Blue Monday PR stunt
Opinion, Student/PR

Blue Monday: The Best PR Stunt Of All Time?

So yesterday was Blue Monday, dubbed the most depressing day of the year due to the time since your last payday, the awful weather, the slump after Christmas, and so on. If you were feeling up against it yesterday, the media may lead you to believe that it’s perfectly rational to feel that way because after all, it is statistically, the worst day of the year. 


‘Blue Monday’ has been around for some years now, but how many people know where it originates from, I wonder? I saw a lot of people talking about it yesterday, from blaming their misfortunes on this damned Monday, to using it to draw attention to more longstanding issues like the problem of mental health in general (because depression doesn’t end when the clock strikes midnight for Tuesday, by the way). It led me to think that despite not everybody knowing where the mysterious ‘Blue Monday’ originated from, this has got to be one of the best PR gags of all time.

Or has it?

Best PR Stunt Ever…

For a lot of PRs, virality is the dream. And that’s exactly what travel company ‘Sky Travel‘ managed to achieve back in 2005 when they dubbed in a press release that the third Monday in January, statistically, is when you’re going to be the most depressed that year. Using equations to calculate this, the brand then twisted their concept of ‘Blue Monday’ into a reason to book a holiday. Which, to the best of my knowledge, seemed to really work for them.

Little did they know what it would grow to become.

Coining a term still remains to be one of the most successful link building (and PR) tactics, if you can really nail it down. For those who don’t know, the idea of a ‘coined phrase’ in link building and PR is when you literally make up a word or saying to describe something, and then when that term is used moving forward, people tend to associate it with your brand (and hopefully link to your website as credit too).

Whether they knew it or not, with ‘Blue Monday’, Sky Travel has just coined one of the best terms of recent times.

Little over 15 years later, ‘Blue Monday’ is still an ever discussed concept. Whether you’re for it or against it, you can’t deny it’s still a hot topic of discussion every year. From marketers using the day in their strategies, to journalists using it as a base topic for stories in the media – the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ is still going strong.

The NHS are now trying to turn ‘Blue Monday’ into ‘Brew Monday’ which I’m totally here for…

Although the occasion isn’t associated with Sky Travel by everybody anymore, it is by some. (Hello!) And though the brand actually dissolved back in 2010, their legacy still lives on and their creative efforts are still commended by comms professionals like myself all these years down the line.

Whether you believe in the day or not, you can’t deny that whoever thought up the notion of ‘Blue Monday’ did an impeccable job of sparking a global phenomenon that would be talked about for years and years to come. Though Sky Travel no longer exists, their creativity lingers on all of these years. ‘Blue Monday’ (though it is utter nonsense, let’s be honest) has to be one for the ages of perfectly executed PR stunts.

Or was it?

…Or Not?

Ever the cynic, I also have to bring to you the argument that ‘Blue Monday’ wasn’t all as gleaming as it seemed. Though undeniably commendable for the fact that it’s brought up every year without fail if nothing else, there are also a few flaws that would lead me to question whether this was the perfect PR stunt by Sky Travel.

The first being what I mentioned above, that not a lot of people tend to associate ‘Blue Monday’ with Sky Travel anymore. I mean, why would they when the brand has since collapsed? I feel that there really was a missed opportunity here, if the brand could have really capitalised on their idea and better branded Blue Monday to their organisation, then who’s to say they couldn’t have fought the competitive market, that ultimately was their demise, for a little longer?

The second being that as a concept, ‘Blue Monday’ gets a looooooott of stick. If it’s not from journalists debunking the theory behind it time and time again, it’s that the day is often referred to as a ‘PR stunt to sell holidays’. Which, to be fair, it is. But what this shows is that a lot of people were wise to the fact that this was not much more than a persuasive (albeit creative) publicity attempt by Sky Travel to generate business. When people start viewing your campaigns as deceptive and false, that’s when they can really go downhill.

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PR has become a lot more ethical in recent years and luckily deceptive campaigns are now few and far between. However, back in the day, they were pretty commonplace. Is ‘Blue Monday’ another example of questionable PR, or was it a small stroke of genius?

All in all, I think you can’t discredit that Sky Travel did a stellar job of coining a phenomenon that (probably unbeknownst to them) would actually outlive them. However, you can tell that there were cracks in the campaign, and they probably didn’t use it to their best advantage.

What do you think? Love it or hate it? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

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