North America

2014 AnxietyIndex Report: Ebola

Ebola ReportEbola. The name itself evokes various emotions for all of us—fear, frustration, anger, and perhaps most of all—anxiety.

For the last month, JWT’s AnxietyIndex has been navigating consumers’ sentiments around Ebola in an effort to help brands navigate consumer behavior in these times of heightened anxiety; tracking levels and intensity of consumer anxiety as well as the drivers of anxiety, both from a macro and micro perspective. Utilizing SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary research tool, we conducted an extensive quantitative study, sampling 500 adults 18-plus in the U.S.

What has culminated is a thought-provoking look at what consumers’ general anxieties are as of late, attitudes toward the Ebola disease and issues at hand, as well as brands’ overall role in prevention and the conversation itself.

While Americans largely remain anxious in 2014 about one thing or another, overall anxiety has declined over the past two years—especially since the high-anxiety days of the U.S. recession.

  • The current Ebola outbreak has raised the level of anxiety about global pandemic diseases significantly.
  • While Americans are very anxious about the possibility of a widespread Ebola outbreak—both in the U.S. and around the world—very few adults believe they are likely to actually contract the disease. As a result, relatively few are taking active precautions.
  • Certain brands can credibly communicate about Ebola: Consumers indicate they would welcome messages from travel and health care brands, as their messages would reassure Americans of their safety. Ninety-two percent of respondents admire companies that are taking action to help stop the spread of Ebola; however, not all brands have consumers’ permission to inject themselves into the conversation.
  • In fact, brands that do not have what consumers see as a direct role in minimizing the crisis—like sanitizer brands and OTC cold/flu medications—run the risk of appearing as though they are trying to exploit the situation.

To download the full report, click here.

With ‘Coffee vs. Gangs,’ Kenco helps young Hondurans find opportunity

Honduras is one of the world’s largest coffee growers, but it’s also a very poor country, with almost two-thirds of the population below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. Feeling stuck in an environment that offers little opportunity to get ahead, many young people fall into a life of gangs and crime through intimidation or the promise of status and riches.

Enter Kenco’s recently launched Coffee vs. Gangs program, developed in partnership with JWT London. The coffee brand is sponsoring a yearlong education program for 20 at-risk youth, who will live on a coffee farm and learn the skills required to work in the industry. The effort is detailed on a microsite, The program is part of a €200 million “Coffee Made Happy” effort from parent company Mondelēz to make coffee growing around the globe more sustainable by 2020; the company is looking to work with a million small-scale farmers to push a variety of improvements in agricultural and labor practices.

Kenco’s effort illustrates the concept of “shared value,” with the company supporting a good cause while also helping itself by ensuring at least a small supply of well-trained youth. Meanwhile the program helps assure conscientious consumers that, among all the coffee brands claiming sustainability, Kenco is one that’s deserving of their support.

KLM shows array of passengers how it’s #HappytoHelp

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines recently dedicated a team of 250 employees to help travelers in need, KLM passenger or not, during a five-day promotion meant to highlight its customer service capabilities. As part of the international #HappytoHelp campaign, customer service reps worked around the clock in shifts of 30, monitoring several airports as well as Twitter. The team was stationed in a custom-built glass pavilion at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, with additional people in New York, São Paulo and Hong Kong.

KLM addressed numerous travel concerns through various means. A couple with an infant got a private room with snacks and toys to ensure a comfortable layover, while a Sydney-bound traveler looking for advice received some tips. Exhausted passengers waiting at night for early morning flights got free coffee. KLM even hired a New York speedboat taxi for a passenger running late due to traffic, allowing him to make that day’s only flight from Newark to Bermuda.

Travel is usually an anxiety-inducing and stress-provoking experience, with passengers juggling concerns of safety, comfort and cost, and with many airlines less than happy to help. KLM’s campaign reinforced its commitment to making the journey less difficult. The challenge, of course, is for its staff to carry this out day in and day out.

