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.
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.
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.”