Two years ago we wrote about McDonald’s’ transparency kick in the U.K. (the site What Makes McDonald’s) and Canada, where yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca invited consumers to ask whatever questions they had, “even the tough ones.” Those efforts followed an Australian TV documentary sponsored by the brand, McDonald’s Gets Grilled, which showed several consumers touring various company operations, sometimes asking challenging questions. The latest effort to address anxieties about fast food—exactly how it’s made and with what ingredients, etc.—is an American campaign that answers consumers’ most frequently asked questions.
A YouTube video series features Grant Imahara from the show MythBusters visiting McDonald’s suppliers. Another video shows people asking questions at an outdoor ad that solicited queries. Naturally these are all questions that McDonald’s can answer easily; answers are posted online (e.g., Chicken McNuggets do not contain pink slime and are made from the tenderloin, breast and rib, ground with a bit of chicken skin and a marinade). The company is also soliciting questions via tweet and tweeting responses.
The simple act of opening up to questions may reassure some of today’s increasingly skeptical consumers. But as the ranks of curious, educated and anxious eaters keep growing, McDonald’s will have to do more to boost confidence that it sells “real” food made from wholesome ingredients. With both McDonald’s and Coca-Cola stumbling at the moment—“Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors,” writes Slate—we’ll see food companies not only marketing in new ways but also changing their products to meet rising demand for better-for-you ingredients.
New research from Rutgers University says that a woman’s happiness is more important than her husband’s when it comes to keeping a marriage afloat. Meanwhile, more branded support systems have started to appear. Marketers are trying to help women help each other, specifically moms.
Walmart Canada has long been studying the role of Mom and how to talk to her, fully versed in the realities she faces every day. Every year, Walmart asks other moms (and the general public) to vote and recognize one mom as “Mom of the Year.” The program gives an outlet for Canadians to say thank you to moms in their lives, awarding one but appreciating all. It came to fruition after JWT learned that Mom doesn’t always feel appreciated for all she does.
Now, a campaign for Children’s Motrin in the U.S. is encouraging moms to reach out to each other and ask for help and tips to make them unstoppable. Kelly Ripa is the spokeswoman for the “Unstoppable Moms” campaign, and she’s featured in a series of videos that aim to help Mom out in her daily life. This ensures the brand’s relevance is credible and not jarring. Brands are enabling the conversation and helping to make life a little easier and happier for Mom.
At a time when it seems as though the globe is hopelessly bogged down by cultural misunderstanding and disconnects, Rosetta Stone proposes that a key to a happier, more tolerant world may lie in acquiring a new language. The language-tutorial brand is challenging people, especially Millennials, to “create a smaller world” by learning to better communicate in other tongues.
A manifesto spot depicts everyday situations that could be enhanced by connecting through conversation, asking viewers to “imagine the world if everyone learned just one more language.” It would be a world of shared stories and ideas, meals and unlikely conversations. The campaign includes four webisodes detailing the adventures of Millennials exploring new countries, and a social media component offers people a chance to win a subscription to Rosetta Stone by following the brand on Instagram and completing a weekly photo-sharing challenge.
For a brand seeking to connect with the optimistic, globally minded Millennial cohort, positioning Rosetta Stone as a way to help build global harmony rather than as a purely utilitarian tool for navigating foreign cultures is a smart move.
Roughly 6 percent of Brazilians (more than 11 million people) live in favelas, or shantytowns, which often lack basic services. Many of these residents are among Brazil’s emerging middle class. Brands are starting to see opportunities to improve infrastructure and services in these neighborhoods, an idea we highlighted in one of our 10 Trends for 2011, Creative Urban Renewal.
Recently, JWT London and Shell did just that by installing a first-of-its-kind electricity-generating football/soccer pitch in Rio de Janeiro’s Morro da Mineira favela. Kinetic tiles capture the energy generated by players running on the pitch, and in tandem with solar power, this charges floodlights—allowing youngsters to keep playing safely into the evening.
At a time when CSR and traditional marketing efforts are meshing, Creative Urban Renewal projects present ways for brands to both help communities and position themselves as innovative and original. In this case, Shell is able to illustrate its “Make the Future” initiative, which aims to “inspire a new wave of scientists and engineers to create a smarter, cleaner energy future for our planet.” These projects tend to be sustainable, fun, educational and interactive—key attributes for brands.
Photo Credit: Shell
The financial crisis took a severe toll on Greece’s banking industry and put a huge amount of pressure on Greeks holding consumer debt (mortgages, credit cards, etc.). Bad debt is a major issue in the country, and the news has been filled with stories of people struggling to meet their financial obligations. Until now, however, Greek banks have been reluctant to address people’s anxiety about their debt for fear of being insensitive or undermining confidence in the banking sector overall.
Now, together with JWT Athens, one of Greece’s leading banks has taken the brave step to actively communicate a program that seeks to find solutions to customers’ debt problems. Alpha Bank’s “We find solutions” website feeds in entirely anonymous data about consumer debt problems and the bank’s initial solutions. This means consumers should feel more confident to visit the bank and discuss their problems, and also more positive about getting a successful outcome.
