Happy New Year! Now that yesterday’s champagne is flat and stockings you hung with care are out of season, it’s time to throw yourself into that age-old pastime of creating New Year’s resolutions. Or, maybe don’t.
This year, rather than promoting the narrative of “New year, new you,” several brands are pushing back against the idea and encouraging their customers to opt out, as well. There’s good reason, as New Year resolutions have long been derided as ineffective. Research conducted by Strava using over 800 million user-logged activities in 2019 revealed that the day most people are likely to give up on their New Year’s Resolution is January 19. And yet, every year, millions of people fall into the trap of creating lofty goals, in the hope of metamorphosizing into a more ideal version of themselves. The most popular New Year’s resolutions typically revolve around upping fitness and health routines, learning new skills and hobbies, becoming more organized, and saving money.
For its part, vitamin supplement brand Care/of wanted to introduce a less-is-more mentality for 2023. On Dec. 26, it launched a digital campaign called “Do less, feel more,” encouraging people to step away from adding to a lengthy resolution list or squeezing more into each day. Instead, they should focus on a few key items allowing them to feel more balanced, confident or energetic, it urges. The campaign runs through February 2023. According to Brittany Izrailov, chief customer officer at Care/of, women are especially susceptible to the idea of loading more onto their plates around the new year. Care/of customers are routine and goal-oriented and want to feel their best, but to be successful, the routine has to be easy to stick with, said Izrailov.
“What we’ve heard is that a lot of these women are inundated with wellness advice from every direction. That noise only gets louder during January, with all the ‘new year, new you’ messages,” she said. “The last thing they need is another brand or person piling on and telling her, ‘Keep stretching yourself even thinner.’ Our idea is to help her focus on getting the most out of doing less.”
As part of the campaign, Care/of is offering a planner dubbed the “anti-planner,” which people can download or screenshot from its site. It guides users to write down things to eliminate, set an “aspirational feeling” for the month and fill in details on how to achieve that feeling. Care/of will award a full year of its products to one person who shares an aspect of their own anti-planner on social media. There is no hashtag for the campaign; Care/of will track brand mentions and post shares, and choose a winner from the pool via random selection.
Since its launch in 2016, Care/of has had over 12 million people take its online quiz, meant to aid product selection. The company declined to share numbers around its subscriber base. According to Glossy’s previous reporting, its sales increased 200% year-over-year in 2019. In Feb. 2020, Care/of launched into the beauty category with six products, including collagen ingestibles. It debuted a vitamin line with Target in 2021.
A goal of the New Year campaign is to reframe where Care/of sits in the wellness ecosystem and how people perceive the brand. Craig Elbert, CEO of Care/of, said most people think of Care/of as a personalized vitamin recommender. Moving forward, he wants it to be positioned as a results-driven brand that makes it easy to establish and maintain a healthy habit. Care/of launched an app in 2017, with the expectation of offering a feedback loop of data to show users the impacts of their daily routines. But what Care/of found is that users actually preferred the in-app opportunities allowing them to reflect on how they felt, as opposed to those serving up data.
“When we launched, we focused on personalization and our quiz. But most [excitement] around the brand is on our ongoing guidance and ongoing personalization, where we help simplify the daily struggle of finding time for yourself,” said Elbert.
Today’s version of personal optimization is a rebranded and affluent version of Taylorism, the 20th-Century pursuit of productivity by treating humans like machines. With the proliferation of tracking software and hardware in the form of apps, smart scales and Apple watches, people are now fashioning their wellness image much like the “Six Million Dollar Man.”
But there’s also a lot to be said about the push-back against such rigid senses of contriving self-worth and maximizing output. Books like “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” released in 2016, went on to sell 2 million copies and became No. 1 New York Times Bestseller. It ushered in several similar books, like 2019’s “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.” Certain trends, like “cluttercore” and maximalism, could be interpreted as a protest against minimalism and its relationship with order and morality. That is to say that there is a constant tension on the spectrum of wellness, between the one side that embraces discipline, orderly self-improvement and routine, and the other, aligned with intuition, harmony and a, sort of, adult Montessori outlook on life.
