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.
Earlier this year, Coca-Cola installed the latest of its “Open Happiness” vending machines with an ambitious aim: to break down barriers between India and Pakistan. The idea, coming out of a simple insight, is that what unites us is stronger than what sets us apart.
One vending machine was installed in a mall in New Delhi and one in a mall in Lahore, in Pakistan. These cities are separated by only 325 miles but are seemingly worlds apart due to decades of sociopolitical tension. The “Small World Machines” provided a live communications portal that linked strangers divided by more than just national borders, with the hope of promoting cultural understanding. The machines were equipped with first-of-its-kind 3D touch-screen technology that projected a streaming video feed while simultaneously filming through the unit to capture a live exchange. People on each end (and various walks of life) were encouraged to perform a friendly act together—wave, touch hands, draw a peace sign or dance—before sharing a Coca-Cola.
The resulting video, which went viral on social media, features affectionate encounters, such as a young girl in Delhi touching hands with an older woman on the Pakistani side, as well as more spirited interactions, like an impromptu dance-off between two men in their 60s that went on for several minutes. The initiative was a great way to remind people that their cultures are more similar than different and a small step to bringing them closer.
Most of India’s gay community is too scared to come out of the closet. Homosexual intercourse was considered a criminal offense as recently as 2009, and the subject itself is taboo in Indian society. However, attitudes seem to be changing, with more depictions of homosexuality in both movies and media. Now, youth watches and accessories brand Fastrack is attempting to urge people to “come out of the closet” with a suggestive commercial that shows a young woman emerging from one side of a hot pink wardrobe, followed by a second woman exiting from the other door.
Fastrack, which uses the tagline “Move on,” has always been relevant to youth with its fun and quirky communication. This time it raises an issue that has curbed the individuality of Indian youth for too long. In urging India’s young gay population to fight taboos and speak up, the brand gives a great push to this sizable generation—60 percent of India is under age 25—to stop accepting societal shackles and display their individuality with pride.
Most Indian families are of the belief that girls are better off at home after sunset, in part because of the belief that they’re not safe out alone at night. Hero MotoCorp, a motorcycle and scooter maker, is aiming to break down these prejudices through a campaign dubbed “Why should boys have all the fun?” Its scooter brand Pleasure, targeted at women, questions the status quo and asks girls to reclaim the night.
A TV commercial opens with a free-spirited, confident girl who is about to take off on her bike at night when her young male neighbor spots her and says that “Hitler Uncle” (her father) won’t be happy seeing her step out so late. She dismisses him with a nonchalant retort, “Why put brakes on a night of fun?” while taking off on her Hero Pleasure. She is soon joined by her friends on their bikes. The spot ends with her dancing the night away at a party with her father, while the neighbor who questioned her is dragged out by his ears, by his mother. The girl tells the boy: “My dad is happy, but your mom seems to be becoming the Hitler.” The commercial signs off with the line, “Why should boys have all the fun?”
Hero MotoCorp not only manages to raise a relevant social issue that bogs women down but also does so without hurting the sentiments of the older generation. It steers clear of becoming a brand that encourages “rebellious behavior” by ensuring that the approval of the father comes out strongly.
For many working parents, it is a daily challenge to make time for their children. It’s no different in Asia, especially in a city like Hong Kong, where the modern stresses of parenting weigh on families with young children. (According to a survey conducted in Hong Kong, only 38 percent of parents spend between 1.5 to 3 hours per day with their children.) Oreo’s “Bonding moments start with Oreo” campaign—which has been adapted around Asia—encourages parents to reignite and strengthen the connection with their children through the “Twist Lick Dunk” ritual.
In a TV commercial, a little girl has tea with her big teddy bear, inviting the bear to eat an Oreo with her and showing it the ritual of eating the cookie by starting with the twist. Her father has been on the phone observing her. He hides behind the bear, who gains a pair of hands that follow her “twist and lick”; she then demonstrates the dunking of the cookie. Her father finally pushes the bear aside and completes the dunk ritual with his happy daughter. The spot ends with the girl’s voiceover telling us that the “twist” of a happy moment happens only with Oreo.
With recent crimes against women in India echoing loudly around the nation and the globe, the everyday anxieties of Indian women are surfacing like never before. Brands across categories are taking up the cause in different ways. We’ve posted about Gillette, which is calling for men to act as “Soldiers for Women,” Vodafone’s all-women stores and a Times of India initiative. Add two more to the list: Tata Tea and Nokia.
Tata Tea takes the stance of not just putting women on par with men but ahead. In a spot for the brand, popular Bollywood icon Shahrukh Khan walks the walk by pledging to feature female co-stars ahead of his name in the title credits. Khan is seen conducting an interview with a young journalist, who asks for his opinion on women’s equality. Khan says women shouldn’t be equal to men—rather, they should be ahead in every field, mentioning education, medicine, politics, engineering and media. The journalist challenges his response, noting that male film stars are always billed before female counterparts. Khan calls for a retake of the shot and announces that from now on, he’ll get second billing to his female stars. A voiceover says, “For a big change, everyone must make a small start,” and Khan concludes, “We have more to do. Ahead.”
Meanwhile, Nokia Asha is smartly bringing to life its Nokia Nearby app, showing young women leading a harassing goon to the nearest police station with the help of the app. In a TV commercial, two young women are walking down the street when a man in a car begins catcalling and following them as they walk toward a Chinese restaurant. The clever women change course and instead head to the nearest police station. Preoccupied with trying to get their attention, the man drives into the trap, and a policeman interrogates him.