The TV campaign features a popular Greek actor expressing the anxiety many consumers feel about approaching the bank with their problems. The scenario depicts him nervously practicing what to say to the bank manager until his son suggests he visit the “We find solutions” website so he can feel more confident in broaching the topic. Initial research found the ads resonated strongly, and they scored particularly high on relevance, persuasion and likability—particularly for a bank ad—proving that sometimes it pays to be courageous.
Video Credit: Alpha Bank
Three out of five Britons believe London is doomed to become “a ghetto for the super-rich.” This is one of several provocative findings that surfaced in JWT London’s sixth Austerity Index report, revealing a boiling pot of anxiety and tensions that are condensing into a hard-line stance on housing market regulation. As competition rises and affordability dips, a backlash is finding its target in immigrants, “transplants” and investors: Over a third of respondents in our study would even make it illegal for non-nationals to own property in the U.K.
Along with tracking the usual metrics to gauge the effect of prolonged austerity on British consumers, the latest survey looks at housing, which is becoming a serious and emotive problem in Britain. As wages have stagnated and mortgage lending criteria have constricted, the outlook for aspiring property buyers seems bleak. JWT London’s survey shows that almost half of those yet to start on the property ladder make a direct link between home ownership and their own self-worth. And while 46 percent of those unable to get onto the property ladder fear for their futures, 48 percent have lost hope that their grandchildren will ever own property in the U.K.
Marie Stafford, Planning Foresight Director at JWT London, explains: “The significance of property in the population’s psyche is somewhat exceptional to the U.K. compared to our neighbours in Europe, where renting is the norm. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting keener, and nowhere is this felt more strongly than in the property market.”
The full report is available to download at austerityindex.com, along with reports from previous quarters.
The ever-rising cost of housing across key markets has long been a source of anxiety for Canadians—an important factor for banks to be conscious of when finding ways to connect with their consumers. A recent report by Royal Bank of Canada highlights that point of anxiety. Based on Statistics Canada’s most recent Survey of Financial Security, the report uses data broken out by household age. And while the ongoing rise in home prices has meant increased net worth for many older Canadians, it’s meant more debt for younger ones.
Royal Bank of Canada has used dynamic ways to connect with this cohort of new home buyers and help ease the stress that comes along with a first mortgage. Earlier this year they posted faux movie trailers to YouTube that reflect the different types of stress encountered in the mortgage process. For the overwhelmed, they created a drama, and there’s a horror theme for those intimidated by it all; for people who are more excited than stressed, there’s a romantic comedy.
The campaign, which includes clickable links to relevant RBC sites and social content, taps into consumer anxiety and positions RBC as an understanding expert in the process. As home prices continue to rise and uncertainty about the debt taken on remains, banks will need to find more ways to reassure and aid consumers.
We’re living in a Super Stress Era (one of JWT’s 10 Trends for 2013), and news headlines filled with what seems like more doom and gloom than normal are only driving more stress and anxiety among consumers. Brands can help lift spirits by offering consumers some unexpected moments of cheer. Earlier this summer, TD Bank scored a viral hit after it created a few special ATMs that dispensed gifts to loyal patrons in Canada, part of its “TD Thanks You” campaign; these customers got anything from extra cash to a ticket to visit a faraway daughter with cancer. The smile-inducing video has garnered 10 million-plus views.
To illustrate its tagline “Awakens a smile in you,” Brazilian bread brand Nutrella also jumped on the joy bandwagon with its “Friendly Mirror”: a mirror placed around public places that gave random compliments to people walking by. (An idea similar to Avon’s 2011 “Miraculous Mirror” campaign in Slovakia.) Meanwhile, in early August, Honda promoted its annual summer clearance event with a “Summer Cheerance” campaign, which included a “Cheerance” playlist in tandem with Pandora, piñatas for passersby to swing at, a “Stand Here for Cheer” box (which released surprises like saxophone serenades and a bouquet-toting bear) and silly fun in partnership YouTube celebrity Andrew Hales.
For consumers weighed down by anxieties, marketers have the opportunity to be a bright spot, building a brand narrative based in joy.
Although gas prices have held at roughly the same level for the past three years in the U.S., pain at the pump is still a consumer concern. (Myriad brands have sought ways to ease consumer anxiety over gas prices: Grocery chains including Costco and Kroger, for instance, offer gas savings tied to purchases; we’ve written about Morrisons’ Fuel Saver program in the U.K.) KFC recently offered a nostalgic panacea with a throwback to better days—a time “when you could get a hot, delicious meal and fill up your car for just $5,” as a press release put it—by providing lunch and a tank full of gas for only five bucks to promote its new $5 Fill-Up meals.
The promotion was for one day only at a service station in Louisville, Ky., and included a Colonel Sanders character pumping gas. A companion Twitter “fill-up” campaign let fans trade professions of brand love for free fuel and meals.
Nostalgia has played a major role in recession and post-recession marketing with brands leveraging visions of a simpler past to create emotional connections. By addressing price concerns with the emotional balm of nostalgia, KFC leveraged its history to create camaraderie and build affinity in a still-uncertain economy.