Dr Rodrigo Perez-Vega (@rpvega) is a Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Henley Business School. His research focuses on how to make branded social media presence more engaging for customers. He has consulted companies on digital marketing and social media strategy in the UK, France, Spain and the Middle East.

This post was initially published at the Henley News.

Today is supposed to be the gloomiest day of the year, according to Dr Cliff Arnall, a former academic specialised in the field of psychology that devised a formula that is supposed to determine the gloomiest day of the year based on some rather grim factors. Beyond the validity of Dr Arnall’s depression score formula, some opportunities arise from events like this from a marketing perspective, and businesses have embraced rather happily Blue Monday to their calendar of marketing communication activities and promotional events.

From a marketing perspective, Blue Monday represents an opportunity for companies to engage with an event that will receive much coverage in the media and that consumers are familiar with since its introduction in 2005. Aligning your marketing communications activities to events that resonate emotionally with consumers, can be a very effective way to counteract the decreasing effectiveness of day-to-day marketing communications. It also provides an excellent opportunity for brands to speak about something that is timely relevant and that can be aligned to context-specific promotions.

Some additional benefits of tying up marketing communication activities to events with high immediacy are that they are favoured by search engines and social media algorithms. This is particularly relevant in platforms such as Facebook that have systematically reduced the organic reach to support the monetisation of their platforms, but that still will likely show content that many people are talking about, as it is now the case of Blue Monday.

However, brands and businesses should approach events like Blue Monday carefully, as just piggy-backing on events indiscriminately may lead to negative attitudes from consumers when not carefully thought through. Examples of this are abundant on social media (e.g. Bing’s use of #SupportJapan hashtag during the earthquake or the #WhyIStayed tweet from DiGiorno Pizza), and they can quickly escalate into PR disasters if not managed appropriately. For this, research also provides some guidelines on what are the best approaches to follow during a Facebook PR crisis. For example, Distaso et al. (2015) found that just giving an apology and providing information about what went wrong can have a better impact on trust and reputation of the brand than just showing sympathy towards the ones affected or offended by the communication message. Furthermore, stating facts help rebuild brand credibility.

Using events like Blue Monday to improve businesses outcomes can be perceived by many as another cynical gimmick of marketing practice. However, if Dr Arnall’s depression score formula is accurate, and today is indeed the saddest day of the year, consumers could indeed benefit from a few promotions during the day to cheer them up.