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.
Australia’s “No Leave, No Life” campaign aims to drive domestic tourism by emphasizing that it’s healthy to take advantage of vacation days (there’s been a trend toward stockpiling annual leave) and that traveling domestically helps to stimulate our economy. “A little bit of leave,” one poster says, “not only helps us out, it gives you the chance to recharge the batteries and reunite with friends and family.” Touring Australia is positioned as a means to “really win the work/life battle.” The work ran in outdoor and print, and the initial outdoor media seemed to follow people on their route to work.
Since the campaign leverages a confrontational tone and a negative insight centering on the overwhelming “work/life battle” we all face, the most likely response is arguably heightened anxiety. Many commuters may be left feeling that they in fact have “no life,” especially given that achieving a work-life balance requires an overall approach—it’s a lifestyle, not a matter of simply taking three or four days off out of 365.
What this campaign does execute well, however, is the digital strategy. A series of Webisodes where actor/TV presenter Ernie Dingo surprises nominated “hard workers” by taking them away for a break effectively communicates how Australian holidays are both inspiring and accessible.
“Get a little closer” is a brand campaign recently launched in Australia by Nescafé instant coffee. Spotlighting the difference between catching up online and face-to-face, Nescafé calls on people to “turn off the gadgets, turn on the kettle and enjoy a cup of coffee together.”
Given that Australians are still recovering from recession-related anxiety, championing “good old-fashioned quality time” is a strong strategy for Nescafé. It’s reminiscent of other efforts we saw during the downturn, such as a Coca-Cola campaign from Germany that showed Coke at the center of a family meal. Nescafé is also leveraging some backlash against social media, a phenomenon I wrote about on JWTintelligence. And the brand is tapping into the Savoring Simple Pleasures trend we spotlighted in our 2009 forecast.
While the strategy and idea are interesting, at the executional level the campaign stumbles. I’d argue this is because while it shows the reality of “catching up” face to face, it fails to capture the emotion and feeling of connecting. This is also exacerbated by the disconnect between the message and the media—because if “Profile pics are funnier live,” then static outdoor posters are slightly oxymoronic media choice. But Nescafé nails it with direct mail. I received a card containing multiple coffee samplers with the message “When was the last time you had a real conversation? Take time to share a coffee moment with someone special. Our treat.” Right message in the right place.
Climate change is a major source of anxiety for Australians, with many believing it will get worse in the near term, as detailed in this AnxietyIndex report. Anxiety arises when a danger cannot be identified or clearly perceived, and the barrage of opinions and conflicting information surrounding the climate change debate is a prime example—witness this recent front page ofThe Australian.
The article reports the alarming predictions for Australia’s iconic beaches made by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong. But it also reports that beach locals aren’t so sure—they haven’t noticed coastline changes—and that an environmental scientist feels Senator Wong’s comments are an attempt to panic the public.
Regardless of what is fact and what is farce, in a world where climate change is headlined with “threat,” “danger” and “risk”—as well as “false,” “conspiracy” and “hoodwinked”—I’d be anxious if we weren’t reported to be anxious! Which is why the biggest risk is that anxiety escalates to the point where people decide “It is all too hard” and so become apathetic. As one beach local told The Australian: “It’s like the stock market—no one really knows.”
For brands that want to engage consumers with a climate change message, a positive, empowering approach will go further than fear-based or shock tactics.
A growing number of people are finally finding the time to “write that book” after losing their jobs during the recession—enter what has been coined “layoff lit.” The New York Times’ Motoko Rich recently wrote about current layoff lit titles such as Slow Love: How I Got Kicked Off the Fast Track, Put My Pajamas on for a Year & Found Happiness, from former House & Garden editor Dominique Browning, and The Bag Lady Papers: The Priceless Experience of Losing It All, by former Self magazine editor Alexandra Penney.
The theme here seems to be finding the silver lining of starting over. As Matt Buchanan points out in The Sydney Morning Herald, George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air follows a similar narrative, reminding a distraught man he’s laying off about his love of cooking—“his sacking is an opportunity to reset his priorities, to choose to do what he loves to do—to cook again.”
The idea that there’s an upside to the downturn is certainly appealing, and brands such as Allstate are doing well to tap into it.
During this economic downturn, a number of brands have employed a strategy of producing content that uses simple language and graphics to help consumers understand a situation they may not previously have faced. For example, I’ve written about UBank’s series of smart Webisodes on topics such as “Credit Crunch Explained” and “Recession Explained.”
By contrast, Westpac, Australia’s second largest bank, recently stumbled with an animated video that tries to explain why it has pushed up interest rates. The bank’s retail chief, Peter Hanlo, e-mailed the roughly three-minute video to hundreds of thousands of customers. The response was outrage over the video’s condescending tone and its misplaced analogy centered around banana smoothies (which have become more expensive since severe storms destroyed banana plantations in Australia). Prime Minister Kevin Rudd suggested Westpac take “a long, hard look at itself.”
