Blue Monday: Why Are Companies Still Using Depression As A Social Media Marketing Opportunity?

Blue Monday is here again, and yet companies continue to use the idea of depression to promote their brand or sell you stuff. Why?

First, to answer this question, let’s look back and give you a history lesson. The concept comes from a formula, originally developed by psychologist Cliff Arnall, after being asked to do so by travel firm Sky Travel. The formula is below, as you can see.

  • W = weather

  • D = debt

  • d = monthly salary

  • T = time since Christmas

  • Q = time since failing our new year’s resolutions

  • M = low motivational levels

  • Na = the feeling of a need to take action

And that’s all it is - pseudoscience based off a bunch of polls. requested by a holiday company to make an extra PR spin and an excuse for a new time of marketing for that holiday you always wanted. In fact, since then, Arnall has since confessed that it’s just guff and has urged people to “refute the whole notion” of Blue Monday.

"I was originally asked to come up with what I thought was the best day to book a summer holiday but when I started thinking about the motives for booking a holiday, reflecting on what thousands had told me during stress management or happiness workshops, there were these factors that pointed to the third Monday in January as being particularly depressing,” he told The Daily Telegraph a few years ago.

Running parallel to this also, Britain’s people have been coming to terms with talking about mental health. It’s a small step change in our community, but for all the help it has given me in facing my own anxiety and feelings of being a fraud by just talking to people who are willing to listen, it’s a move forward in the right direction - away from our stiff upper-lipped nature.

Which begs the obvious question… Why are companies continuing to make Blue Monday sales/competitions a thing on social media? Surely they’ve seen the progress of our society in this area, and surely there’s someone with the common sense to realise that maybe it’s not a cheap sales tactic anymore.

Places like Boots UK, who push body confidence and positivity in mental health, believe that Blue Monday is an opportunity to run a competition for shower products and a Yankee Candle because…warm baths cure mental illnesses?

Don’t worry, they’re not the only ones. Dixons Travel have decided to get involved too…

And so have RyanAir…


Sun Sense UK…

Gordon Castle Gin (the fix to mental health is at the bottom of a bottle of course)…

Also, the Sweet Reason Company…

Contrary to the path you may think I’m going down, this isn’t actually as bad as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong, the connection to Blue Monday and depression is certainly sketchy, but that doesn’t mean a company can’t run a giveaway of their products to make someone’s day. 

What really grinds my gears though is companies specifically planning discounts and sales primarily for this time of year. It’s an awful preference of discounts over health that makes capitalism really suck sometimes. 

LookFantastic gave 22% off a range of their products today…

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And in one of the more humorous ones, Timber Tech let people save 44% on their wood decking…

Chances are there are many many more, but I can only look so far through the corporate misuse of this pseudoscience without making myself upset. Again, nothing wrong with a sale, but the context of it is a terribly anti-human tactic.

So, to answer your question of “why?” At it’s simplest level, that would be because social media dictates the sales calendar for many-a-business, and once a PR-fuelled hashtag invades the public sphere of discussion, companies will always figure out a way to get on board. Just think about all the times a company has tried to make a meme or quick quip based on something everyone is talking about, except for this, it’s a hashtag that has quickly become condemned by the general public for it’s trivialisation of mental health.

But the one thing that gives me hope for the future of this terrible terrible trend is the fact that each opportunity to market to you using Blue Monday is equally weighed by someone saying what a load of tosh it is. In fact, mental health charities are leading this charge, providing vital information about their services. If you see a company doing similar to those I mentioned above, I implore you to do the same.

Mind sums this up far better than I ever could. Please watch and never forget how much Blue Monday does not help the mental health crisis in the UK, by using it to sell you stuff.