Beat the Blues on Blue Monday

You may not have heard of “Blue Monday,” but you’ve definitely felt it. Declared the most depressing day of the year, the third Monday in January is right around the corner.

Introduced in 2005 by Sky Travel, the travel channel calculated a formula based on factors like weather, debt and motivational levels.

It makes sense. I hate to be the office Debbie Downer, but there are no more holiday parties to attend, the gym is crowded with people acting on their new year’s resolutions, and you’re on a healthy kick yourself when the thing you want most in the world is a slice of chocolate cake. Not to mention you haven’t seen the sun in a few weeks.

The only good thing to come out of the phrase “Blue Monday” is the song by New Order. But even their lyrics can be applied to this depressing day: “how does it feel, when your heart grows cold?”

While the formula has been ruled to have no scientific basis, a lot of us still feel the impact. Whether you call it “Blue Monday,” Seasonal Affective Disorder, or just the winter blues, we hit a seasonal slump in the dead middle of winter. Below are some practical tips on how to make the most out of your Monday.

Mental Escape

More than just a sales tactic, there’s some sound reasoning to the fact why “Blue Monday” was coined by a travel channel. Planning a vacation or a to-list for the weekend can distract from any mundane Monday. What’s more, planning and daydreaming can give you something to look forward to, and a goal to work toward. Books and music are also good channels for escapism, especially on a budget. Music streaming services have playlists dedicated to whatever mood you’re in, so why not switch over to a mood lifter?

Physical Escape

Bears were onto this whole act of hibernation. Even though going outside and getting to the gym sounds like the least ideal activity right now, getting your blood pumping can not only make you feel better physically, but it can improve your mental mood. Elle Woods was right when she said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” If you’re too stubborn to leave the house, use the internet to your advantage and pop on a quick exercise video.

If possible, get some sun. It’s hard during this time of year, but the health benefits are immense, and can lead to improved sleep and lower blood pressure. If you’re lucky like us here in Austin, Texas, the sunshine does peek through every now and again during this long winter. Take a fifteen-minute break, bundle up, and soak up that vitamin D. And if you’re lucky enough to have MLK Day off, maybe make a quick escape to sunnier, warmer climate for the long weekend.

Embrace It

Sometimes, it’s hard to take advice and put it into motion. At the very least, when you’re lying in bed hitting the snooze button, practice gratitude. Start with three small things you’re grateful for and remember your source of motivation, like family, learning or new experiences. It won’t make the floor any less cold, but should make getting out of bed a little bit easier.

Remember that while “Blue Monday” hits every year, it’s just one day and is temporary. The seasons will soon change again and your mood will shift. If you’re feeling down, reach out to those around you – chances are, they feel the same.

In Defense of the Supermarket

It’s expected that by 2022, 20% of all grocery sales will come from online shoppers. And with 70% of consumers purchasing some of their groceries on the web, I’m definitely in the minority, having never ordered groceries online myself.

I’m not opposed to online shopping or curbside delivery. They’re great options for those with kids, those who have lost their patience dealing with always-full parking lots, or those without access to reliable transportation. We could all benefit from wider aisles and shorter checkout lines. Time is an important resource, and most of us feel like we don’t have enough of it.

Call me a traditionalist, but I like going to the grocery store. It makes more sense for me, whether I’m grabbing a few things or doing a week’s worth of pantry stocking. With brick-and-mortar, I can also avoid navigating the world of memberships and high delivery costs. While I make my shopping list in advance, the endless products I see as I browse the aisles can serve as meal inspiration. The unmissable “sale” stickers help, too. Also, like many others who shy away from online delivery, I like to pick out my own produce. Fifty-nine percent of complaints against online grocery services revolve around receiving undesirable or mishandled produce.

The art of the grocery store

While many grocery stores still have room for improvement, a massive amount of psychology and planning goes into getting consumers to spend more, from the store’s scent to the sugary cereals. Everything’s been thought out and tested by science, like the fact that supermarkets make it hard to find a clock or a window, so you lose track of time and keep shopping. We’re still debating what is the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping, and if there’s an ideal genre we can all agree on.

Did you know that spraying water on produce serves only to make it look fresher? The most expensive items are at eye-level, and products geared toward children are placed lower. Dairy products are kept as far from the entrance as possible, so shoppers have to pass by more items on their way to essentials. Supermarkets have been so strategically planned to keep shoppers within their doors and spending more that it’s almost a shame not to be the subject of their mind games.

A changing industry

For those who haven’t stepped foot in a grocery store lately, it might be time for a visit. With the use of a mobile phone, it’s easier for shoppers to look up where items are, or receive promotional items as they walk down a specific aisle. In addition to location-based benefits, mobile devices have also helped with checkout, which has served as a major pain point for decades. A 2015 study found that 88% of consumers want retail checkout to be faster, and with self-scanning technology, it’s now becoming common to avoid the checkout process altogether. Hopefully, hands-free shopping carts will be the next mainstream innovation. Clunky carts with one rusty wheel are so 20th century.

