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Sunday 3rd March 2024

Blue Monday: Tell me now, how do I feel?

MRM’s Chris Tuite looks at ‘Blue Monday’s’ origins and questionable motives – but ponders whether it might actually be worthwhile


The most depressing day of the year has arrived and dear readers I’m sad to report that its today.

For those who don’t know, a methodology supposedly developed by Dr Cliff Arnall back in 2004, deemed the third Monday in January as the day on the year we are most likely to feel down in the dumps.

In 2024 that makes the 15th January ‘Blue Monday.’

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Dr Arnall considered several factors to arrive at this conclusion. His hypothesis included the average temperatures at this time of year, the number of days since most of us had a payday, the time we must wait until the next bank holiday, the average hours of daylight and the number of nights in the month.

By crunching these numbers, you seemingly have formula that supports why so many people find January, and this particular Monday, such a slog. But one crucial data point is missing.

It’s a data point that probably has a greater bearing on why Dr Arnall drew these conclusions in the first place. That is – why was Dr Arnall was trying to calculate the most depressing day of the year in the first place?

Alas, dear reader, Dr Arnall was not engaged in this (questionable) calculation to help humanity better understand issues around mental health or to offer any other psychological, sociological or scientific purposes.

He was supporting a PR campaign by travel company Sky Travel to try and get us to consider booking a holiday to cheer ourselves up.

I know, shocking.

Actually, it isn’t shocking at all. As a veteran comms professional, I have not only used ‘awareness days’ to draw attention to issues that my client may have a solution or product for, but I have also looked on in grudging admiration when others have developed similar stories to make a point.

Blue Monday: PR spin or meaningful reminder? MRM’s Chris Tuite chats to Mouthy Money editor Edmund Greaves to dig into the truth behind the marketing – listen to the podcast now

A taxi firm that took test tube samples of all the nasty germs that exist on London Underground trains and tried to get us to forego tube travel as a result is one such example of a creative approach I begrudgingly admired.

There is no doubt that peddling pseudo-scientific calculations as fact could be dangerous. Discussing issues such as people’s mental health or creating unnecessary germ related scares on transport networks are not to be taken lightly if they are taken completely seriously.

However, I think that the public deserve more credit, as do the journalists that are the gatekeepers to these stories in the medias. We know that in all likelihood travelling on the tube isn’t going to give us E. Coli and most consumers are savvy enough to know a holiday firm sponsoring research about our health and well-being should be taken with a heavy pinch of salt despite their being grains of truth in what they say.

That said though, it’s interesting that Blue Monday in particular has stood the test of time. Whilst scientifically unsound, I think Cliff Arnall may have been on to something.

For many people this point in January can feel tough and if nothing else the Blue Monday phenomena has sparked numerous conversations and elicited impassioned responses in a debate that has lasted even longer than the company the concept was created to promote.

In short it speaks to a mood that you do hear around the water coolers or on your Zoom calls at this time of year. It’s not a ridiculous premise, far from it.

It should be remembered that other organisations have used that premise for more laudable reasons too. It has helped the likes of The Samaritans to start better informed conversations about serious issues like mental health.

Even in the process of debunking Blue Monday they have referenced it to get important information out into the world with campaigns such as #BrewMonday.

Mouthy Money readers are no fools. You will know the tactics used by companies to get your attention and its worth repeating your attention is very valuable.

Provided firms broadly stick to their knitting, don’t mis-sell and don’t start making bold pronouncements on issues they aren’t qualified to talk about then I think finding ways to engage in self-referential conversations with savvy consumers is harmless enough.

They aren’t telling you how to feel, they are finding ways to start a conversation with you. Feel free to ignore them or book yourself a holiday if you want one!

Photo Credits: Pexels

Chris Tuite

Chris is a corporate and consumer PR specialist and former head of financial services at Rostrum Communications. He has 14 years’ experience devising, leading and delivering successful campaigns for a range of B2C and B2B clients in financial services ranging from blue chip FTSE 100 companies right down to disruptive and exciting start-ups.

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