Friday, January 1, 2016

Using the Collective Amnesia of the New Year

In one sense, the new year is just an arbitrary day on the calendar. If you want to make a change, the best time to do it is the moment you think of it. Waiting for the new year makes your change some number of days too late. In another sense, though, there is something going on with the new year. We collectively forget the past more easily as the new year gets started. You can use this to more easily make a change in your personal habits. The change made right around the beginning of the year is more likely to stick as you forget what your prior habit was. In a similar way, the new year is a tool used by those who want to change the emotional associations of a brand or company. Start talking about something new in the new year, and people begin to forget what the conversation was in the year just ended.

The rebranding team at Volkswagen, for example, can take this moment to shift the conversation away from the company’s diesel problems by starting to talk about its electric car initiative, or something else completely unrelated to emissions testing. Political candidates who looked weak and confused last year can take this moment to present themselves in a different style that they can hope comes across as more authoritative. If it works, last year’s gaffes will be quickly forgiven. Start looking for it, and you can find examples everywhere of people and organizations using the new-year amnesia to make needed changes.