How to Leverage the Fresh Start Effect in 5 Steps
Kyle Hoffman, Director of Growth Strategy | December 22 2023
If you find yourself contemplating self-improvement and envisioning positive changes in the New Year, you're certainly not alone. According to research, six out of 10 people make plans to live a better life, one way or another, starting on January 1.
For many, the new year symbolizes renewal, a fresh start, and a clean slate. As we emerge from the indulgent holiday season, many of us look for ways to get back into our routines. The new year is well-known for adopting new behaviors – a psychological phenomenon marketers are keenly aware of and ready to take advantage of. But it’s not the only one. The “fresh start effect” concept extends well beyond the New Year. It can encompass various micro-moments and personal or calendar landmarks that can kickstart behaviors and commitments to personal goals.
For example, people are more likely to adhere to their fitness goals on a Monday at the beginning of the week. Research involving 11,912 students revealed a 33% surge in gym attendance at the start of the week, a 14% increase at the beginning of the month, a 47% rise at the start of a new term, and a 12% upswing at the beginning of the year. Interestingly, birthdays increase gym attendance by 7.5%, too.
This phenomenon is a great example of the "fresh start effect," a behavioral science term describing the cognitive and emotional shift individuals experience during specific time periods, propelling them toward adopting new, positive behaviors.
As marketers, understanding and harnessing the power of the fresh start effect can be a strategic game-changer, enabling the creation of compelling campaigns that resonate with individuals at key moments in their personal journeys. In this article, we dive into the science behind the fresh start effect and explore how brands can leverage this behavioral tactic to connect with their audience on a deeper level.
The Science Behind the Fresh Start Effect
The fresh start effect is deeply rooted in psychology and behavioral science. Understanding the science behind the fresh start effect can certainly help marketers craft compelling campaigns that resonate with consumers during pivotal moments.
Psychologists argue that when we enter a new time period, we create a small bit of distance from our imperfect past selves. This weakens the hold of consistency and makes it more likely we’ll adopt new behaviors because we are confident about our new, superior selves. t’s the opportunity for a new beginning and a chance to leave behind past failures and mistakes. This confidence gives people motivation to do something new and challenging – something you would have never done otherwise.
The concept of temporal landmarks suggests that certain moments prompt individuals to mentally categorize their experiences into time periods. This can be as significant as the start of a new year, a milestone birthday, the start of a new school yar, or as simple as the beginning of the week.
These personal or calendar landmarks can trigger the drive for self-improvement, and research shows that individuals are more motivated to set and pursue goals during these periods. The shift in mindset can spur goal setting as it encourages a focus on long-term objectives.
It’s important to note that it’s not just new time periods that can trigger new habits. Any significant life-altering moments that feel “fresh and new” can have a similar effect. This could be moving to a new city, having a baby, or switching jobs. These moments offer marketers a great opportunity to align their messaging with consumers’ aspirations.
Real-World Examples of the Fresh Start Effect
The fresh start effect can be effectively leveraged by a variety of industries and products that align with individuals’ common goals and aspirations during key temporal landmarks. Here are examples of industries and products that often benefit from this phenomenon:
Fitness and Wellness Industry:
The beginning of the year is notorious for being a prime time for individuals to commit to health and fitness goals. Gyms, fitness programs, and wellness brands can capitalize on this by offering promotions, personalized workout plans, unique incentives, and wellness challenges.
You’ll notice a flurry of fitness and wellness campaigns at the start of every year. Nike, Lululemon, and Adidas are well-known for launching compelling marketing campaigns at the start of the New Year, aligning with the surge in fitness-related resolutions and the "new year, new me” mentality.
Personal Development, Education, and Online Courses:
The start of the new year or a milestone like a birthday can trigger people to focus on self-improvement. Educational platforms can market online courses, skill development programs, and learning resources to individuals looking to gain a new skill or reach a new goal like mindfulness, happiness and personal growth.
For example, Duolingo, a popular language learning app, has strategically leveraged the fresh start effect at key temporal landmarks like the start of the new year to appeal to individuals aspiring to learn a new language.
People are more likely to reassess their financial goals at the beginning of a month, year, or the start of a new job. Budgeting and personal finance apps, like Monarch Money, and services can position themselves to help users create and stick to budgets, save more, and make great financial decisions.
Self-Care and Beauty:
The beauty industry notoriously leverages temporal landmarks like New Year’s resolutions and birthdays for self-care and improved appearances.
For example, Sephora has a highly successful Beauty Insider Program, where customers receive exclusive perks and rewards, including a special birthday gift during their birthday month. By tying this promotion to a personal temporal landmark, like the customer’s birthday, Sephora encourages the customer to “treat yourself” by making a purchase around their birthday. Smart!
