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.
The general sensation that politicians are disconnected from reality gets even more pronounced during a downturn, often contributing to anxiety. Several years ago an infamous incident showed Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s disconnect from everyday life: During a TV debate with citizens, a man asked him how much a coffee costs, and Zapatero answered “80 cents,” 40 cents under the actual price. “Zapateros’ coffee” became a classic media buzzword, indicating how out of touch politicians are with their countrymen.
Earlier this year, as Spain’s consumers continued to grapple with high unemployment and other effects of the downturn, JWT created an 80 cent “ZP’s coffee” promotion for Dunkin’ Coffee. Since this low price had existed only in the optimistic mind of the prime minister (nicknamed ZP), we made it real, demonstrating that a “better world” can exist! With only point-of-sale marketing—copy read “This month, have a coffee with a different frame of mind”—the “ZP coffee” got significant media coverage. This simple way of leveraging a catchphrase put a smile on people’s faces and transmitted the brand’s connection with its customers’ needs.
Here in Spain the downturn has not faded, and there’s a great deal of concern about how to improve the situation. So in February a group of big companies, under the name Fundación Confianza (Trust Foundation), launched a Web platform:estosololoarreglamosentretodos.org (meaning something like “we can only fix it all together”). A long clip of testimonials from famous figures—everyone from the chef Ferrán Adriá to TV stars and sport personalities—attempts to transmit optimism and motivation. The site also showcases people who have done well during the downturn, starting profitable projects. Visitors are invited to share their own experience about how to succeed.
While a big media spend was supporting the operation, and a Facebook page had close to 75,000 followers, few people uploaded anything to the site. Meanwhile, parodies popped up, like “itshouldbefixedbytheoneswhobrokeit.org,” which collected upward of 20,000 fans. Some criticized the campaign’s naive optimism or charged that bankers were hiding behind it. After a few weeks, the campaign was suspended on two main TV channels when the right-wing opposition party denounced it as a subtle way to make people optimistic about the current administration. (Spanish public TV can run only public service announcements.)
Why didn’t a positive initiative like this become popular in Spain? One likely reason is that in the Web 2.0 era, it’s difficult to create a collective movement based on a corporate initiative and advertising spending, and it seems that people prefer to get through this downturn their own way. But the message reached a vast audience, and it leaves a good seed.
In a downturn, sampling can transform from a call to buy into a generous gift from brands. A few weeks ago, so-called DanceBag parties were organized in several clubs around Spain; they were publicized through Facebook. More than 50,000 revelers left discos with free samples from brands including Axe, Trident, Bic and Smint.
HighCo Marketing House, the company responsible for the initiative, is also proposing a SkiBag (for handing out on the slopes), a GoldenBag (for luxury hotel rooms) and a SummerBag (for beachgoers). Let’s take two positive conclusions: Brands can collaborate to improve their efforts, and sampling is the best experience marketing you can propose to a society beset by the downturn.
In Spain, the downturn has not yet slowed, and the economy is still under a dark cloud. Brands are feeling this lack of oxygen, and new campaigns are few and generally conservative. One area where we’re seeing some activity is brand stores. This trend is being accelerated by the real estate crisis, which has created lots of cheap opportunities. Finally brands are playing with shops as experience spaces for consumers.
First, Danone opened up a store in Barcelona, a huge yogurt bar and restaurant project. Now Casa Knorr has launched in Barcelona and Madrid, with free cooking and nutrition workshops for kids and adults, as well as product tastings. Workshop attendees will learn to put together a weekly menu and prepare healthy snacks, and even be accompanied on instructive supermarket shopping trips by a chef and dietitian.
These consumer experience labs are a smart investment. It will be interesting to see whether they become a permanent part of the marketing mix once the downturn ends.
Elena Salgado has headed Spain’s Ministry of the Economy since April, serving as the prime minister’s right hand in managing the financial crisis and navigating the downturn. Wanting to celebrate the idea that all woman are playing the same role within their families, the turkey ham brand Pavofrio found 15 real women—who work outside the home and play a housewife role—who all share the name Elena Salgado. Their everyday struggle to defend their family economy is celebrated in a new commercial.
There’s a sparkle inside the idea, but the brand didn’t develop any rewarding 2.0 platform or social responsibility plan to support the idea. Unfortunately, its only message to reward these everyday heroes is … “Buy my ham.”
