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.
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.
In the first wave of JWT London’s new quarterly Austerity Index, we found that 92 percent of Britons are deploying one or more of a range of coping mechanisms to save money: using money-off coupons (58 percent), using loyalty points (53 percent), checking price comparison tools (54 percent), or switching utilities suppliers (19 percent) and mobile tariffs (17 percent). Austerity Britain appears to be producing a nation of savvy budget tacticians who are relying upon a slew of strategies to make their money go further. They’re also finding more ways to restock the coffers. Selling unwanted items is a popular strategy: 51 percent are selling or planning to sell items at car boot sales or auction sites like eBay.
JWT London’s findings suggest that being a thrifty consumer is now a way of life for many. This is not surprising given that low-income households fork out an average of £91 each week to pay for necessities like groceries, toiletries, petrol and travel. That’s excluding money for the mortgage or rent, or any bills. And once they’ve covered off those essentials, more than a third of those surveyed told us they have nothing left to spend on themselves or others as a treat at the end of the month. A further third have just over £12 a week, barely enough to cover a small round of drinks at the pub.
Amid the gloom, there’s a glint of steely resourcefulness. While 30 percent of people report feeling depressed, 27 percent say they feel in control. It seems that when push comes to shove, Britain will cope, using every trick and tactic at its disposal. No surprise then that 62 percent agree that austerity has taught us something: how to live with less.
While people are gradually realizing that their planet is in danger, that some species will completely disappear, they don’t necessarily accept that they may have to renounce some of their comfort if they want to do something about it. That helps explain why some continue to wear real fur. (Although the demand for faux fur is now so high that some real fur has been marketed as fake.) In France, the love of women for fur and their love of animals creates a form of tension. The wildlife protection organization WWF plays with this tension in a creative new campaign.
WWF France created a line of clothing and accessories made from the “fur” of imaginary animals, called Wonder World Fur, showcased in beautifully shot photographs by Mark Seliger. The collection is actually on sale. This campaign and service prove that doing something good need not feel like a sacrifice, that we can awaken consciences with poetry and that we can find new and inspiring ways to address anxiety regarding environmental issues.
In Italy, about a third of young people are unemployed, making it the third worst country in Europe to be young and jobless, behind Greece and Spain. The historic Italian brand Campari recently launched a social project dedicated to young unemployed people in Sesto San Giovanni, the town near Milan where the company is based. The project, called Passion Works, is the brainchild of a group of employees entrusted with the task of proposing concrete solutions to the problem of local youth unemployment.
Famous for the many cocktails that use it, the brand is opening the doors of its bartender academy to 30 locals between age 18 and 25 who are unemployed, enabling them to turn a passion into a job. Users scroll down the website as if they’re reading a recipe; anyone who meets the requirements can apply at the end of the page. Those chosen by Campari will be admitted to the professional bartender course at the Campari Academy this month and get a bartender degree upon completion of the course in December.
Campari presents a concrete response to the difficulties faced by a workless generation. While it’s a small-scale effort, it shows the big brand’s attentiveness to the realities of its local community.
The horse meat scandal is perhaps the greatest food transparency issue in recent years. It continues to grow, and here in the U.K., the majority of big retailers have been affected in one way or another. The country’s largest retailer, Tesco, has felt the effects the hardest, with a number of their value products implicated. This resulted in an apology ad that guaranteed a full refund in national press.
By contrast, the scandal has played into the hands of Morrisons, which can claim “100% British meat” and has around 1,700 butchers across 500 in-store butcher counters in the U.K. They capitalized on the scandal with ads stating, “100% British. 100% of the time.” Morrisons has said they’ve had an unprecedented number of customers approaching them for advice and to buy fresh burgers, among other meats. The results have been significant: fresh meat counter sales have risen 18 percent, sales of fresh beef burgers are up 50 percent, and sales of beef mince are up 21 percent.
As we noted last year during the “pink slime” scandal in the U.S., as consumers grow increasingly anxious about food quality, brands that can clearly illustrate safety and purity will continue to gain ground over those with suspect ingredients.
As the struggling U.K. economy emerges out of another winter, Lurpak Butter is advocating a traditional British approach to adversity. Acknowledging that just getting though the week has become tougher, the brand shows how hard work and effort has its own rewards—although apparently these come in the shape of a shepherd’s pie or bread and butter pudding, in the short term.
“If we can get through an Ice Age, we can get through this week,” declares the voiceover in a humorously over-dramatic spot that showcases sensual food shots. “Tomorrow, we’re ready for you.” With outdoor posters highlighting qualities like “Optimism” and “Strength,” Lurpak firmly places the power to endure in the hands of the British public, evoking its infamous “stiff upper lip.”