Another smart example is from Gilette Razors. For years, when boys turn 18 in America, they get sent a free razor in the mail. In the United States, as young men reach the age of 18, they receive a complimentary razor delivered straight to their mailbox. This process doesn't require any sign-ups; Gillette takes the initiative to send these razors automatically. The company leverages consumer data from diverse sources, identifying households with an 18-year-old male. Why? The age of 18 holds significant importance as it symbolizes the transition to adulthood, often coinciding with individuals heading off to college and living on their own for the first time. By offering a free product, Gillette not only introduces its brand but acknowledges a pivotal moment in the lives of these young adults, which can create brand loyalty.
5 Steps to Leverage the Fresh Start Effect in Marketing
It’s clear that the fresh start effect is incredibly powerful to inspire action. If you’re wondering how you can leverage the fresh start phenomenon for your brand, you’re in luck! Here are four steps to take advantage of these pivotal moments to gain new customers.
- Understand Your Audience’s Aspirations
The first step to capitalize on various temporal landmarks that trigger the fresh start effect is to identify moments that resonate with your audience. This could be the start of the new year, Mondays, the beginning of a month or season, a specific holiday, or a personal milestone like a birthday or anniversary. While most marketers take advantage of calendric temporal landmarks to inspire action, you can really stand out by identifying unique temporal landmarks to your audience.
For the best results, use data analytics to understand when your customers are most likely to set new goals or make significant lifestyle changes. Additionally, you can look for patterns in consumer behavior and preferences during specific timeframes.
- Align Messaging to Your User’s Motivation
Be sure to tailor your marketing messages to align with the “fresh start mindset.” For example, your content could be inspiring or motivational and can emphasize the opportunity for a clean slate and new beginning. Highlight how your product can help someone reach their aspirations or goals.
To really inspire action, it’s a great idea to align your promotional calendar with those temporal landmarks that specifically target the goals individuals commonly set during fresh start moments. Designing promotions or discounts like limited-time offers, bundle deals, and exclusive discounts can inspire action. These monetary incentives can help people take the first step toward reaching their goals.
Headspace, a meditation app, does a great job aligning marketing campaigns to coincide with temporal landmarks. For example, their messaging strategy during the holidays encourages people to “Share the gift of self-care, less stress, and restful sleep with everyone you love,” and is accompanied by a 30% off promotion. While the messaging for the New Year aligns with pursuing personal goals around mindfulness.
- Consider the Marketing Channel
When thinking of how to deliver the message, consider all communication channels: e-mail, text message, direct mail, social media, and TV to create a comprehensive plan. This multi-channel approach creates a seamless brand experience, enhancing your message and fostering meaningful connections.
Marketers have a unique opportunity to educate and inform their target audience through content marketing. For example, if you’re in the wellness or fitness industry, showcase success stories, exercise tips, and expert advice to position your brand as a valuable resource. Or, if you’re in the home improvement space, provide helpful DIY tips or inspirational Pinterest boards to help your customers freshen up their home. Visual content like infographics, success stories, and progress trackers can be especially powerful to get customers engaged and motivated.
- Get Your Customer’s Involved
Finally, a highly effective way to leverage the fresh start effect is to get your customers involved in the process and to develop an interactive campaign that encourages user participation. Perhaps this includes a contest, challenge, or social media campaign that invites customers to share their “fresh start” stories or goals.
Peloton, a fitness equipment company, has historically encouraged user engagement effectively during the New Year. The company emphasizes the idea of a fresh start and encourages users to kickstart their fitness journeys in the new year. Additionally, they often launch interactive challenges and campaigns, encouraging users to set fitness goals and participate in community challenges.
For example, users earn badges for achieving specific fitness milestones like a certain number of workouts or minutes. You can even share your fitness achievements and progress on social media, which helps create a sense of belonging and shared commitment. Through timely campaigns, social media engagement, and friendly competition, Peloton is a great example of a brand who has successfully created an engaging experience for its users during the New Year.
- Maintain Momentum
We all know the gym is packed around January 2nd, but by March, that motivation seems to fizzle out.
If you want to maintain momentum with your audience and encourage customer retention, you have to find ways to reengage your audience, and find ways to encourage people to not abandon their goals. Marketers can do this by encouraging willpower, offering positive reinforcement, and finding other temporal landmarks to spur action throughout the year. By continuously encouraging and supporting individuals through their journeys, brands can help them stay motivated far past the initial surge of New Year’s resolutions.
Leveraging the Fresh Start Effect in Marketing
Rooted in behavioral science and psychology, the fresh start effect has a profound impact on individuals during specific temporal landmarks, and understanding and harnessing the fresh start effect can be a game-changer for marketers.
From the start of a new year to something as simple as a Monday, these temporal landmarks create cognitive shifts, paving the way for clean, fresh starts. For marketers, it’s a unique opportunity to connect with audiences at pivotal moments in their lives.
Looking for more ways to connect with your audience on a deeper level and drive sales? Get in touch with the experts at Function Growth. We’re believers that consumer behavior lies at the heart of how all great brands grow. Contact us today to see how we can take your brand to the next level.