Will Mayer, vp of global creative and brand for Equinox, said the luxury gym typically launches one large campaign a year, early in the year. In 2023, however, it will do away with that approach in favor of an always-on strategy. Its campaign called “We Don’t Speak January” began on January 1, 2023, as a move to counter New Year’s resolutions. On January 1, Equinox closed its website, preventing people from signing up for memberships. In its place was a manifesto stating, in part, “January is a language we don’t understand. It talks about change. … It thinks the time is on its side. Stalling, short-cutting, giving up.”
Equinox is promoting the phrase “We Don’t Speak January” throughout the month, in out-of-home ads; in TikTok, LinkedIn and Instagram ads;, through influencers, and at in-person events.
“The ‘new year, new you’ sentiment is the [false] promise that ‘today is the day I will change.’ But there’s still a reluctance to put any skin in the game to back it up,” said Mayer. “Our brand isn’t for this notion of January as the personification of a behavior.”
Mayer declined to share how important January is for new member signups. A brand representative later said that memberships “remain steady” throughout the year. According to previous Glossy reporting, membership dues have typically made up more than half of the revenue generated from each Equinox member. Additionally, pre-pandemic, Equinox had about 350,000 members each spending a “blended average” of about $3,500 per year, between membership dues and retail purchases. That adds up for the company, to well over $1 billion in revenue each year. Ultimately, “We Don’t Speak January” is a balancing act between virtue signaling the fitness dedication of its members, while simultaneously rebuking the inauthentic self-improvement pervasive in resolutions.
“Every good brand is defined by taking a strong stance and a strong position, and not being afraid to ruffle some feathers,” he said. “As a society, we’re duped to seek out an idea of balance, and we become alienated from our pleasures and our pains in the pursuit of supposed harmony.”
WooWoo, a U.K.-based depilatory brand, is also pushing back against the New Year’s resolution narrative. The 4-year-old brand created the social media hashtag #JanuALLme to combat the pressures of New Year’s resolutions and feeling inadequate. WooWoo is sold through retailers like Urban Outfitters, Free People, Thirteen Lune at JCPenney and Amazon.
Gemma Dilworth, pr manager at WooWoo, said January is the worst month to start resolutions. She owed that to the fact that it’s dark and people sometimes experience seasonal affective disorder. Plus, most people have just spent a lot of money over the holidays, or are otherwise engaged in Veganuary or Dry January.
“All of a sudden, you’re being told, ‘It’s a new year, so it should be a new you.’ Most of us just want to hibernate and maybe eat the leftover Christmas chocolate,” she said.
Both Care/of and WooWoo teams pointed out that women are inundated enough with self-improvement messaging, and that resolutions only add to the mounting societal pressure placed on them. A 2018 survey from DNA testing company 23andMe found that women are much more likely to make New Year’s resolutions than men. Meanwhile, WooWoo conducted a study of 1,500 women in July, finding that a third of women experience low self-esteem, partly due to social media and reality television. Its core customer base are women ages 18-30-years-old.
By pushing back against New Year’s resolutions, brands are identifying a trendy opportunity to be appropriately counter-culture, but they’re also going against the wellness industrial complex that they’re part of. It’s perhaps not an issue that can be fully reconciled as a for-profit consumer brand, as Glossy has reported previously. But it could be viewed similarly to anti-Black Friday messaging from brands like Patagonia and Deciem.
“What we want to do with the campaign is to encourage women to stop putting themselves under this pressure,” said Dilworth. “We’re a beauty brand, so what we’re saying may sound contradictory. But what we’re [really] saying is, ‘Stop feeling that you have to conform, in any shape or form, … [Instead,] prioritize yourself, in whatever way that makes sense.”
For the social media campaign, which runs through the end of January, WooWoo will post insights from a psychologist about setting new goals, including the ideal time to do so and advice on how to achieve them. Additionally, it commissioned body-positive artist Nina Sweeney to create images celebrating the female form.
While anti-Black Friday campaigns do not appear effective, there may be hope for anti-‘new year, new you’ marketing. Younger generations appear to eschew the usual start date for goal setting. Meanwhile, the 23andMe survey suggested a natural decline in resolutions as one gets older.
Dilworth hopes the trend continues. “We’ve always wanted to challenge the status quo. And we’re not the only brands talking about this, which is encouraging,” she said. “I hope next year, instead of speaking to a few brands, you speak with 50 brands who want to discuss [the idea of] ‘new year, same you.’”