McDonald’s continues transparency kick with US Q&A campaign

Two years ago we wrote about McDonald’s’ transparency kick in the U.K. (the site What Makes McDonald’s) and Canada, where invited consumers to ask whatever questions they had, “even the tough ones.” Those efforts followed an Australian TV documentary sponsored by the brand, McDonald’s Gets Grilled, which showed several consumers touring various company operations, sometimes asking challenging questions. The latest effort to address anxieties about fast food—exactly how it’s made and with what ingredients, etc.—is an American campaign that answers consumers’ most frequently asked questions.

A YouTube video series features Grant Imahara from the show MythBusters visiting McDonald’s suppliers. Another video shows people asking questions at an outdoor ad that solicited queries. Naturally these are all questions that McDonald’s can answer easily; answers are posted online (e.g., Chicken McNuggets do not contain pink slime and are made from the tenderloin, breast and rib, ground with a bit of chicken skin and a marinade). The company is also soliciting questions via tweet and tweeting responses.

The simple act of opening up to questions may reassure some of today’s increasingly skeptical consumers. But as the ranks of curious, educated and anxious eaters keep growing, McDonald’s will have to do more to boost confidence that it sells “real” food made from wholesome ingredients. With both McDonald’s and Coca-Cola stumbling at the moment—“Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors,” writes Slate—we’ll see food companies not only marketing in new ways but also changing their products to meet rising demand for better-for-you ingredients.

Children’s Motrin among brands helping moms to help each other

New research from Rutgers University says that a woman’s happiness is more important than her husband’s when it comes to keeping a marriage afloat. Meanwhile, more branded support systems have started to appear. Marketers are trying to help women help each other, specifically moms.

Walmart Canada has long been studying the role of Mom and how to talk to her, fully versed in the realities she faces every day. Every year, Walmart asks other moms (and the general public) to vote and recognize one mom as “Mom of the Year.” The program gives an outlet for Canadians to say thank you to moms in their lives, awarding one but appreciating all. It came to fruition after JWT learned that Mom doesn’t always feel appreciated for all she does.

Now, a campaign for Children’s Motrin in the U.S. is encouraging moms to reach out to each other and ask for help and tips to make them unstoppable. Kelly Ripa is the spokeswoman for the “Unstoppable Moms” campaign, and she’s featured in a series of videos that aim to help Mom out in her daily life. This ensures the brand’s relevance is credible and not jarring. Brands are enabling the conversation and helping to make life a little easier and happier for Mom.

Rosetta Stone targets Millennials with vision of global harmony

At a time when it seems as though the globe is hopelessly bogged down by cultural misunderstanding and disconnects, Rosetta Stone proposes that a key to a happier, more tolerant world may lie in acquiring a new language. The language-tutorial brand is challenging people, especially Millennials, to “create a smaller world” by learning to better communicate in other tongues.

A manifesto spot depicts everyday situations that could be enhanced by connecting through conversation, asking viewers to “imagine the world if everyone learned just one more language.” It would be a world of shared stories and ideas, meals and unlikely conversations. The campaign includes four webisodes detailing the adventures of Millennials exploring new countries, and a social media component offers people a chance to win a subscription to Rosetta Stone by following the brand on Instagram and completing a weekly photo-sharing challenge.

For a brand seeking to connect with the optimistic, globally minded Millennial cohort, positioning Rosetta Stone as a way to help build global harmony rather than as a purely utilitarian tool for navigating foreign cultures is a smart move.

Shell creates energy-generating football pitch in Brazil

Morro da Mineira Project

Roughly 6 percent of Brazilians (more than 11 million people) live in favelas, or shantytowns, which often lack basic services. Many of these residents are among Brazil’s emerging middle class. Brands are starting to see opportunities to improve infrastructure and services in these neighborhoods, an idea we highlighted in one of our 10 Trends for 2011, Creative Urban Renewal.

Recently, JWT London and Shell did just that by installing a first-of-its-kind electricity-generating football/soccer pitch in Rio de Janeiro’s Morro da Mineira favela. Kinetic tiles capture the energy generated by players running on the pitch, and in tandem with solar power, this charges floodlights—allowing youngsters to keep playing safely into the evening.

