JWT’s AnxietyIndex is designed as a place to discuss how brands and consumers are responding to the global recession. With daily content updates, AnxietyIndex.com includes contributions from around JWT’s network, offering a truly global perspective.
For Special K’s latest “More Than a Number” campaign, the brand invited women to a jeans giveaway: The gimmick was that instead of a size number on the pants, labels bore various positive words (“fierce,” “vivacious,” etc.). A tape measure featuring those words in place of measurements helped women figure out which jeans to try. In a video, women talk about how they hate shopping for jeans, and Special K asks, “Why do we let the size of our jeans measure our worth?” The final message: “Let’s rethink what defines us.”
This effort is similar to a U.K. initiative from Special K that we wrote about last year, in which women weighed themselves and saw encouraging words rather than numbers. At the time, we noted a spate of other campaigns that aimed to make women more confident in themselves rather than inducing anxiety by promoting unattainable beauty standards. This year, Dove’s hugely popular “Real Beauty Sketches” continued that theme.
New York City is now addressing the issue of body image and self-esteem with its Girls Project, which appears to be the first such campaign sponsored by a municipality, according to The New York Times. Bus and subway ads show smiling girls with the headline “I’m a girl. I’m beautiful the way I am” and lines like, “I’m funny, playful, daring, strong, curious, smart, brave, healthy, friendly and caring.” The word “beautiful” has sparked some criticism—that the campaign should emphasize values other than beauty—although the website does better than the ads, explaining that the project aims to “help girls believe their value comes from their character, skills, and attributes—not appearance.” Watch for more marketers to get behind this type of positive messaging, and expand it to include the male gender as well.
We’ve seen brands responding to Millennial anxiety—brought on by high unemployment and ongoing economic malaise—both by addressing the jobs issue directly (Campari, McDonald’s, Benetton) and by aiming to inspire, as Levi’s has done with its “Go Forth” effort. Now two spirits brands are taking the latter course to target this generation, telling them to “Transform today” and “Defy the odds” in global campaigns.
Absolut’s “Transform Today” campaign continues the vodka brand’s focus on artists, spotlighting four young creatives: a fashion designer, a digital media artist, a graphic novelist and the artist/musician Woodkid, whose song “Ghost Lights” is the soundtrack to a manifesto spot. They are all “recreating themselves in order to become something more.” Print ads feature go-get-’em slogans like “Dare to think beyond” and “See where you take you.” Absolut’s VP of global marketing tells Forbes: “The campaign is to put a stake in the ground about what we believe in as a brand, which is ‘The future is not a given, it is what you create.’”
Johnnie Walker’s new iteration of its “Keep Walking” campaign also looks to the future—five years ahead, in the form of “a message of hope from a successful man to his younger self.” A TV commercial depicts “people trying to move themselves forward, with one foot in the frustrations of today’s workplace and an eye on the potential of the future.” The ad is empathetic—“You’re doing a job you don’t get. You’ve got talent no one’s ever seen”—before assuring young viewers that the future promises better: “One day you’ll rise up, defy the odds, silence the doubters.”
We’ve described Millennials as Generation Go: Rather than wallowing in the idea that they’re a Lost Generation, this generation is both resilient and resourceful, and notably entrepreneurial-minded. Brands that tap into this spirit will strike a chord.
As we’ve previously noted, over the past few years some brands have been playing up their domestic provenance to appeal to American and British consumers anxious about jobs disappearing and their nations losing ground as emerging markets rise. Now, at a time of swelling nationalist pride around the royal baby’s birth, John Lewis is promoting British manufacturing by emphasizing products made in the U.K.
Although two-thirds of the retailer’s goods are manufactured outside Britain, John Lewis is highlighting domestically made products by marking them with the Union Jack. On its website, the company explains that it’s working with around 130 British manufacturers “in celebration of the nation’s skills and craftsmanship.” Buying a British-made carpet, for instance, “means you support British farming,” since carpet makers are the country’s biggest users of local wool.
