At this time of year, after the excesses of holiday festivities our thoughts often turn to New Year’s resolutions. Certainly, the media has been reporting resolutions, large and small, over the past week.  And, we’re not exempt from tracking them; we’re even exploring them a bit in a survey we’re fielding this week.

As we know, the same resolutions generally emerge the world over: losing weight, drinking less alcohol, exercising more, managing debt, managing stress, saving money, recycling and getting a better education.  These commitments to goals are developed purposefully and intended to last; yet our individual resolve to keep them often breaks down.  Frequently, our intentions are difficult to practice in day to day life and represent aspirations which are valued by society and not necessarily personally meaningful enough to permanently change in our behavior.

The most successful resolutions motivate change through practical action

However well intentioned, resolutions that are superimposed by our rational minds seem to fall apart as we deal with the pressures and stresses of our lives. People tell us that their most successful resolutions are those that motivate them to change through practical action that readily flows into their day to day routine.  They also come from deeply held internal value sets rather than from rules and norms imposed upon them.  Not surprisingly, most people are more likely to adapt their behaviour to unexpected events when they sincerely desire something rather than when they’ve been told to want it.

Like resolutions great brands set aspirations that motivate people

At the same time we’ve been talking to people about resolutions, we’ve been reviewing our on-going conversations with Millennials.  And, in doing so, we noticed an analogy between successful resolutions and great brands. Great brands set aspirations that motivate people - their employees, business partners and their consumers - to change.  Their values and organisational culture sincerely reflect things that are meaningful to society.  And, they purposefully set strategies that fluidly and practically flow into their day to day actions and interactions - inside and outside their organisations - to achieve their ambitions.  In other words, to meet their promises to themselves and others.  In an era of too many choices and contrived authenticity, as we look towards 2012, more brands need to be a mirror of our New Year’s resolutions.  Of the things people and society are seeking: practicality, alignment with day to day living and, perhaps most importantly, sincerity.