One of the most important challenges for marketers is to make consumers change their behaviors. In this article we see how marketers can use a fresh start mindset to induce behavioral change for good. Despite there are many techniques suggested by scholars and (less scientifically) by “self-help experts,” we will focus here just on the fresh start mindset, a recent discovery on consumer behavior research.


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Why behavioral change?

Gyms are offering new memberships, apps are offering meditation services, education institutions are offering language learning, food providers are offering new dietary plans. All these companies provide services that improve wellness through change; a change that people are not always willing to make. As consumers, we struggle with behavioral change. We are tied with years-old routines and habits, and we do not make an effort to change.

Given this situation, how can marketers help consumers in achieving their wellbeing objectives and actually create a long-lasting impact in consumers’ lives? How can companies foster change for good?

The fresh start: a cultural belief

In the American culture (an in many individualistic cultures), people strongly believe that individuals are not pre-destined with a certain fate but they are the makers of their own fortunes. Individualistic cultures see individuals alone in society, and impute any success or failure on their abilities and hard work. These believes are intrinsic in capitalistic systems, and has grown strongly in most countries all around the world.

Despite this positive idea of man as the maker-of-its-own-fortune, we know that economic and social forces create obstacles to freedom. Societies are intrinsically unequal, and some individuals will always be favored by right of lineage, race, nationality and physical appearance. Some cultures embrace this view of the world, and impute people’s outcomes to the situations and systems, and not the efforts of the individual. For example, in many collectivistic countries, people do not impute failure to the individual alone, and accept higher taxations in exchange for a more inclusive safety net, that would help also the most poor and marginalized.

Therefore, there are cultures where it is stronger the idea that individuals can determine their actions, and there are cultures where it is stronger the idea that individuals are determined by external social forces, and they are not expected to change.

Fresh start: a mindset

Beside cultural differences, there is also variance among individuals within a culture. In other words, there are people that naturally have a “fresh start mindset” and people that do not believe in change. This variance in believes affects important everyday decision such as:

  • How much people are willing to donate to institutions helping veterans.
  • How frequently people support companies employing ex-convicts, for example buying their products.
  • How much people support a candidate that want to fight obesity.

Furthermore, a fresh start is not just something that varies between cultures and between individuals: it varies also within the individual depending on the situation. The normal level of fresh start mindset can shift dramatically, simply showing the right metaphors or putting the individual in a specific temporal perspective.

Temporal milestones

For example, it has been shown that borders and temporal milestones affect people’s fresh start mindset. Celebrations that indicate the end of a cycle give people a fresh start mindset. The new year is the most important example: people are more likely to change at the beginning of a new year, defining good purposes and setting ambitious goals.

But minor temporal milestones have also an effect on people fresh start mindset. The start of a new month, the start of a new week, the day after a yearly celebration (e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas), birthdays… all these milestones impact the fresh start mindset. For example, a study showed that the minor milestones affect google searches for words like “gym” “change” “education”, and “start.”


People can be primed with a fresh start also simply telling them about the existence of a fresh start. The value of redemption that is so strong in the US culture (and in general for many ex-colonial cultures) can be primed with specific messages. Marketers can use a communication focused on the ability to have a “new me” or to “start from zero” to “start anew.” All these messages communicate a fresh start, freed by external forces.

Caution note

Despite the fresh start mindset theory helps marketers in converting non-users in users, it does not help them in retaining the consumers. In fact, the fresh start is based mainly on changing the motivation of people for doing something, breaking the unstoppable cycle of repeated actions that govern many consumers’ lives. However, it does not change the pattern of habits that a consumer have to install after the behavior is initiated. For example, one person can finally decide to buy floss and start flossing, because of a fresh start campaign, but it does not guarantee that the individual will floss every day in the future. Other marketing initiatives are needed to make consumer change permanently.


What marketers can do:

  • Use the fresh start metaphor in your messages. Center your efforts in creating messages that underline: the freedom to change, freedom to determine your future, freedom to forget the past and start a new thing. In this line, the famous “just do it” campaign of Nike is a fresh start campaign.
  • Target consumers in specific time of the year. If your product entails behavioral change, you may find on the calendar the turning point of temporal cycles. First day of the year, Mondays, 1st day of the month, the day after national or religious celebrations are all examples of times where people have a natural higher fresh start mindset.
  • Target consumers in personal turning points. Not all temporal milestones are general, other can be personal. For example: birthdays, engagements, marriages, moving to a new house/town, anniversaries, coming back from a vacation or a trip etc. All these moments are turning points or milestones that will trigger a fresh start mindset on people.
  • Use examples from popular cultures. American popular culture is full of indication of fresh start. The myth of the Mayflower, that is the myth of the foundation of the US, the Boston tea party, that freed the US from England, the “American dream”, the archetype of the lonely Cowboy and the “far west”, and other cultural reference, can trigger a fresh start mindset. They all promise change, freedom and leaving behind any obstacle for a recharged opportunity. You can use these references to trigger a fresh start mindset.


Monthly Consumer Discoveries is a Monthly newsletter that brings you the most interesting updates in consumer behavior research.





Price, L. L., Coulter, R. A., Strizhakova, Y., & Schultz, A. E. (2018). The fresh start mindset: Transforming consumers’ lives. Journal of Consumer Research, 45(1), 21-48.

Strizhakova, Y., Coulter, R. A., & Price, L. L. (2021). EXPRESS: The Fresh Start Mindset: A Cross-National Investigation and Implications for Environmentally-Friendly Global Brands. Journal of International Marketing, 1069031X211021822.

Milfeld, Tyler, Eric Haley, and Daniel J. Flint. “A Fresh Start for Stigmatized Groups: The Effect of Cultural Identity Mindset Framing in Brand Advertising.” Journal of Advertising (2021): 1-27.




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