While John Lewis’s managing director acknowledges that locally manufactured products will never be the cheapest, he believes there is a sweet spot “in terms of design, quality and value.” With anxieties stemming from the economic crisis likely to linger even as consumer spending starts rising in the U.K., it’s a good time to appeal to national pride.
We recently posted about hypermarket chain Leclerc and its price-comparison site Quiestlemoinscher.com (“who is the less expensive”), a popular tool for French shoppers. With consumers in many markets anxious about the cost of everyday goods and exceedingly price-sensitive, shoppers are ever more apt to research the lowest-price options. In response, mySupermarket aims to “bring price transparency to the shopping experience and help you shop smart.” The online-shopping service launched in 2006 in the U.K., where it claims 2.9 million registered users, and is now expanding to the U.S.
In the U.S., the service lets shoppers choose among staples sold by eight major retailers (Amazon, Walmart, Target, Soap.com, Diapers.com, Drugstore.com, Walgreens and Costco), alerting users when they can save further by choosing a different size or alternative product. Shoppers check out via mySupermarket, which “optimize[s] your cart to get you free shipping,” according to a promotional video. According to TechCrunch, the company is also planning a mobile app that would notify shoppers about relevant promotions when they’re in stores.
While many brick-and-mortar retailers are fretting about showrooming, it’s a trend that generally hasn’t applied to supermarkets—but they’re still vulnerable in the face of new digital tools that give consumers more workarounds and comprehensive data. At the same time, however, marketers might find opportunities here: The company told TechCrunch that its app will enable brands to communicate with opted-in consumers—for instance, alerting them to price decreases on favorite items or sending a reminder to stock up on various staples.
Targeting Americans who aren’t currently gym-goers, the chain Planet Fitness aims to soothe the anxieties of everyday shlubs who feel out of their element at the gym. It promises a “Judgement Free Zone,” described as a “safe, energetic environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected.” And its “no lunks” policy forbids overly macho behaviors like grunting and weight-dropping, with offenders asked to leave. This year Planet Fitness introduced the line “No Gymtimidation” in its messaging, with commercials that mock fanatics and other intimidating types.
The most recent iteration of the campaign, “No Pintimidation,” was inspired by a study that found that 42 percent of American mothers are stressed out by images on Pinterest. “Who can live up to all this pinned perfection?” asks the campaign microsite, which offers to “de-pintimidate” any overly intimidating images. The site adorns images that users upload with an overlay of whimsical patterns, cats, flowers, etc. Given the primacy of images on the Web these days, it’s a smart way to keep building the brand’s down-to-earth, fun and informal persona.
U.K. mobile operator O2 has launched a fun new campaign that reminds us that although we’ve all become bored and jaded, “the modern world is astonishing” and “we can do the most incredible things.” (An echo of Louis C.K.’s “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”) The Telefónica brand urges consumers to “be open to amazing new technology and what it can do”—by being more like a dog than a cat.
The “Be More Dog” campaign likens people to cats (aloof, unimpressed) and advises us to be “be a bit more dog” because “to them, life is amazing.” The message is that we’ve become so cynical that we’ve lost all sense of wonder at the joys of modern technology. The commercial, which keeps the focus off O2 itself, extols the canine’s approach to life while showing the type of delightful pet shots that will get distracted viewers to stop and watch. It also refers viewers to bemoredog.com, where they can play a “grab the Frisbee” game and link to more information about O2’s offerings.
Brands are more likely to connect with today’s anxious consumers by emphasizing the core value of hope, inspiring optimism rather than stoking fears, as we’ve long noted. O2 has found a way to tie its brand to a life-affirming message that most viewers can connect with, illustrated with the most viral of digital themes.
America’s Boomers are facing a delayed retirement, in part because many long-term investments plummeted in value during the downturn. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, a Conference Board study found that nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 45 to 60 are intending to put off retirement, up from 42 percent two years ago. Annuity.com taps into these financial-planning anxieties to sell this generation on fixed annuities.
