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.
Anyone who’s ever lived in New York knows just how grinding-down and numbing the subway commute can be. Missed trains and hurried crowds, combined with life’s other frustrations, make for plenty of negative energy during rush hour. Recognizing this, Tropicana offered its Twitter stream for people to vent their morning frustrations as part of its “Worst Morning Ever” campaign. The outdoor component features the tweets with the best (or worst) morning mishaps, displayed around the city’s subway stations. Says one, for example: “Turns out I did check the correct weather, for California.”
The campaign isn’t all snark and gloom. Some of the billboards instruct commuters on how to reverse the negativity, encouraging passersby to help beautify the transit system by smiling. And naturally, Tropicana is positioned as the good part of New York mornings in other posters. The campaign succeeds in addressing consumer stress and anxiety by helping commuters realize they’re not the only ones grumbling on the way to work, helping the weary find some strength in solidarity.
Chrysler has been responding to consumer anxiety by playing up tried-and-true American values and the country’s pioneer spirit in its advertising. Last spring we wrote about a campaign that showed everyday Americans overcoming the odds, and Chrysler’s epic “Halftime in America” spot was one of the 2012 Super Bowl’s most popular ads. For this year’s Big Game, a spot for Chrysler’s Ram truck focused on traditional components of the American Dream such as hard work, dedication, family and community building—things that many Americans fear are being replaced by aspirations for fame and fortune, something we outline in our report “American Dream in the Balance.”
The spot quotes from a 1978 speech by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey that celebrated the virtues of the American farmer. “And on the eighth day,” booms Harvey’s voice, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.” As intimate portraits of present-day farmers appear onscreen, we hear Harvey saying that God needed someone who was resourceful, family oriented and admirable. The spot concludes with a toast “to the farmer in all of us,” reminding Americans that the nation was once a land of farmers. Ram has declared 2013 as “The Year of the Farmer” and outlines how it’s “celebrating … the lifestyle that keep[s] America growing” on a microsite. Its CSR component involves support for the Future Farmers of America.
This spot reminds viewers that the deep-seated values of the American Dream endure, even if many feel the Dream is becoming harder to achieve. The Dream continues to “revolve around a gritty, keep-on-keeping-on spirit,” with characteristics like determination, discipline and self-belief integral to the concept, as we note in our American Dream report.
With continued economic uncertainty, many shoppers remain hesitant or unable to make big-ticket purchases, especially the un- or underemployed Millennials. In response, some brands have been creating crowdfunded registries for consumers. We wrote about Best Buy’s Pitch In card back in 2010, which we described as “bridal registry meets microfinancing meets layaway”: Friend or family contributions to the card tally up to help customers secure the costlier items on their wish lists.
Now an automaker is embracing this concept. Consumers looking to buy a Dodge Dart—a compact sedan that Chrysler introduced last year—can log onto DodgeDartRegistry.com, customize the features and then seek funding for specific car parts, using social media to promote their cause. As a TV commercial outlines, “Dad sponsors the engine for your birthday. Grandma sponsors the rims for graduation.” Car seekers can ask for enough dough to fund a down payment, the car in full or anything in between. As with a Kickstarter campaign, there’s a time limit: Fundraising can run for a maximum of 90 days. At completion, buyers receive a check, with which they in theory purchase their new Dart. Since the launch earlier this month, around 1,200 people have created registries, but donations have thus far been minimal.
It’s likely the campaign will resonate with Millennials, the target audience here, who firmly believe in the collective ethos—that every bit counts in addressing today’s challenges.
With Spain’s unemployment rate reaching a record 26 percent (double the EU average, according to the BBC), some 6 million Spaniards are currently jobless. Aiming to brighten up the day for some of those without work, radio program Carne Cruda 2.0 on Spain’s Cadena SER radio network organized a flash mob to serenade an unemployment office in Madrid.
A woman with a clarinet stood up and began playing the opening chords of “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road hit. As onlookers took notice, a second clarinetist joined in, and before long the waiting room was filled with musicians playing the tune. An adorable young woman cheerily belted out the lyrics as a chorus came in, accompanying her. Onlookers smiled, some taking out their phones to document the event. Workers in the office emerged from their cubes to see what the commotion was about, and for a moment everyone in the room seemed to forget their troubles. This simple idea helped bring some cheer to struggling Spaniards in that office and beyond (the video has generated around 1.5 million views in three weeks).
With U.S. flu levels at epidemic proportions this season, many of the bedridden have been indulging in the natural human tendency to find someone to blame for their misfortune. In response, minimalist drug company Help Remedies has created a Facebook app to help flu sufferers pinpoint which of their inconsiderate friends is the culprit.
“Help, I Have the Flu” digs through the user’s social network, looking for keywords such as “sneezing,” “coughing,” “vomiting” and “flu” in status updates, as well as check-ins at drugstores. The app even takes late-night updates into consideration, given that sleep deprivation increases the risk of getting sick. The app then enables users to send a message to their disease-spreading friend and even send some Help medicine. Those who’ve escaped the flu so far can use the app to “find out who among your friends is most likely to give you the flu, and then proceed to avoid them.”
By helping consumers feel empowered while they’re physically vulnerable, this lighthearted app successfully shows that the brand can address the customer’s physical and emotional well-being.
There’s a lot to worry about in life. “Paying bills, raising your kids, keeping your job, preserving the planet, saving your marriage, picking a president, perfecting your handshake, honoring veterans, undercooked chicken, catching the train, hiding your tattoo, networking socially, getting your hair cut, maintaining your blog, feeding your dog, training your cat, buying an unpretentious scarf, calling your mom, gray hairs …” The list goes on and on in an outdoor ad that’s part of a recent branding campaign from U.S. TV, phone and Internet provider Optimum.