Turkey’s ethnically diverse society often struggles with the question, “How can we stand together as a nation, for we are actually a mosaic?” The nation is in search of its binding element. Currently, Turkey is enjoying a good economy, but is more polarized than ever by religion (between conservatives and liberals)—unity is more at stake than it ever was. At times like this, the Kurdish freedom struggle finds great opportunity—Turkey’s Kurds have been seeking independence for 30-plus years—but the ruling party is seeking agreements with Kurdish representatives, unlike previous governments.
Best-selling national newspaper Zaman, read by voters of the ruling party, tried a positive approach to bringing the nation together in a late 2012 ad titled “A call for unity and brotherhood.” Set to soothing string instruments and a sturdy drumbeat, the commercial shows Turkish citizens of many ethnicities and occupations joining hands in a joyous human chain that’s encircling the nation. A singer explains how all people in the world want freedom, and despite differences, tolerance is within reach. On-screen text explains, “This is a call for unity. This is the time for unity.” At the end of the ad, we see a Kurdish Peshmerga, either a freedom fighter or a terrorist, depending on one’s perspective. Though some considered the Kurdish element provocative, most have been supportive of the spot, feeling that it’s time to find a new middle ground.
Nations around the world are grappling with high youth unemployment, a cause that Italian fashion brand United Colors of Benetton took up last year in a global campaign. “Unemployee of the Year” aimed to not only draw the public’s attention to the issue but present “a practical response to the problems we’re raising,” as chairman Alessandro Benetton told The New York Times.
The campaign revolved around a contest for unemployed people between 18 and 30 run by Benetton’s Unhate Foundation, which is devoted to promoting diversity in local communities. Contestants submitted ideas for projects that could create concrete social impact in their community, and these were voted on by the online community. The foundation promised 5,000 euros to each of the top 100 projects. In line with the company’s history of raising awareness around socially delicate and controversial issues, Benetton offered an “unfiltered” view of so-called NEETs (young people who are not in education, employment, or training) in a manifesto video. Celebrating the ability of young people to find new, intelligent and creative ways of facing unemployment and to come up with their own unique solutions, the video ends with the line, “A job doesn’t define me—what I fight for does.”
Some questioned whether the company should apportion more resources toward effecting change and fewer into the marketing element, a valid point—but supporting some solutions to social problems rather than simply pointing them out is a good start.
Coca Cola brought its “Happiness” brand message to consumers in Italy last fall with “Let’s Eat Together,” a campaign focused around making mealtimes more sociable again. For its “Happiness Table” stunt, the brand drove a van with the iconic Coca-Cola branding into a square in Naples and set up dining tables, inviting locals to join the fun. Bottles of soda were served up alongside some signature dishes from Italian chef Simone Rugiati. The concept extended to a Let’s Eat Together tool on Facebook, enabling users to invite family and friends to eat with them.
While “eating together is a primary source of happiness,” as the brand notes in this case study video, our busy professional lives are draining any quality time we have with our friends and family. Italy, the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement, seems like an ideal place to pitch a message that Coke has been spreading across markets (we wrote about the German campaign “Coke sets the table” several years ago).
Watching a child fly the nest must be one of the most anxious points of a parent’s life. Can it really be that the vulnerable baby they brought into the world is ready to face it on their own? This year, just as Britain’s teenagers sat for their final school exams, two brands released TV spots themed around reassuring apprehensive parents.
Volkswagen, which has built a reputation for safe, reliable cars, positions the Polo as something of a surrogate parent in a charming and emotionally charged 90-second spot. It shows the relationship between dad and daughter build from the moment she’s brought home from the hospital to the day she heads off to university, driving away in a new VW Polo while her father chokes back the tears. The car acting in loco parentis offers a seamless connection between the brand and the sentimental story, allowing VW to forge a bond with consumers and reinforce its longstanding brand values.
In a somewhat clunkier variation on the theme, NatWest uses the (mis)adventures of a young woman (is it just daughters that cause such worry?) on a gap year to promote its latest online banking tool. It’s a platform for the bank to show off their mobile app and further the customer-focused positioning they’ve been using in a bid to rebuild trust following the global banking crisis. But it seems an arbitrary choice to promote what is, essentially, just Internet banking; it almost feels as though the bank is exploiting parental anxiety. Although it may seem right to approach advertising by understanding the anxieties in consumers’ lives, it has to be equally relevant to the brand or product, or it feels false.