One of our 10 Trends for 2010 is Visual Fluency—the acceleration of the shift from words to images, and increasingly innovative ways to explain and illuminate complex topics. There are many ways for brands to leverage this trend—and likewise many ways to get it wrong. In this case, the medium was right, while the message was all wrong.
Could there be a growing realization that life is more than a series of transactions—even from a credit card brand? The latest Australian MasterCard campaign reflects an attitude fostered by the recent economic downturn: a turn away from compulsive consumption and a focus on appreciating the value of “the moment,” and specifically the time that goes into making that moment special. (Just last week, we highlighted an L.L.Bean holiday commercial that also emphasizes the value of the moment.)
The 30-second spot shows how a rock is formed over eons, from its origins in a volcano to being skipped over water by a dad and his son. Says the voiceover: “Not knowing how much goes into a moment? Priceless.” This is an interesting shift of the “Priceless” campaign, which has focused on the transactions that go into reaching a “priceless” moment. (The commercial promotes MasterCard Moments, “an exclusive program of awe-inspiring experiences specially chosen for Gold and Platinum MasterCard holders.”)
AnxietyIndex research has shown Australians to be particularly pessimistic about the future relative to the actual impact of the global recession on their lives. Coming out of this unsettled and uncertain period, the importance of time, family and the special moments that arise from these serves as a strong leverage point for brands looking for to engage audiences in a deeper and more meaningful conversation.
In the past year, younger generations (including myself) have had their first experience of a recession. In Australia, AnxietyIndex.com research revealed that for Gen Y, levels of anxiety have been disproportionate to the downturn’s actual impact—clearly, a generation pessimistic about the future and fearing the unknown.
Economic and environment instability are among the big-picture trends that will shape and define Gen Y in the long term. In the near term, I’m concerned about the negative impact on our local music, film, and software industries. Online piracy is certainly nothing new to Gen Y, the first “digital natives.” But a recent study from Nielsen reveals that almost two-thirds of respondents say they are more tempted to obtain pirated products in tough financial times. Accordingly, this year has seen significant increases in visits to BitTorrent and peer-to-peer Web sites.
In response, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton has said the Internet has “created this notion that anyone can have whatever they want at any given time … and if you don’t give it to them for free, they’ll steal it.”
This has certainly come to the fore during the recession, and the impact is interesting to think about as we watch digital natives form their lifelong consumption habits.
One of my first posts looked at UBank and its series of “Money Box” Webisodes,a sort of “Recession 101” for younger Australians. Six months on, UBank has launched its first TV commercial, “Saving Is the New Spending,” to promote the USaver account. The spot sweeps through an upscale restaurant, noting how many of those enjoying the high life are actually living beyond their means (one diner’s maxed out his credit, another’s eaten baked beans for a week to afford a lobster dinner). The tone manages to stay more lighthearted than preachy.
It’s interesting to consider “living beyond your means” as an undesirable, and almost laughable, trait—particularly when it follows a period where credit-fueled exuberance has been the norm and one’s ability to keep up with costly trends has been a common aspiration and driver of social status.
Leveraging this shift feels like a strong strategy for a savings offering such as UBank given the current climate; however, the question is how ownable this will be for the brand ongoing—and whether this will strategy will stimulate a change consumer behavior (if that is indeed the objective for UBank!).
JWT’s study on “The Recession and Its Impact on the Environment” found that people are conflicted when asked to weigh a theoretical tradeoff between environmentally friendly and lower price: While Australians accept that greener products may come at a higher cost, most are prepared to trade off on green for a reduced cost.
What does this mean for brands? Green brands that cost more should clearly explain to customers what incremental environmental benefit they are getting. OMO laundry detergent, for example, is clearly quantifying the green benefits of its new packaging. Above the typical value/efficacy story, OMO claims the product “uses half the packaging and half the trucks. Mighty results for the environment.”
In our study on “The Recession and Its Impact on the Environment” (to download, click here), we found that while Australians are increasingly environmentally conscious and concerned about sustainability, the term “green” evokes considerable cynicism—many consumers regard it as a trendy but ambiguous marketing buzz word.
Is the language of “green” useful if it is one-dimensional and provokes cynicism? As consumers grow more wary of greenwashing, opportunity lies in speaking honestly about tangible green benefits or credentials, perhaps leveraging a resource story of how the product is made.
One brand that’s doing a good job in the latter department is Lipton, which is running a series of corporate advertisements announcing that Lipton is the “world’s first Rainforest Alliance Certified tea”—with the official credentials and its relation to tree farms clearly explained.