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.
Last year we covered how brands across the world were responding to consumer anxiety over the swine flu pandemic. In the U.S. Walgreens stood out by recognizing that many people are less anxious about catching the flu than they are about getting the shot, whether because of a needle phobia, fear of side effects, etc. So the drugstore chain smartly positioned the flu shot as something to do for loved ones. In a campaign that Walgreens revived this year, components include heart-shaped bandages to cover the injection site that state “I got mine for ___” and a TV commercial featuring a young couple going about their day, encountering germs, to reveal that that they’ve immunized themselves to protect their infant twins.
This flu season Walgreens has also made the concept more tangible by putting an innovative spin on the gift card, selling $29.99 flu shot cards. While buying them might reduce givers’ anxiety about their loved ones’ health, some recipients may be less than delighted with the gift (“Socks and underwear don’t look so bad now, eh?” as one writer put it). But smartly, Walgreens is also touting the cards as gifts for people in need, with a mommy blogger campaign called Acts of Wellness. Ten bloggers each got five flu shot gift cards to give away to people in their community, extending the idea of protecting loved ones to helping the vulnerable.
One of the many anxieties surrounding the environment is the condition in which we’re leaving the planet for future generations. Hanes taps into this concern with a humorous commercial for its EcoSmart line of T-shirts, briefs and socks. Two guys stroll through a mall in seemingly similar outfits. But the voiceover reveals that James, who’s wearing Hanes EcoSmart items, is “doing his part to help the environment for future generations,” with clothing made from recycled fiber and powered by renewable energy. The less conscientious Pete, on the other hand, gets the stink-eye from various kids.
Hanes has also created an eco-portal, hanesgreen.com, which outlines the company’s recent greenification (a move that ties into our Maximum Disclosure trend). The site details key accomplishments to date and goals for the future.
Hanes appears to be trying to create a stigma around not being a green consumer. This tactic seems to be smart, especially in light of recent research (highlighted by The Guardian) suggesting that peer pressure is a key driver of green lifestyles. And Hanes manages to make the message clear without getting saccharine, alarmist or sappy.
As of April 16, the Census deadline, one in three Americans had failed to return their form. Many are reluctant to share information with the government, assuming it may be used to restrict their civil rights. The Census Bureau’s Web site attempts to debunk such myths and help Americans overcome any reluctance to participate.
The Real Life Stories section showcases two dozen Americans of diverse backgrounds and cleverly ties their stories to the many benefits of the Census process. Chris is a compelling example of someone who’s converted into seeing how easy and innocuous the Census is. One would think that as a white male—stereotypically the most powerful demographic in America—Chris would have no issues with the Census. On the contrary, the Texan was concerned the Census would ask questions that could lead to more restrictive legislation on taxidermy, his livelihood. We see his mind change on camera as he looks over the form and realizes the requested information is “not bad.” Surely the Census Bureau hopes illegal immigrants and other groups identify with Chris’ story.
While the marketing communications for this Census have tended to be either saccharine or at the other end of the spectrum (making light of it, such as the Christopher Guest spots), the “Real Life Stories” are engaging and heartwarming. When it comes to addressing anxiety, a real human testimonial can often go a lot further than an organization or brand in delivering a message.
In the next several weeks, Americans will be participating in the U.S. Census, which is conducted every 10 years. Efforts to encourage participation have evolved markedly since the last Census was conducted, in 2000. Marketing messages are now in 28 languages, up from 17, and leverage platforms including Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and a blog by the head of the U.S. Census Bureau. There’s also a Nascar sponsorship and a traveling exhibit, in addition to the traditional mass-media outlets.
Perhaps the biggest change is in the campaign’s tone. The theme in 2000 was “It’s your future. Don’t leave it blank.” This year the emphasis is on empowering people; lines include “It’s in your hands” and “We can’t move forward until you mail it back.” Consumer research found “a fundamental shift in attitude toward government and themselves” in the past decade, DraftFCB’s Jeff Tarakajian told The New York Times, noting that respondents said they “felt more of a sense of ‘I need to be my own master.’”
While the 2000 campaign made a subtle call to action, it’s not surprising that the tone in 2010 is more direct. People are looking for a sense of control over their destiny in nearly all areas of their lives, and the Census Bureau is smart to tap into this sentiment.