North America

Soaring food prices drive more anxiety among women than men

Global Anxiety Drivers

According to recent forecasts, food prices are set to see the biggest increase in more than three years as a result of worldwide drought conditions. Experts believe that prices may rise by as much as 3.5 percent by the end of 2014, whereas individual produce items might see even larger increases (for example, the cost of lettuce could increase by 34 percent). Data from our most recent global AnxietyIndex study reveal that higher prices at the grocery store may cause women more anxiety than men: Across the 27 markets we surveyed, things that impact us closer to home—including food prices—are more likely to drive anxiety among women than men. Nearly 2 in 5 women already feel “very anxious” about the cost of food.

Brands in these categories will need to help women navigate this anxiety through messaging, products and tools that address their concerns head-on and help them manage their budgets.

Pet food mirrors human trends as consumer concern over ingredients extends to pets

These days people are anxious about what goes into their food, looking for items that are “natural” and “free” of just about anything. And with consumers more cognizant of ingredients in their own food, they’re paying more attention to their pets’ meals. In response, marketers are offering products that cater to the growing interest in pet nutrition. Pet food giant Iams offers a line of all-natural dog food, and Purina has beyOnd, made with natural ingredients.

More dog owners are also sharing their own meals. As ABC News reports, Gayle Pruitt, a nutritionist and chef, recently wrote a cookbook about preparing joint meals for humans and pets. Dog-Gone Good Cuisine: More Healthy, Fast and Easy Recipes for You and Your Pooch promises time- and money-saving recipes to feed your dog the same dinner you make for yourself.

Taking a cue from the trend of treating Fido’s nutrition and cuisine like your own, some pet food companies are going beyond just “all natural.” Innova has a new line of pet food that promises “real, wholesome ingredients from places we know, grown and raised with care.” Recipes incorporate farm-raised turkey, cold-water salmon and ranch-raised bison. There are even gluten- and dairy-free options, from Heights Farm Premium Pet Foods in the U.K. And a small pet bakery, Boston Baked Bonz, offers organic and animal-free treats, like wheat-free cranberry clove muffins and quinoa cookies.

Wonder when we’ll see doggy kale chips go mainstream? Restaurants for both you and your pup? With consumers spending more and more to ensure their pets’ well-being—Americans spent a record $55.7 billion on their pets in 2013—that might be sooner than you think.

Canadians become more informed diners

Informed Dining

Last fall, the City of Toronto Public Health championed the growing consumer angst around exactly what we put into our bodies with the Savvy Diner campaign to drum up support for the Informed Dining menu labeling initiative. Informed Dining will begin rolling out at the end of this month, addressing a concern that many have raised in recent years as an extension of more macro health and wellness trends surrounding obesity: that it’s next to impossible to tell the real sodium and caloric counts in some of our favourite menu items. The nutritional information may be on a menu, a website or a brochure.

To start, the program focuses on major chains rather than independent restaurants—The Keg, Montana’s and Milestones are among those voluntarily participating—but given the progression of nutritional labeling in recent years from packaging to QSR and now mid-tier dining, Mom-and-Pops everywhere should take note of a developing trend that consumers are going to be more informed about before they dine out and dig in.

Photo Credit: HealthyFamilies BC

With Fuelcaster, Esurance gives drivers tool to predict gas prices

The recession may be long over, but consumers remain anxious about their expenses and savvy about finding the lowest prices. Catering to this mindset, the insurance provider Esurance is now offering an online tool, Fuelcaster, that predicts whether local gas prices will go up or down in the next 24 hours—users input a ZIP code and see a “buy” or “wait” recommendation (much as Kayak does with plane fares), along with the current prices at nearby gas stations. The company says Fuelcaster relies on “a proprietary algorithm that incorporates pricing signals from industry sources” and claims it’s the first such tool in the U.S. to predict gas prices.

In providing drivers with a free service that’s unrelated to the company’s core business of insurance but fits with its positioning as a value choice for digitally savvy consumers, Esurance illustrates how to put the consumer at the core of marketing initiatives. More brands are starting to focus on winning loyalty and engagement by using technology to address real consumer needs rather than taking a just-because-we-can approach to tech, which may briefly intrigue consumers but rarely creates real affinity.

Chobani’s ‘Farmland’ spot highlights use of natural ingredients

As part of its “How Matters” campaign, Greek yogurt maker Chobani aired the new commercial “Farmland” during the Oscars on Sunday night. With a message reminiscent of Chipotle’s animated short “The Scarecrow,” the spot opens on a serene farm, shimmering in the morning sun. However, with each successive shot, the viewer sees an increasingly artificial setting: The crowing rooster is only a recording; labeled test tubes hang from trees; the cows are hollow plastic molds, filled with a white powder by men in lab coats; and the grass is artificial turf. As the camera pans out, a voice-over states, “Most 100-calorie yogurts are made with artificial ingredients and sweeteners. But here at Chobani, we believe 100 percent natural ingredients is all you need.” Then the viewer is taken to lush farmland, brimming with life, as farmers tend to real, living cows and pick fresh fruit. The ad ends with a farmer saying, “A cup of yogurt won’t change the world, but how we make it might.”