I’m fiercely loyal to shopping at my grocery store (America’s third favorite), and it helps that they’re starting to address the pain points that made consumers turn to online shopping in the first place. But more than just addressing current issues, brick-and-mortar grocery stores should also offer their own unique in-store benefits, to ensure shoppers like me are visiting. It all goes back to how we all want our time to be spent efficiently, and grocery retailers should strive to ensure that brick-and-mortar shopping is worth it.

International House of Branding

IHOP is changing its name. Last week, the company tweeted (from its updated handle), “For 60 pancakin’ years, we’ve been IHOP. Now, we’re flippin’ our name to IHOb.”

In the week between the initial tweet and the official announcement, social media responded. The news definitely sparked my attention, and I haven’t stepped foot in an IHOP in over 10 years.

Many expressed outrage while others offered up guesses of what the “b” could stand for, and the IHOb account responded creatively to tease out the news and keep people guessing. Some notable predictions included breakfast, bacon, and even the right answer: burgers.

While the social media interaction was fun and sparked life into the brand, the big buildup to yesterday’s underwhelming announcement landed as flat as a pancake, in my opinion. I considered it misleading, as the company implied that the name change would be permanent, and instead it’s just a temporary ad campaign.

However, the PR stunt brought up a good point. It demonstrates how crucial branding and identity is to legacy brands. It also begs another relevant question…

When should you rebrand?

Rebranding makes sense when a company is shifting its services or has already made that shift – for example, offering more breakfast options than just pancakes. Apple Computers renamed to Apple, Inc. as they began to expand its product lines and sell more than computers. This was a natural move and made sense as the major brand identifier – Apple – was kept in the rebrand.

On a more personal level, this year yours truly changed our name from Ketner Group PR + Marketing to Ketner Group Communications. We’ve always been more than just public relations and marketing, offering services in social media, content development, and more, but we found it was time to change our name and logo to reflect that. But are we in the same boat as IHOP? Probably not.

Many food and retail brands never undertake such a public (or even private) rebrand, as the company name is the identifier for consumers. If they do, it’s a result of an acquisition, or done before they expand, like Starbucks did in its early years, originally named Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice. A smarter move for food and retail brands is a subtle logo change. And just a few years ago, IHOP did reveal a new logo. Last month, Best Buy redesigned its logo after 30 years. The font and colors are similar, and the yellow tag is still included to represent the company’s history. By changing its logo, Best Buy didn’t change its identity, but subtly alluded to how it’s adapting to an evolving retail environment.

IHOb is an example of how drastically changing one’s image, values or services can be met with hype, but also intense criticism. When undergoing a new logo design or rebranding – or in this case, just a burger campaign – brands should ensure that its essence is kept in the name.

Online Privacy: Opting Out is Not an Option

Sharing personal information often feels like today’s digital currency. By opting in and giving away details like an email or birthday, shoppers can receive a discount on a retailer’s website. The ability to tick a box leads shoppers to believe that they have a say if information can be gathered about them, but anyone with a mobile phone or internet connection really doesn’t have a choice. Information is being gathered, whether you opt in or not.

Thinking about online privacy can be overwhelming. It makes you wonder if there is even such a thing as privacy in today’s “information overload” age. Personally, I sympathize with Ron Swanson from the TV show Parks and Recreation in this clip. Despite how much we may know (or think we know) about online privacy, there are many different aspects. Where does online privacy fit in with retailers? Is gathering data worth it when 75% of consumers find marketing personalization creepy?

Essentially, retailers gather information to build a better view of their shoppers and improve the customer experience. If they can see the ways consumers engage with their stores and websites, they can better serve them. For example, loyalty programs often fill in data gaps, and downloading a retailer’s app can track a user’s location. For retailers, the more data the better. However, Forbes revealed that half of the data retailers collect is irrelevant simply because they don’t know what to do with it.

Retailers generally don’t have bad intentions with how they use consumer data, and likewise, many people aren’t bothered about information being gathered about them. It becomes an issue when companies are not transparent about when and how they are collecting information. Shoppers will be more likely to share information if they know what data is being collected, and that it’s used to help them be better served as a customer. As always, trust is the one thing that remains of utmost importance, in any industry.

Expectations of privacy are often associated with age. So who has more trust in online privacy? Gallup research found that only 44% of millennials believe their personal information is kept private with the companies they interact with. Every other generation is even more skeptical.

While overall faith in online privacy is low, it’s important to remember that retailers using cookies aren’t the bad guys. However, data security and the threat of hackers stealing information for illegal purposes is a real cause for concern. Just last year, an internet privacy law was overturned, and internet service providers can now sell browsing history to advertisers. So while people might believe they can stop seeing retargeted ads by “opting out” of having websites gather information about them, the truth is we have all opted in as soon as we signed on.