The company positions itself as a one-stop “effortless” solution for digital services, allowing subscribers to keep up with the more important things in life, like dealing with their children’s classroom antics or signing up little ones for ballet lessons, as two 30-second spots illustrate. An anthem spot explains the company is there to “sweat the small stuff and the big stuff, so you can sweat your stuff.” Given that stressors seem to be mounting and multiplying for today’s consumers, Optimum is smart to humorously acknowledge this and position itself as a provider that won’t add to the all the everyday pain points with which people are grappling.
During disasters and the prolonged relief efforts that follow, access to information and the ability to connect with loved ones is crucial to alleviating anxiety—which we noted back in 2010, following the Chilean earthquake, and last year, after Hurricane Irene. Now, in the wake of Sandy, one of the largest hurricanes to hit the United States, companies large and small are stepping in to help with at least one major issue for victims—lack of power.
Duracell unleashed a “Power Forward Community Center” in New York City’s Battery Park, enabling people to charge devices and also get online at computer terminals. And the company’s “Rapid Responder” four-by-four truck, which is suited up with power outlets, is roaming the streets of New York and Hoboken, N.J. People can also get free Duracell batteries to keep their radios and flashlights going.
Similarly, Verizon sent out mobile charging stations to several affected areas in New Jersey, West Virginia and Ohio. Yesterday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said AT&T will provide charging spots at the food and water stations the city is setting up. And, in areas where they are operational, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile retail outlets are allowing visitors to charge their devices in-store. Some local businesses also lent a hand where they could: In New York City’s East Village, for example, one restaurant, Percy’s Tavern, posted a sign reading “Friends and neighbors, please make use of our generators for phone charging to contact friends & family to let them know how you are.”
During times of distress, relatively low-cost gestures like these can go a long way in restoring a sense of normalcy for people affected while building good will toward the brand.
Adopting extreme diets in the name of health and wellness has become common practice. But whether or not they’re effective, sticking to them inevitably bumps up anxiety and stress (scientists have even drawn parallels between the effects of suddenly cutting out high-calorie foods to the withdrawal symptoms felt by detoxing drug addicts). So some food brands are assuring consumers they can “Fuck the diet,” as Unilever’s Du Darfst said in a controversial tagline earlier this year, by eating in a more sane way.
In a recent campaign for Healthy Choice, converts to the brand comically testify that the frozen meals helped save them from years of “desperate” diets that had them living abnormally deprived lives. A former “No-Carb Queen” confesses, “For years I thought I hated children’s laughter. I had no idea I was just hungry.” A man who had fallen into the “Juice Fast” explains that Healthy Choice entrées helped him “turn his life around” and realize he loves solid as well as liquid food. The spots conclude, “Don’t diet. Live healthy.” Similarly, Du Darfst, a line of convenience foods, aimed to acknowledge the frustrations tied to following various diet rules (e.g., “No fat, no carbohydrates and no food after 5:00,” as the brand’s site joked). The campaign aimed to help diet-conscious consumers “reawaken (their) passion for food.”
Healthy Choice and Du Darfst address consumers’ anxiety about making smart food choices by promoting balance rather than an “all or nothing” approach. Increasingly balance is becoming the prevailing ethos when it comes to healthy living, with the appeal of extremes—from food to energy drinks to medications—starting to fade.
Who doesn’t want to do their part to improve the environment? Trouble is, few people are willing to change their everyday habits, and most efforts to raise environmental awareness only make us feel guilty for not doing a better job—and thus more likely to tune them out. Approaching the issue of water conservation from the flip side of the coin, the irreverent brand Axe recently launched a provocative campaign that suggests “showerpooling” (think carpooling but without the car and in a shower) as a way to cut down on water use.
An animated Web video gets straight to the point: “How can you save water without massive personal sacrifice?” The male body care brand claims its prescribed remedy for saving our planet’s most precious resource—taking a five-minute shower with a water-efficient showerhead while in the company of a “likeminded acquaintance” or an “attractive stranger”—can cut water usage by 20 percent. Axe provides more serious water-saving tips on Facebook, where people can pledge to “stop taking wasteful solo showers” and enter to attend the “Ultimate Showerpooling Party” by creating and documenting the largest showerpool.
Given our tendency to be selfish, habit-driven creatures, humor combined with simple actionable steps can go a long way in getting people both interested and involved, particularly in issues that are more abstract and large-scale. Let’s just hope invitations to a Showerpool don’t become the new bar pickup line.
As we recently discussed on our sister site, JWTIntelligence.com, food safety remains a top concern for Chinese consumers thanks to the proliferation of toxic additives, fake foods and other serious lapses across the nation. The result is that many consumers choose international labels over domestic brands as a means of ensuring quality and safety. Mindful of this, McDonald’s in China has focused on the trustworthiness of its ingredients—and in turn is viewed as a healthy option.
Recent TV ads featured “’100% fresh beef’ on the chopping block, farmers picking tomatoes from the vine and chickens eating high-quality feed,” a company spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. Last year, an ad promoting McDonald’s chicken products showed a child playing with baby chicks as a voiceover talked about “the importance of following the rules of nature,” according to an Ad Age column. The aim is to communicate a hygienic, natural and healthy lifestyle. Yes, healthy—while many Chinese consumers are aware that McDonald’s offerings are high in fat, “When it’s a choice between a little extra fat in your shake or a little extra melamine, healthy eating can take on a whole new meaning,” as one reporter observes.
Western and Chinese brands alike will need to reassure Chinese consumers—who have grown weary of being dragged around the block when it comes to food safety issues—by communicating quality as well as transparency.