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.
In Greece, going out for a coffee is a favorite leisure activity, as we’ve previously noted. But the financial crisis has slashed disposable income. Some major coffee chains like Starbucks and Costa Coffee have closed branches and, in some cases, left the market altogether. Homegrown brand Mikel Coffee Co., however, has been doing well since it launched in 2008 at the start of the crisis.
Mikel coffee shops are sprouting up like mushrooms, overtaking established local and international players, and soon there will be more than 100 branches in Greece. In 2013, Mikel reported a gross profit of €991,237. The secret to Mikel’s success is catering to a multitude of consumer needs. The prices are competitive, but not low enough to affect quality and brand perception (indeed, Starbucks has been forced to adjust its prices to be able to compete). Consumers also appreciate the generous freebies (small cakes, savory snacks, etc.) that come with the coffee. The stores are open longer than many competitors, with most operating from 5 a.m. till 11 p.m. or midnight. Mikel also offers home delivery, which is proving very popular, particularly for businesses.
The shops answer Greeks’ need to enjoy coffee out of home and socialize like they used to pre-crisis, and let them do so in an affordable way while still catering to the quality expectations Greeks have for their cafés. The chain has become very popular among youth, and the fact that it’s a Greek success story further helps drive brand preference. The moral of the story: When catering to the right needs with the right ingredients, you can succeed even in a crisis environment.
“Edible escapism” is how Brits are getting themselves through the slow economic recovery, according to JWT London’s latest Austerity Index. In a survey for the fifth Austerity Index report, 69 percent of British respondents acknowledged splurging on treats in the last three months, with 41 percent of these indulgences in the food or drink category. Treating, it seems, is eating. The report identifies foodie treats being used not only as a coping mechanism for therapeutic purposes but also as a social lifeline, a way to share experiences.
2014 marks the fourth year of austerity measures in the U.K.—strict coping behaviors are now ingrained, living standards have declined, and weariness about austerity remains unchanged. But our Austerity Index data reveals pockets of positive uplift, and the U.K.’s splurging habits suggest that these little mood-boosters are fueling optimism, even when household finances are barely surfacing.
“The way to Britain’s heart is surely through its stomach,” says Marie Stafford, Planning Foresight Director at JWT London. “It is a sign of the power of the experience economy, our need for social contact and a marker of how far Britain has come in its relationship with all things epicurean that food and drink should become our chosen indulgence.” However, this throws the country’s polarization into sharp focus: “It seems even more unfair that many households struggle to purchase nutritious food,” says Stafford.
The full report is available to download at austerityindex.com, along with reports from previous quarters.
Greeks love their coffee. In fact, they are one of the highest coffee-consuming nations in the world, with an average per capita consumption of 5.5 kilograms vs. a global average of 1.3. Before the crisis, most people’s daily fix was provided by coffee shops—many of them corporate chains like Starbucks and Flocafé—which charged premium prices. With the advent of the crisis, however, the often twice or more daily fix became a pricy habit—leaving many Greeks priced out.
Coffee producers Nestlé and Kraft capitalized on this by promoting homemade coffee machines that work with capsules. These sleek and modern machines sit comfortably on a countertop and allow consumers to easily create a variety of high-quality, barista-style coffees at home for a fraction of the cost charged by the shops. Often, the machines are sold with a hefty promotional rebate to help consumers get started since the companies make money by selling the coffee capsules. In Greece, this model was originally pioneered by Nespresso, who sells capsules from dedicated boutiques or via online delivery.
Nespresso’s huge success was emulated by Kraft with its Tassimo machines. Such is the demand that Nestlé even introduced a less premium-positioned range called Dolce Gusto to compete with Tassimo—both the latter brands sell capsules directly from the supermarket. In an economy where almost all categories have seen single- or double-digit declines, the capsule coffee market and its machines have increased by 45 percent over the last two years alone. These brands recognized the importance of coffee to the average Greek citizen, and provided a more cost-effective solution for them to fulfill their needs.
With the protracted-crisis environment becoming the new normal, Greeks are adapting in creative ways. One big change is a host of new business models, from farmers selling direct to consumers to retailers selling clothes by the kilo. A great example is the success of Nanou Donuts.
