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Beware: New Year marketing is here!

Marketers know how you think, and they'd like the money in your wallet.

Shashank Mehta
5 min read • 
23 December 2022

Welcome to Truth Be Told, a weekly food & fitness newsletter. New here? Read our manifesto: a note on why we exist.

We will take a break next week, enjoy the new year’s eve with our loved ones, and back in your inbox in the first week of January. On behalf of team TBT, I wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay healthy, have fun! 🙂

It’s that time of the year. Festivities are in the air. Alcohol is in the water. And sugar is everywhere. I love it. 

And why shouldn’t I? I’ve been a good boy all year long. So now is the time to let loose. I’m writing this as I sip black coffee and eat a whole almond croissant. And a cookie. Yeah, baby.  

Unfortunately, it’s also the time of the year that precedes that other time of (next) year. January. The holy month of health marketers and their patron saint of new year’s resolutions. Hallelujah. 

Indulgence peaks now. Repentance a few weeks hence. And it’s when we hate ourselves the most, marketeers crawl out of the woods to cash in on that guilt. 

So what do we do? Stop indulging (huh)? Stop repenting (where’s the fun in that)? Or stop letting these marketers get into our oversized pants every new year?

Don’t sweat your grey cells (December isn’t the month for that). The third option is right. And I’m your friendly neighbourhood marketeer. Here to share with you my top five predictions of how you’ll be marketed this new year. Hold my mulled wine.

One: The Gym Deal (pssst: first month free)

Ever wondered how your gym, which you feel is already full, keeps signing on new customers (and why the lady at the counter has to bring in that (good-looking) potential new customer for a tour when I’m struggling with a 10kg dumbbell? Doesn’t she know biceps aren’t my strong suit? Couldn’t she have waited for chest day? What do you mean I’m not the centre of the universe?)

Well, you’ve been right all along. The gym business operates with the assumption that at any given time, only 25% of members will show up. If 80% did, they’d need three times the space and equipment. That’s like handing me a 30kg dumbbell. #fail

Also, please note that statistic doesn’t mean that 75% of people never show up. It means that 90% of people show up only 20% of the time. And I’m not saying you’re part of that 90%. Probability is. 

Now you see why giving one month free on a twelve-month membership doesn’t really hurt the gym. They know that it’s actually you who’s giving them ten months (money) for free!

I’m not saying you don’t join the gym. Do it. But maybe do it for a month. Build the habit, then spend the money. Don’t spend the money, hoping it’ll force you to build the habit. Never works.

PS: Just see the horror on the gym owner’s face when you say you want to join for a month. He’ll tell you that while the full year costs 20k, one month costs 6k. Plus, the 20k deal expires in 2 weeks (it never expires. trust me.). After that, it’s 30k. He’ll throw in a free personal training session too. It’ll be super tough to resist. But the look on his face will be worth it. 

PPS: Oh btw, about this ‘one-month free’ thing. It’s a trick we marketers use all the time. Buy X Get Y Free. Makes the deal sound bigger than it is. Do the math. One month free on twelve is just 8.33% off! And that, too, is optical. It doesn’t cost the gym owner a penny extra. He’s already spent what he had to on the gym. Want to test this? Ask him to give you 15% off instead 🙂

Two: The Cleanse

Had beer every day from Christmas to New Year? Now buy this two-week juice cleanse. A disgusting concoction of various greens and browns. Sure to flush your gut (and all happiness from life). What do you mean it tastes like horse shit? How else would you know it works?

Here’s the health marketers’ logic. You ‘tox’-ed in December. Now detox in January. Of course, it’ll cost as much. How else will you know you detoxed enough?

It’s scary how alluring this promise of ‘restoring balance’ is. Do bad things for X days. Do good things for the next X days. And done. Factory settings have been reset. Cheers. 

Nope. That’s not how it works. If it did, downing a 6-pack while snacking only on broccoli should cancel each other out. It doesn’t. I’ve tried.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cleanse. Just means you shouldn’t feel you’re done once it’s done. That feeling of ‘now I’ve paid my dues’ – that’s the enemy. That’s what makes this a vicious loop. Detox today. Tox Tomorrow. Cheat forever. Repeat forever. 

