Consumer PsychologyFEATUREDHEADLINESPassikoff: The Bare Naked Truth about Your New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year when people make New Year’s resolutions. You know, those promises that go in one year and out the other.
Robert PassikoffJanuary 5, 202110 min
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It’s that time of year when people make New Year’s resolutions. You know, those promises that go in one year and out the other. It’s said that making resolutions is easier than keeping them because, no matter how sincere the effort, it seems like most New Year’s resolutions are bound to be broken. Maybe because bad habits are like comfortable beds – easy to get into, hard to get out of.

Or maybe people just set the bar too high for themselves. My favorite acknowledgment of that is the one that goes, “My New Year’s resolution list starts with the desire to lose between ten and a thousand pounds.” Or maybe they just don’t position it right, and, as all good marketers know, positioning is everything. Maybe we should consider alternative-outcomes, something like, “My New Year’s resolution is to help friends gain 20 pounds, so when I hang around them, I look like I lost weight.” As it turns out, losing weight has perennially been No. 1 on New Year’s resolution lists. That was true for this year too.

How do we know? As part of our annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (the 2021 results will be available January 19th) we also ask thousands of consumers whether and what they’re planning for their New Year’s resolutions. This year’s New Year resolutions top-10 are customer “perennials,” meaning they’ve shown up year after year, albeit expressed slightly differently and with some minor fluctuations in their order of magnitude.

And, since we speak to so many people, we were able to drill-down on a segment of brand and marketing professionals and ask them what particular resolutions they were going to make for themselves and their brands for the coming year.

But, as last year was like no other year in recent memory – given the COVID-19, extreme political tribalism, a rancorous presidential election, an even more-rancorous post-election, COVID-19, sheltering-in, wearing masks, washing hands, toilet paper shortages, hand sanitizer shortages, school closures, social distancing, foregoing family events, more washing hands, restaurant and gym closures, restaurant and gym re-openings, binge-watching, working from home, and restaurant and gym re-closures, and vaccine deniers, along with new strains of coronavirus (Yikes!) – we’ve broken out some resolutions consumers have made related directly to 2021’s “New Abnormal.”

Top-10 Consumers’ New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Lose weight
  2. Eat healthier
  3. Exercise more
  4. Keep my resolutions more than a week
  5. Get organized
  6. Save more
  7. Be a better person/volunteer
  8. Quit smoking
  9. Spend less time on Facebook
  10. Stress less

Top-10 Marketers’ New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Get better at being more agile
  2. Develop a marketing plan for 2021 before the end of January
  3. Embrace emerging technologies
  4. Embrace emerging technologies but don’t just chase the “shiny” stuff
  5. Be more customer-centric
  6. Become more skilled at omnichannel marketing
  7. Figure out what customers really expect
  8. Increase emotional engagement and loyalty to my brand
  9. Remember people are only consumers some of the time and, even then do not come anything close to a buying equation
  10. Use my vacation time

Top-10 New-Abnormal Resolutions

  1. Stress less
  2. Get more politically involved
  3. Drink less
  4. Spend any time with my family and friends
  5. Stop signing up for streaming video channels
  6. Take part in fewer online polls
  7. Learn how to mute Zoom and not share my screen.
  8. Stop hoarding toilet paper, Purell, and disinfecting wipes and telling people, “Yeah. I can’t find any either.”
  9. Re-learn social cues
  10. Watch fewer news shows

Not everyone makes a New Year’s resolution, but the majority of people do. It’s traditional-habitual! We really don’t see any rational need to make more New Year’s resolutions when the ones already on the books aren’t being enforced or adhered to very regularly now. In fact, according to our survey, 68% of consumers plan to for 2021. That’s up 6% from last year, so hope lives eternal, and we wish them all good luck!

On average, alas, 94% of people give up after 20 days, 80% fail by the second week of February, and only 10% are successful at keeping them. That’s because it takes approximately 78 days for a real lifestyle change to kick in and become your new-habitual behavior. Maybe those numbers would be better if we called resolutions something else, like “New Year’s casual promises” or “Things you think would be a good thing to do but are under no legal obligation to fulfill.” Oh, and they can’t be unrealistic like, “This New Year’s I resolve to lead a better life. Now all I have to do is find someone who’ll swap lives with me.”

Or maybe it’s just a timing thing like Mark Twain said. “Now is the accepted time to make your annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

Whatever’s on your list, whatever you’ve come up with, we wish you all a successful and healthy 2021. And may any minor nuisances you happen to run into, last only as long as the average resolution!


Robert PassikoffRobert Passikoff is founder and CEO of Brand Keys. He has received several awards for market research innovation including the prestigious Gold Ogilvy Award and is the author of 3 marketing and branding books including the best-seller, Predicting Market Success.  Robert is also a frequent contributor to TheCustomer.


Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash.

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