At a time when CSR and traditional marketing efforts are meshing, Creative Urban Renewal projects present ways for brands to both help communities and position themselves as innovative and original. In this case, Shell is able to illustrate its “Make the Future” initiative, which aims to “inspire a new wave of scientists and engineers to create a smarter, cleaner energy future for our planet.” These projects tend to be sustainable, fun, educational and interactive—key attributes for brands.

Photo Credit: Shell

Royal Bank of Canada taps into anxiety around home mortgages in faux movie trailers

The ever-rising cost of housing across key markets has long been a source of anxiety for Canadians—an important factor for banks to be conscious of when finding ways to connect with their consumers. A recent report by Royal Bank of Canada highlights that point of anxiety. Based on Statistics Canada’s most recent Survey of Financial Security, the report uses data broken out by household age. And while the ongoing rise in home prices has meant increased net worth for many older Canadians, it’s meant more debt for younger ones.

Royal Bank of Canada has used dynamic ways to connect with this cohort of new home buyers and help ease the stress that comes along with a first mortgage. Earlier this year they posted faux movie trailers to YouTube that reflect the different types of stress encountered in the mortgage process. For the overwhelmed, they created a drama, and there’s a horror theme for those intimidated by it all; for people who are more excited than stressed, there’s a romantic comedy.

The campaign, which includes clickable links to relevant RBC sites and social content, taps into consumer anxiety and positions RBC as an understanding expert in the process. As home prices continue to rise and uncertainty about the debt taken on remains, banks will need to find more ways to reassure and aid consumers.

TD Bank, Nutrella, Honda focus on bringing cheer and surprise to consumers

We’re living in a Super Stress Era (one of JWT’s 10 Trends for 2013), and news headlines filled with what seems like more doom and gloom than normal are only driving more stress and anxiety among consumers. Brands can help lift spirits by offering consumers some unexpected moments of cheer. Earlier this summer, TD Bank scored a viral hit after it created a few special ATMs that dispensed gifts to loyal patrons in Canada, part of its “TD Thanks You” campaign; these customers got anything from extra cash to a ticket to visit a faraway daughter with cancer. The smile-inducing video has garnered 10 million-plus views.

To illustrate its tagline “Awakens a smile in you,” Brazilian bread brand Nutrella also jumped on the joy bandwagon with its “Friendly Mirror”: a mirror placed around public places that gave random compliments to people walking by. (An idea similar to Avon’s 2011 “Miraculous Mirror” campaign in Slovakia.) Meanwhile, in early August, Honda promoted its annual summer clearance event with a “Summer Cheerance” campaign, which included a “Cheerance” playlist in tandem with Pandora, piñatas for passersby to swing at, a “Stand Here for Cheer” box (which released surprises like saxophone serenades and a bouquet-toting bear) and silly fun in partnership YouTube celebrity Andrew Hales.

For consumers weighed down by anxieties, marketers have the opportunity to be a bright spot, building a brand narrative based in joy.

KFC harkens back to cheaper times with fuel $5 Fill-Up promotion

Although gas prices have held at roughly the same level for the past three years in the U.S., pain at the pump is still a consumer concern. (Myriad brands have sought ways to ease consumer anxiety over gas prices: Grocery chains including Costco and Kroger, for instance, offer gas savings tied to purchases; we’ve written about Morrisons’ Fuel Saver program in the U.K.) KFC recently offered a nostalgic panacea with a throwback to better days—a time “when you could get a hot, delicious meal and fill up your car for just $5,” as a press release put it—by providing lunch and a tank full of gas for only five bucks to promote its new $5 Fill-Up meals.

The promotion was for one day only at a service station in Louisville, Ky., and included a Colonel Sanders character pumping gas. A companion Twitter “fill-up” campaign let fans trade professions of brand love for free fuel and meals.

Nostalgia has played a major role in recession and post-recession marketing with brands leveraging visions of a simpler past to create emotional connections. By addressing price concerns with the emotional balm of nostalgia, KFC leveraged its history to create camaraderie and build affinity in a still-uncertain economy.