PS: We also fall for cleanses because they signal ’a fresh start’. Where all the sins of the past are now washed, and we can begin afresh, just like a ‘new’ year. 

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Three: The Treadmill 

This one is for those who’ve wisened up to the gym deal. The trick for those who didn’t get tricked. Yet. 

So you just saved yourself 20k? And you promised yourself you’ll prove your commitment before you spend the moolah? Well, you’re in luck. I have just the thing for you!

Tell me, how will you prove your commitment? Oh, you’ll walk 10000 steps every day. Or maybe you’ll prepare for that marathon. But you know how tough it is to find a good place to run in the city. And you must not allow yourself any excuse. Not this time. So come, get this cheap treadmill. Just 12k. On offer at 10k. Only for this week. 

Four: The Cycle

Didn’t fall for the treadmill? Hmm, you’re right. It’s boring. Who wants to run to stay in the same place? Especially when that place is between your bed and your drying underwear. 

This is the new year. This is the time to start something new. Pick up that guitar you’ve been lugging around every time you shift houses. Join that pottery class that all the cool people have been raving about. Or, at the very least, start cycling! 

You could cycle to work. Leave your laptop at the office. Use that extra space to pack clothes. Shower at the office gym. Signal to all colleagues that this time you’re serious about getting fit. Maybe in a year, you’ll get so good you’ll participate in an ultra-cycling event—the one in the Nilgiris. You’ve heard the pros ride carbon-fibre cycles there. Maybe you should get that one only. What, it’s 100k! Wow. But hey, if you spend that much, there’s no way you won’t do it seriously. Right?

Funny how we have this strange notion that ‘spending money’ signals intent. Be it the treadmill, the cycle, that new set of gym clothes, those new running shoes… give us something we can spend on to show that we’re serious this time. Why would we spend our hard-earned dollars if we weren’t?

Marketers know we have this unsaid stash of guilt money we bring out every new year. And if we’re hell-bent on proving (to ourselves) that this time is different (all I need are those new shoes), well, the marketeer is happy to help.

Five: The Bulk Discount: 

If spending money signals intent, then the more you spend, the stronger the signal!

So here’s the full-year-gym-membership equivalent of new-year sales. Buy a set of six socks/five vests/ four running shorts/ three wristbands/ two shoes (one for gym and another for running, of course) – and get 20% off. You’re committing to working out at least 4-times a week, right? How can you, if you have only two pairs of shorts? Come on, show us you mean it. 

You know what I’ll say. So I won’t. 

Bonus: The Christmas Sale

All December, we get sales on clothes, food, drinks, iPhones, and gifts of all kinds. All January, we get deals on gyms, gym clothes, cycles, treadmills, and juice cleanses. The same folks who feed into our (so-called) vices feed off our guilt. New year marketing doesn’t begin in January. It starts in December. 

Because if you didn’t break the rules enough in December, what would there be to mend in Jan? Not to mention, if the cost of repentance (paid in Jan) must be commensurate with the sin (done in December) – then the only way to grow sales in Jan is to boost sales in December! 

Crap. I just realised I’m writing this a few weeks too late. Half the battle is already lost. The croissant is had. The beer is downed. The spring is wound. The man has stumbled. The cookie must crumble. Sigh. 

What’s worse is that this last week of December will be worse. A hundred bucks say there’ll be more croissants and wine this week than in the previous three. And since we humans have legendarily short memories, the recency of this debauchery will force an even bigger rebound. 

I’m sorry. I really did sit down to write an uplifting piece to end the year with. A piece filled with hope. Hope for a new day. A new year. A new start. But no. We’re doomed. The marketeer has won. Wait. I’m a marketeer too! I should be happy. If everyone is going to join a gym soon, they will need to eat more protein too! Hmm, maybe we should launch a new, high-protein bar in Jan. Maybe we should offer an early-bird discount if you buy thirty. Maybe we should sell you a full-year subscription. Two-months free. Yes. That’s it. I’m happy now.

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