Nanou Donuts was focused on wholesale until its founder, John Nanou, decided to do something about the many requests to help unemployed people get a job selling doughnuts. His business model: Provide doughnuts at ultra-low prices to small outlet stores manned by previously unemployed people. The catch: The shops—usually in previously shuttered empty properties—are open only from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., when the fresh doughnuts are produced. Nanou then provides these to the outlets with an extremely low margin, enabling them to sell high-quality doughnuts for as little as 60 cents. They have become the craze, with queues often forming outside the small shops and sales records being broken, with many of the shops selling more than a thousand doughnuts during their brief opening hours.
As the U.K. budget is announced, JWT London launches the fourth quarter of its Austerity Index report, marking a full year of data tracking the impact of prolonged economic adversity on British consumers and markets. The report reveals that the younger generation are taking matters into their own hands. Meet the Resilients, aged 18-39, who set themselves apart via a strikingly proactive and entrepreneurial approach to their finances, coupled with a comparatively upbeat attitude. Rather than waiting for rescue from any institution, the Resilients are taking their own measures. They are significantly more likely than any other cohort to have found an extra job or taken on more work (35 percent), bought items specifically to “flip” for profit (20 percent) and even started their own business (11 percent). Their resilience is also in evidence when it comes to a startling willingness to make tough decisions and sacrifices: 4 in 10 regularly skip meals to save money, nearly a third (30 percent) are selling items they actually still need or want, and 18 percent have moved to a cheaper city or town.
Despite being among the hardest hit by the austerity agenda—experiencing higher unemployment and negative earnings growth—the Resilients remain pretty positive. Their Austerity Index measure is 22 points below average, indicating that their assessment of austerity’s impact on their lives is less severe than most. Their positive outlook stretches to their appraisal of others, too: They are more forgiving toward brands and institutions, including the government.
Some of this positivity is likely down to youthful optimism, but we suspect that it’s also due to the generation’s sense of connectedness. This is the cohort that has grown up witnessing and harnessing the power of social networks, so they have greater faith in themselves and their communities to wield influence and to drive change. They may well be more in control than most in the face of austerity.
British Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement brought positive news for the U.K. economy. The forecast GDP growth for this year improved to 1.4 percent from 0.6 percent and was revised up for 2014, to 2.4 percent. Osborne claims that austerity is working. JWT’s latest Austerity Index suggests this is not the full picture and that many Britons are not seeing evidence of a recovery where it matters most: in their wallets. In fact, almost half of the 800 respondents we polled for our Q3 study reported having somewhere between nothing and £50 in disposable income each month.
At the same time, some have been able to relax the purse strings a little. The “Efforts to Restrict Spending” Index figure has fallen 81 points since Q2. While this is still small-scale movement in the greater scheme of things, it might suggest that consumer confidence is building in places. This suggests a two-speed recovery, one where some find their lives getting back to normal while others continue to struggle. The JWT Austerity Index shows wide disparities in the impact of austerity, with a difference of 251 points between the highest and lowest income groups.
Our finding is supported by recent analysis from Manchester University’s Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, which shows that London and the Southeast have recovered more rapidly than other regions of the U.K. and that higher earners have become more prosperous since the crash compared with middle and low earners. With the U.K.’s first “social supermarket” for those on welfare opening in Yorkshire, it’s poignant to note that 13 percent of parents said they have been obliged to skip meals so their children can eat.
This polarization is not going unnoticed: In our study, 81 percent agreed that austerity has deepened the social divide in our country. And they want businesses to do their part: 65 percent call for brands to help those most affected by austerity. Contrary to Osborne’s assertion, austerity is not working for everyone, and as systems and institutions fail to address the growing chasm, there is a clear opportunity for businesses to seek ways to even out the disparities in economic fortune.
The Austerity Index survey was conducted using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool. The JWT Austerity Index is a quarterly study that analyzes the impact of prolonged economic adversity on British consumers and markets. The Q3 report is available to download here. The Q1 report is also available for download, here, as is the Q2 report, here.
Britons are pulling out all the stops to keep their household coffers topped up through times of austerity, even to the point of engaging in actions they believe to be wrong. According to JWT London’s latest Austerity Index report, a small percentage of Britons (6 percent) reveal that austerity has forced them to do something they believe to be unethical. This underscores recent reports from charities and police federations noting a rise in desperate crime: people stealing to simply feed themselves or their families.