In a commercial, the annuity check is represented by a safe, carried by a man clad in black suit and black shades. He follows the check’s recipients from supermarket to sauna to doctor’s office and beach—he’s always there. The voiceover explains the benefits of an annuity, assuring that “best of all, your money’s not at risk from the ups and downs of the stock market, and that means you won’t have to put off your retirement.”
Last year we wrote about how Prudential is targeting this cohort, by confronting head-on the hard realities they’re facing. Watch for more marketers to addresses the anxiety felt by most Americans when it comes to retirement.
As Spain’s crisis grinds on, more of its marketers have been addressing the situation directly, as Agence France-Presse reported last year, “trying to lure hard-hit buyers by appealing to Spanish values of friendship, family, and proud resistance.” We’ve posted about some of these efforts over the last few years, including campaigns from a radio program, Mahou beer, Carrefour, Coca-Cola and Campofrío, a deli brand. The latest from Campofrío is a sweet, humor-tinged 60-second spot that aims to boost viewers’ national pride and give them hope for themselves and their country.
The spot opens with the famous clown Fofito saying he’s read that sales of antidepressants have reached a record, and that with the joblessness and pervasive news about how badly the country is doing, “it’s only natural that you end up thinking you are useless.” He’s speaking about the country itself. So he goes on to create a “résumé” for Spain, detailing a range of achievements—everything from seven Nobel prizes and Oscars to Don Quixote, Chupa Chups, athletic prowess and infrastructure. “Don’t forget today’s youth,” two young women tell him, assuring that while younger Spaniards are leaving, “we’ll be back.” The oldest generation gets a nod too: A grandma is a “champion” for supporting her children and grandchildren with her pension. Along the way, several Spanish notables make cameos, including tennis star David Ferrer and singer Malú.
“You are smarter and stronger than you think,” says Fofito as the spot winds down. It concludes: “Let nothing and no one deprive us of our way of enjoying life.” Campofrío connects the brand with an optimistic national outlook (much like Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” at last year’s Super Bowl) that’s also grounded in facts and faces that strike a chord—and turns enjoyment of its products into a statement about not giving up on Spain or life itself.
To view with subtitles English subtitles, click here.
With many Americans saying the American Dream is slipping out of their grasp, there’s a role for businesses to play in helping consumers achieve their Dream, one of the findings in our recent report “American Dream in the Balance.” More than a third of the respondents in a survey we conducted said corporations should help people achieve the Dream. And since fewer Americans now see the U.S. as a land of opportunity, brands should showcase the opportunities they’re creating. Walmart provides the latest example of a marketer doing this with its announcement last week that it plans to source more goods domestically, hire more veterans and help part-time workers transition to full-timers.
The company pledged that both Walmart and Sam’s Club stores will purchase an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next decade, both by buying more American-made goods and by onshoring U.S. production in several categories. Walmart said a new team within the company will drive the effort and that the company will work with state governors in its bid to create more jobs. Walmart also promised to provide jobs for any honorably discharged veterans in their first year off active duty, projecting that it will hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years. See our “American Dream” report for more examples of how marketers are tapping into consumer sentiment around the American Dream.
Midwinter, after the holidays are over, is inevitably a dreary time. Two years ago we wrote about a project called Smile for London that sought to combat the “January blues” for travelers in the city’s Tube system with “positive, thought-provoking visual stimulation.” Now, The Sun newspaper in the U.K. has launched “The Big Smile Giveaway,” looking to get people to “smile in the face of winter blues.” “January sucks,” declares a girl missing her two front teeth in a quirky ad that launched last week. But she urges that we “smile through the pain, the snotty noses and the rain” and confidently suggests we “kick January where there ain’t no sun.”
The campaign includes “smile squads” that will hit towns across the country to “purvey random acts of kindness, from paying road toll charges to providing cups of tea,” according to The Guardian. The effort is focused around a range of promotions, including bargain holidays and various family-themed offers. It’s the perfect time of year to position the brand as a source of cheer and positivity, focusing on “the things that make life fun,” as the toothless singer proclaims.