While brands like these are beginning to tap in to the Indian woman’s concerns about equality and safety, time will tell how far and deep they’re willing to travel. Brands will need to go beyond just taking a stance or voicing an opinion to actually finding relevant ways of tackling these societal issues if they are to truly capture trust and admiration.
It’s been more than two years since the date 3/11 took on a special significance in Japan. This disaster followed 20 years of recession that caused the Japanese to shrink emotionally: With the country’s competitiveness declining, the whole society became accustomed to getting overtaken by many emerging countries. Then came that disaster, and many Japanese felt they might never recover. But anxiety seems to improving, thanks in part to the new prime minister, who emphasizes the will to be No. 1 in the world in certain areas and is urging industries to institute pay increases; the stock market is rising for now.
Responding to the inferiority complex that Japanese often have when it comes to comparisons with Western nations, especially Americans, the satellite broadcasting company Wowow recently ran a campaign called “Japan is doing well.” Eight TV commercials, which promoted the company’s monthly featured programs, showed a typical Japanese boy cleverly outwitting a competitive Western boy to attract a girl’s attention in a comical way. The idea points to Japan’s recovery and captures a feeling of optimism that some people are starting to feel.
We’ve seen a lot of brand messages in the past two years that can be categorized as “cheering-up,” “social contribution” and “love and bonding.” It looks like we’re now getting to the stage of motivating beyond optimism.
Women’s safety is slowly becoming a serious issue in India. In Kolkata, at one time known as the safest metro for women in India, more than half the female population feels the need to carry an article for self-defence. And according to a survey commissioned by Times of India, two-thirds have “experienced misbehaviour” on the street, but only 11 percent filed a complaint, showing their mistrust in the police.
In light of this, leading daily newspaper Times of India has kicked off a campaign, “Kolkata for Women,” that looks into different aspects of a woman’s life and her engagement with the city through articles, seminars, health workshops and the like. The campaign aims to address every issue faced by a woman in the city, right from safety to problems encountered during the commute, at work, at home, etc. The idea is to join hands with the women of Kolkata “in their fight to demand what is rightfully theirs and to reclaim a city that is equally theirs,” as the paper explained.
A recent seminar on health saw women flocking for free advice and tests. Hopefully, initiatives such as this will wake up citizens to the logical, the obvious and the right.
In recent years, the higher cost of living, unemployment and drought have pushed many Thai families into long-term debt. In a March 2012 study by the Thai Chamber of Commerce, 80 percent of Thais admitted to problems repaying debt over the previous 12 months. Many Thais, especially villagers and low-income families, lack the skills to formulate strategies to handle accumulating debt. Instead, they tend to simply hope that someone will intervene on their behalf or that a stroke of good luck will provide the needed funds.
For the past six years, the Ichitan green tea brand has responded to this situation with a hugely successful marketing campaign built around a lucky draw promotion called Richie Thunder Jackpot. The latest installment asks consumers to send an SMS with a unique code printed inside the bottle cap. Every day for 60 days, Ichitan selects a winner, who receives a gold bar valued at 1 million baht (just under $35,000). A TV commercial for the promotion features company founder Tan Passakornnatee as a hero whose mission it is to solve debt issues. The spot reminds Thais of the most urgent problems associated with debt: coping with rising food prices (represented through duck, chicken and pig mascots) and the difficulties of small businesses facing bankruptcy.
The commercial is lighthearted but demonstrates that the brand understands consumers’ current anxieties and offers a solution to a lucky few.
The percentage of women in India’s workforce has fallen so sharply that it has skewed the global numbers, prompting an International Labour Organization investigation. ILO’s new report expresses concern over the fall in labor force participation for women from more than 37 percent in 2004-2005 to 29 percent in 2009-2010. India ranks 11th from the bottom out of 131 countries, behind even Bangladesh and Pakistan. The recent brutal rape in Delhi, that made international headline, has only fueled the fear around women’s security. In light of this, there are many corporations that are doing their bit to tackle issues of safety and empowerment for women. Telecom companies in particular are going out of their way to make women feel safe.
Vodafone India operates Angel Stores, which are managed and run by women only; last month Vodafone opened the 16th such store in the country. The idea is to ensure equal opportunities for women while providing a safe and productive work environment, and to make women customers feel more comfortable as well. Meanwhile, MTS India has launched a “Women MPowered Plan,” which permits women to make calls despite a negative balance and offers special rates as well as safety tips. The company also provides free self-defense classes and gives away pepper spray to women buying a new prepaid connection. Bharti Airtel is providing specialized products for women, such as an emergency alert service and a call manager to block stalkers.
The “Post-80s” (people born between 1980-1989) are a frequently targeted consumer group in China. They are often described as more Westernized, individualistic, independent and even rebellious. However, along with these glittering badges, Post-80s are under great social and economic pressures and experiencing a high level of anxiety due to high housing prices, a stagnant job market and their single-child identity. Ford EcoSport, a small SUV targeting Post-80s, adopted a straightforward approach to openly address this anxiety.
In this online video, a young man with a realistic, down-to-earth manner talks honestly about his pressure from family and work, and his anxiety about being “short of money.” He mocks the idealistic “pursue your dream” attitude that most youth brands romanticize in their communications and says his “dream” car is one that balances the expectations from his parents, girlfriend and boss. Rather than an aspirational approach, the campaign takes the practical stance that the EcoSport is an affordable vehicle that meets the needs of the different people and occasions in your life. This is the first time in China’s car market that a brand has acknowledged this imperfect reality and addressed consumer anxiety in a direct and pragmatic way, rather than just promising a far-fetched dream.