2014 AnxietyIndex Report: Ebola

Ebola ReportEbola. The name itself evokes various emotions for all of us—fear, frustration, anger, and perhaps most of all—anxiety.

For the last month, JWT’s AnxietyIndex has been navigating consumers’ sentiments around Ebola in an effort to help brands navigate consumer behavior in these times of heightened anxiety; tracking levels and intensity of consumer anxiety as well as the drivers of anxiety, both from a macro and micro perspective. Utilizing SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary research tool, we conducted an extensive quantitative study, sampling 500 adults 18-plus in the U.S.

What has culminated is a thought-provoking look at what consumers’ general anxieties are as of late, attitudes toward the Ebola disease and issues at hand, as well as brands’ overall role in prevention and the conversation itself.

While Americans largely remain anxious in 2014 about one thing or another, overall anxiety has declined over the past two years—especially since the high-anxiety days of the U.S. recession.

  • The current Ebola outbreak has raised the level of anxiety about global pandemic diseases significantly.
  • While Americans are very anxious about the possibility of a widespread Ebola outbreak—both in the U.S. and around the world—very few adults believe they are likely to actually contract the disease. As a result, relatively few are taking active precautions.
  • Certain brands can credibly communicate about Ebola: Consumers indicate they would welcome messages from travel and health care brands, as their messages would reassure Americans of their safety. Ninety-two percent of respondents admire companies that are taking action to help stop the spread of Ebola; however, not all brands have consumers’ permission to inject themselves into the conversation.
  • In fact, brands that do not have what consumers see as a direct role in minimizing the crisis—like sanitizer brands and OTC cold/flu medications—run the risk of appearing as though they are trying to exploit the situation.

To download the full report, click here.

A health site warns ‘Don’t Google it’ in clever ways

Almost all of us have Googled health issues at some point, so it’s easy to see the humor in a campaign from Belgian medical site Gezondheid en Wetenschap, which claims that some three-quarters of the population “calls in doctor Google for medical advice.” A TV ad makes light of the strange and awful results that can come up in a Google search, which stir up fear and anxiety but do little to provide reliable information.

Going a step further, the campaign advises against Googling by enlisting Google AdWords, warning people at the right time and place. As a case study video explains, the first result upon Googling “twitching eyelid” is “Don’t Google it, consult a reliable source.” Upon clicking through, you reach Gezondheid en Wetenschap, a site approved by the Flemish government, who is the client here.

The effort is a clever way to alleviate what is often undue anxiety and guide consumers to reliable information, ultimately helping the medical system by creating more educated patients.

With ‘Coffee vs. Gangs,’ Kenco helps young Hondurans find opportunity

Honduras is one of the world’s largest coffee growers, but it’s also a very poor country, with almost two-thirds of the population below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. Feeling stuck in an environment that offers little opportunity to get ahead, many young people fall into a life of gangs and crime through intimidation or the promise of status and riches.

Enter Kenco’s recently launched Coffee vs. Gangs program, developed in partnership with JWT London. The coffee brand is sponsoring a yearlong education program for 20 at-risk youth, who will live on a coffee farm and learn the skills required to work in the industry. The effort is detailed on a microsite, coffeevsgangs.com. The program is part of a €200 million “Coffee Made Happy” effort from parent company Mondelēz to make coffee growing around the globe more sustainable by 2020; the company is looking to work with a million small-scale farmers to push a variety of improvements in agricultural and labor practices.

Kenco’s effort illustrates the concept of “shared value,” with the company supporting a good cause while also helping itself by ensuring at least a small supply of well-trained youth. Meanwhile the program helps assure conscientious consumers that, among all the coffee brands claiming sustainability, Kenco is one that’s deserving of their support.

KLM shows array of passengers how it’s #HappytoHelp

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines recently dedicated a team of 250 employees to help travelers in need, KLM passenger or not, during a five-day promotion meant to highlight its customer service capabilities. As part of the international #HappytoHelp campaign, customer service reps worked around the clock in shifts of 30, monitoring several airports as well as Twitter. The team was stationed in a custom-built glass pavilion at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, with additional people in New York, São Paulo and Hong Kong.

KLM addressed numerous travel concerns through various means. A couple with an infant got a private room with snacks and toys to ensure a comfortable layover, while a Sydney-bound traveler looking for advice received some tips. Exhausted passengers waiting at night for early morning flights got free coffee. KLM even hired a New York speedboat taxi for a passenger running late due to traffic, allowing him to make that day’s only flight from Newark to Bermuda.

Travel is usually an anxiety-inducing and stress-provoking experience, with passengers juggling concerns of safety, comfort and cost, and with many airlines less than happy to help. KLM’s campaign reinforced its commitment to making the journey less difficult. The challenge, of course, is for its staff to carry this out day in and day out.

McDonald’s continues transparency kick with US Q&A campaign

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.

Children’s Motrin among brands helping moms to help each other

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.

Rosetta Stone targets Millennials with vision of global harmony

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.

Shell creates energy-generating football pitch in Brazil

Morro da Mineira Project

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

In high-stress Ukraine, AVK’s Kresko brand provides antidote to anxiety

Ukraine has recently seen revolution, war, terrorism and economic crisis, news that has appeared all over social networks and news feeds—creating a “maximally negative information realm in the Internet,” as this drily humorous case study from AVK’s Kresko brand puts it. And a tide of negative posts and comments on social media only help to trigger feelings of fear and anxiety. So to launch these cookies, the confectionery company positioned them as having an anti-stress effect.

AVK’s humorous “World Web Antistress Project” asked consumers to click to specify their level of irritation, after which they received the “required dose” of positive content (dog videos, etc.) as a remedy. An Antistress Project Twitter account communicates with users directly and reinforces their feeling of annoyances, but offering a solution. According to the video, more than 30,000 users had engaged with the project in its first two weeks, and the brand had collected more than 5,000 likes. There’s always a place for good feelings and emotions—although giving freebies or discounts to the most irritated or anxious consumers could have helped boost the positivity factor.

Greece’s Alpha Bank targets anxious borrowers by making its debt solutions transparent

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. Alpha Bank

Video Credit: Alpha Bank