Three years ago, IKEA Spain launched a new brand statement in Spain: “Welcome to the Independent Republic of Your Home.” Subsequent ads were based on a strong celebration of freedom as people experience it inside their home: In “your” place, you’re finally allowed to make your own laws, to act however you want.
Now, however, the downturn is pushing a lot of young people back to their parents’ home. There’s a crack in the idea of independence that was celebrated by the brand that helps young people to furnish their first home cheaply. So IKEA has made a smart strategic switch, suggesting to the families that must now find room for members who are coming back home that the retailer can help them optimize their space. “Donde caben dos, caben tres” (“If there’s room for two, there’s also room for three”), claims the optimistic ad.
How to sell added-value products in times of “less value, less money”? Repsol, the leading Spanish gas brand, has launched a premium fuel designed to prolong a vehicle’s engine life. To persuade people to spend more now for a product that can help them save money in the long term, Repsol is using an unexpected testimonial campaign featuring a retired economics professor.
The professor, Leopoldo Abadía, recently enjoyed surprising success after publishing an article that explained the downturn in a very easily understandable way; it became a book, The Ninja Crisis, that sold 150,000 units in five months, and Abadía was invited onto TV news and talk shows. Now, he’s telling drivers to choose Repsol’s premium fuel as a long-term investment.
The campaign is a surprising short circuit between the academic and expert world and a commodity at the selling point, and an extreme, and maybe desperate, way to give consumers reason to support a premium segment.
The Spanish average debt is much higher than the average for the European Community, and around 50 percent of the family income is typically dedicated to mortgage payments. As in the U.S., Spain is dealing with a slowing down of bank activity. On one side, banks need much stronger guarantees than before the financial crisis, and on the other side, borrowers are more conservative than ever.
As a response, Caja Navarra recently relaunched its relationship with clients, declaring that it promotes “civic banking,” a kind of sustainable and friendly way of operating a financial institution. The idea is very simple, and is outlined in the bank’s campaign, “I want to be part of it.” A commercial illustrated with simple cut-out figures explains that if you want a loan, find someone disposed to invest in one of the bank’s secured funds: The more that person gives, the smaller the interest on your loan. Of course, the mechanism hides a classic “member get member” strategy, but it’s an unexpected way for a bank to gain customers, a kind of 2.0 financial platform that works by connecting clients. This new tactic is small-scale but points the way toward what could become a new type of banking.
Five months ago, Spain’s largest supermarket operator made the biggest splash in the country’s retailing history by eliminating 900 branded products from its shelves. The chain, Mercadona, owns the most popular private label in Spain, Hacendado.
Currently, the share of market for branded products in primary retail categories is more than 50 percent. The question is whether Spaniards’ bonds with brands are strong enough to avoid a shift toward a private-label-led retail model (as is the case in Germany).
Now Ipsos has issued a qualitative and quantitative study of Mercadona’s customers, finding that 40 percent are against the change and 30 percent are in favor of it. Another 30 percent are unsure. Overall, 55 percent said they are unhappy about having less choice, while 40 percent said they will shop elsewhere if they don’t find their usual branded products on the shelves. Sixty percent said there are some branded products they could not go without.
Meanwhile, a consumer movement, yoquieroelegir.com (“I want to choose”), has been created to defend the presence of brands in retail stores. And Pascual, the leading milk brand, is airing a TV ad explaining that private labels’ cheaper prices are the result of a real quality compromise.
It’s too soon to know if the Ipsos research reveals a solid sign of private label resistance, but it seems clear that in spite of the downturn, brand value is still healthy in Spain.
In Spain, television ad spending has dropped since the downturn. So with TV ad time not as profitable as it once was, the government has made the decision to wipe out advertising on the two public TV channels starting in September, to emphasize a clearer “public service” orientation. There will be no more ads on the Televisión Española (TVE) network, and new taxes on private channels and telecom companies will support public TV budgets.
The first reaction from TVE’s commercial sponsors is clear: They oppose this move and want at least 12 minutes of advertising an hour. Their argument: Less advertising will mean less consumption, and so the downturn will be even worse.
Optimists might note that the Internet keeps on growing as a medium—online advertising was up 3.6 percent in the first quarter. Many Spanish marketers are still using it as an extension of their media plans and starting to transpose their conservative adverting culture to the Web. This decision may push them to bet on the Internet in increasingly clever and more effective ways, leaving a lasting impact on the ad world here after the crisis ends.