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.
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.
The recession revived the popularity of layaway plans, and with many consumers still struggling to make ends meet, retailers have been pushing their pay-over-time offerings again this holiday season (as we’ve posted about). Last year saw the rise of “layaway Santas,” Good Samaritans who paid off strangers’ layaway accounts, mostly at Kmart, and this year retailers have been trying to leverage the behavior.
Kmart sponsored a Big Layaway Giveaway, holding a drawing for 10 weeks from September through November to pay off the remaining balance in a layaway account. And it set up a Layaway Angels page online to track the frequency of “angel” donations (as yet, the tally is a tepid $1,521). Toys “R” Us, meanwhile, announced it would donate $200 worth of goods to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation for each layaway order that a Good Samaritan pays off. Layaway provides a novel means for new types of retail initiatives to help strained consumers, and even for consumers to help one another; it will be interesting to see how retailers continue to expand the concept.
With many U.K. consumers facing an austere Christmas, upscale supermarket chain Waitrose created a stripped-down TV commercial for the holiday season and donated an additional £1 million to local causes. “At what is a difficult time for many people across Britain, we feel that Christmas is the right time to give more back to good causes in the communities we serve,” explained Waitrose’s marketing director in a release. The ad shows food celebrities Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal—who regularly appear in Waitrose ads and waived their fees this time around—in an empty studio. They explain that “instead of a fancy TV advert,” Waitrose is giving more to charity (customers help decide which causes Waitrose should allocate money to).
Will consumers feel the gesture is appropriate in light of their current economic anxieties, regarding the lavish commercials from Waitrose’s rivals as wasteful? Or will they miss the usual festive flair on their screens and see the retailer as “a bit holier than thou,” as one YouTube commenter complains (“Like when someone gives some village a goat for Christmas on your behalf”)?
As partisan anxiety ramps up in the period leading up to a major election, some brands have found ways to inject a bit of lightheartedness into the weighty moment. In 2010, as the U.K. prepared for a general election, IKEA’s website presented “kitchen designs inspired by our would-be PMs”; e.g., the design for Brown, dubbed Brün, was “durable and prudent for the economically conscious.” 7-Eleven has been running the “7-Election” for four presidential elections in the U.S.—a concept it’s also taken to other markets—with coffee buyers choosing cups based on their candidate of choice. “Get your steaming hot cup of democracy,” says the website, which displays current results (favoring Obama at present).
Now JetBlue is jumping into the fray, inspired by the frequently heard comments about leaving for another country if one’s candidate loses. With the “Election Protection” promotion, the airline is giving away 1,006 round-trip international flights to partisans disappointed by the election results. People indicate their preferred party online and are entered into the sweepstakes only if that candidate loses next month. “Live free or fly” is the tagline in a spot that shows people on the street vowing to take off if the election doesn’t go their way. With consumer concern heightening as polls predict a close election, voters will welcome a little levity, if not a chance to really escape if the worst-case scenario comes to pass.
Consumer anxieties are building around any chemicals whose safety has been called into question, whether found in food, household cleaners or personal care products. This has led to shoppers looking for more transparency from brands and passing over some products that contain suspect components, from phthalates to parabens. Now, in a first for a major personal care brand in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson has committed to cutting usage of several potentially harmful chemicals and reformulating its product range by 2015. Neutrogena, Aveeno, RoC and Clean & Clear are among the company’s personal care brands, along with its Johnson’s baby line (J&J already pledged to cut chemicals from baby products by 2013).
“We want people to have complete peace of mind when they use our products,” the VP of product stewardship and toxicology for J&J’s consumer health brands told the AP. As part of the initiative, Johnson & Johnson launched a website, Our Safety & Care Commitment, that details the company’s “five-level safety assurance process” and its policy on ingredients, with information on specific chemicals of consumer concern. J&J emphasizes that the company is keeping up to date with not only new regulations and scientific developments but also “consumer views and concerns.” While anxieties around ingredients sometimes exceed any proven dangers, with “natural” products proliferating, companies will need to address their customers’ fears.
Aiming to address a range of consumer anxieties about fast food—exactly how it’s made and with what ingredients, etc.—McDonald’s has been on a transparency kick in several markets. On our sister blog JWTIntelligence.com, we recently wrote about an Australian TV documentary that the brand sponsored, McDonald’s Gets Grilled, which showed six consumers touring various company operations (from farm to factory to retail), sometimes asking challenging questions. In the U.K., McDonald’s recently retooled its five-year-old transparency-focused site, MakeUpYourOwnMind.co.uk, into What Makes McDonald’s, because “there are still lots of myths out there about McDonald’s, and lots of things that people simply don’t know about us,” a U.K. marketing VP told Marketing magazine. The site includes articles and videos that take consumers behind the scenes of company operations.
In Canada, yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca invites consumers to ask whatever questions they have, promising to answer “even the tough ones.” Questions touch on a range of issues, such as pink slime, chemicals in Big Macs and conditions that chickens are raised in. Two weeks ago the brand generated buzz after posting a video response to a question about why the food looks different in advertising. The director of marketing for McDonald’s Canada takes viewers through the food-styling process, explaining why various tricks and tweaks are applied to the basic burger. Consumers responded to the brand’s “unwrapping the process” (one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2012): The video generated a few million YouTube views in a matter of days.
Competitive pressures are forcing manufacturers and retailers to take transparency to the max—as we noted in one of our 10 Trends for 2010, Maximum Disclosure—revealing ever more about everything from nutritional data to sourcing, as well as the people and processes behind the brand. The ranks of the curious (and anxious) consumer keep growing, though in many cases the simple fact of disclosure will matter more than the specific information revealed.
Last August, our AnxietyIndex research in the U.K. found that concern over the cost of living was on the rise, and the second highest driver of anxiety after the state of the economy. Now, with the U.K. in a double-dip recession, it’s an even worse time to be perceived as a posh place to pick up groceries. So Marks & Spencer—seen as a destination for treats more than everyday goods—recently introduced Simply M&S, a roster of 500 “shopping list favorites” at budget prices. Advertised as “M&S quality now at prices you’ll love,” the new line may help the retailer retain some of its “squeezed middle” customers. Revamped value ranges from supermarkets including Tesco and Morrison’s are also vying for these consumers.
The move is another sign of a trend we termed Navigating the New Normal—the idea that with many economies continuing to struggle, brands will need to retool for highly cost-sensitive consumers, opening up new entry points. While competing on price can be tough for retailers like Marks & Spencer, many consumers are seeking budget options that don’t feel terribly downmarket, giving this upmarket brand some leverage in retaining customers.