The most popular method our 600 respondents are employing to raise money is clearing out their attics, wardrobes and cupboards, with 46 percent hawking unwanted goods at car boot sales or online auctions. More poignant is the revelation that a fifth (22 percent) have been obliged to part with things they still wanted or needed to make ends meet. An enterprising 16 percent are resourcefully “flipping” items: buying goods with the intention of selling them at a profit.
Glimpses of an emerging peer-to-peer economy are discernible too: 15 percent of respondents are selling their skills and knowledge to others, and 4 percent are making money from unused assets in their home, like parking spaces, storage space or spare rooms. (Peer Power is one of JWT’s key trends for 2013.) Finally, a substantial number are taking their chances with Lady Luck: 42 percent are trying to win competitions, and 12 percent have started playing the lottery. Tough times are driving the nation to ever-greater levels of resourcefulness.
This Austerity Index survey was conducted in June using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool. The JWT Austerity Index is a quarterly study that analyzes the impact of prolonged economic adversity on British consumers and markets. The Q2 report is available to download here. The Q1 report is also available for download, here.
Quiestlemoinscher.com (“who is the less expensive”) is a very well-known and successful price-comparison website that Leclerc, the French hypermarket chain, created a few years ago. It lets consumers compare local prices for national brands and private labels by clicking on a region of the map or by entering a postal code. It provides a real utility, especially in a crisis period when everybody needs to save money and pays attention to differences of even a few cents. (Last year French consumers’ purchasing power declined for the first time in three decades, according to Retail Detail.) The website shows that Leclerc is the least expensive brand/store 98 percent of the time, according to the retailer.
More recently, with Leclerc’s competitors making the same, “We are the least expensive” pitch, the retailer had to find another innovative way to prove its lowest-price claims. In addition to a smartphone app that lets customers scan products to compare prices, Leclerc has extended its service to in-store screens where customers can check on the prices of major competitors. By setting up this type of device, Leclerc brings a highlight of the Web directly into the physical store, whether or not the customer has a mobile device.
Quiestlemoinscher.com is a smart initiative that has brought assurance and, of course, savings to consumers, making the retailer a real ally in this time of crisis. For a majority of French people, Leclerc is now one of the most trusted of French brands.
In France, as many as a quarter of young people are unemployed. The largest employer of young workers in France, McDonald’s is basing its human resources policy on the professional development of these employees with a policy based on three pillars: training, promotion and internal mobility. On the occasion of the Day of Trades, on April 16, McDonald’s launched a massive recruitment drive, aiming for 40,000 recruitments in 2013. The brand aired three TV commercials, an unusual means of recruitment for a private company (normally only public services use this strategy).
The commercials feature a “mate,” a market manager and a manager, who tell their evolution at McDonald’s from their start to their present status. In one, a 21-year-old named Nicholas says he started at McDonald’s two years ago on a CDI contract (a long-term contract), which “has provided me a certain stability.” He says it has allowed him to buy a car and get an apartment with his girlfriend. “We’ll see what happens next,” he says. “I am confident in the future.” Adds the voiceover: “A job at McDonald’s is a stable job.” While the campaign is not particularly interesting in terms of creativity, the message and the testimonial form are smart ways to quickly touch the target audience. Young people can easily identify themselves in this campaign, which represents a true call to action for them.
As the cost of living in the U.K. rises and Brits become increasingly anxious about covering the cost of their weekly shop, supermarkets must work harder to keep customers loyal. According to recent research, the cost of living in the U.K. is 11 percent higher than the international average and an incredible 18 percent higher than it is in the United States. In addition, since the horsemeat scandal broke, U.K. advertisers can no longer rely solely on a “cheapest price” message. The public still wants their food to be as inexpensive as possible, but the scandal made it clear that there’s often a price to be paid when offerings appear too cheap to be true.
Low-cost supermarket Asda has previously focused on price against their competitors. In a marked departure from its usual method of communicating, the retailer is now engaging the consumer with the reality of juggling a busy household and bills in an amusing, charming and also honest way, before the lowest-price message comes along in all its glory. Asda’s new price lock initiative, which freezes the costs of essentials for a 12-week period, seems a clever tactic to prevent regular and potentially new consumers from shopping around week on week.