world of tech and unboxing to create excitement and anticipation for the new product. In the drinks space, Highball Alcohol Free Cocktails position themselves as great tasting, healthy cocktails that stay true to the original flavour and encourage you to enjoy them poured over ice with a garnish, just like “the real thing.”

 

In other words, by taking the compromise out of resolutions like Dry January and Veganuary, these brands recreate familiar convivial habits and feelings, and effectively distil and make space for what is arguably the best part of meeting friends for a drink or sharing a deliciously carefree, hearty meal with family: the chance to spend quality time together, to check-in on one another and have meaningful conversations…

…And this applies to Blue Monday, the month of January and the rest of the year.

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