Chobani, which claims to be “the only [Greek yogurt] producer with all-natural ingredients,” according to Adweek, addresses the growing anxieties consumers have about how food is produced—primarily if the food is “real” or not. With the dramatized juxtaposition of artificial vs. natural, Chobani reassures consumers that its yogurt is produced responsibly and the way nature intended.

LifeLock allows customers to ‘do their thing’

In the past few months, a number of major data breaches have made the news—most notably the attack on Target, which compromised personal or payment information for more than 100 million customers. And with people increasingly digitizing their most sensitive information, these breaches pose significant risks to their online, personal and financial security.

Last month, with fortuitous timing, identity theft protection company LifeLock launched a new campaign that highlights the benefits of using its services to protect customers’ data. In an upbeat commercial, LifeLock shows a series of people going about their lives, with digital technology at the center of what they do—sending text messages, transferring money, sharing photos, etc. Eventually, LifeLock notifies each person of potentially fraudulent behavior taken under their name, asking if they’ve done such things as opening a credit card account or applying for a mortgage. All the customers have to do is select no, and continue with their days.

A voiceover acknowledges, “The thing is, you live in a digital world, and you’re not turning back. And that’s OK. Shop, post, browse, follow, bank and stream. Knock yourself out. Because while you do your thing, we’ll be here at LifeLock, doing our thing.” In its campaign, LifeLock shies away from presenting a foreboding threat of identity theft, instead choosing to reassure viewers with a positive outlook of protection, letting people live their lives as normal.

Swedish trade union shows that living ‘like a Swede’ is anxiety-free

Sweden’s trade union confederation, TCO, recently launched the offbeat awareness campaign “Like a Swede,” with the aim of educating the Swedish public on the benefits of a strong union presence—for instance, having trade unions and employers’ organizations negotiate enviable “salaries, pension, insurances, annual leave days, parental leave and much more.” To showcase this, a three-and-a-half-minute video follows the fictional Joe Williams, an American in Beverly Hills who works for his wealthy father and has the freedom to live “like a Swede.” Joe lives a stress-free life—receiving six months of paternity leave at 90 percent pay; hiring a celebrity personal trainer (for a few seconds, anyway) with his health care stipend; enjoying six weeks of vacation while thinking of requesting a couple more; and role-playing as a Swedish retiree who lives on his pension in leisure—all “like a Swede.” Serving as the foil is Sami, an overworked friend of Joe’s who pines for the same work-life balance.

Through a conspicuous absence of anxiety in Joe, the novel campaign conveys how good Swedes have it and all that they might take for granted, thanks to trade unions like TCO. Elsewhere, the Samis of the world worry about securing retirement and health care benefits, and finding time off for child care or vacation. By creating this dynamic, the TCO highlights how it helps remove the anxieties with which many others in developed nations are grappling.

Walmart plays up the glory of American manufacturing

The economic downturn has fostered a certain type of commercial that aims to reassure Americans anxious about the decline of domestic manufacturing—that goods are still being made in America and that the marketer in question is helping to ensure this. There’s generally a portentous voiceover, reading copy that strives to be stirring and poetic. “The things that make us Americans are the things we make,” began a Jeep Grand Cherokee commercial that we wrote about back in 2010. “This has always been a nation of builders, craftsmen, men and women for whom straight stitches and clean welds were matters of personal pride.” Parent company Chrysler continued the theme with the Super Bowl spot “Halftime in America,” with Clint Eastwood telling Americans that “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch.” Levi’s centered artsy ads around the failing steel town of Braddock, Pa.

Now Walmart joins this list, promoting its investment of $250 billion over 10 years in products that support “American Jobs.” In “I Am a Factory,” we see a shuttered factory as Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs intones: “At one time, I made things. I opened my doors to all. And together, we filled pallets and trucks. I was mighty, and then one day, the gears stopped turning.” We see the factory comes to life again, as the voiceover concludes with determination, “But I’m still here, and I believe I will rise again.” Two other ads skip the declarations and rely on music instead: “Lights On” depicts a factory coming to life, and “Working Man” uses the Rush song of the same name, showing folks laboring in factories.

The ads won’t silence criticism of Walmart’s labor practices—Rowe has found himself defending the retailer’s initiative on social media—but may help retain some loyalty among a customer base that’s largely still grappling with the effects of the downturn.

Brazil’s ‘citizen consumers’ use digital tools to air grievances, mobilize

Rio Surreal

As prices surge, inflation rises and customer service languishes, Brazil’s consumers are growing increasingly anxious about the cost of living. But while Brazilians have battled many frustrations over the years, for the first time they are turning to the Internet as a platform for airing grievances, commiserating and mobilizing the crowd.

With prices climbing steadily higher ahead of the World Cup, some residents of Rio de Janeiro have set up a Facebook group, Rio $urreal – Não Pague [Don’t Pay], focused on “exposing and boycotting the extortionate prices being charged by bars, restaurants and shops,” as The Guardian reports this week. (“Surreal,” a reference to the craziness of current costs, is a pun on Brazil’s currency, the real.) The page has garnered more than 179,000 likes, and what started in Rio has now expanded to São Paulo, Brasilia and Belém. As we explain in our recent report “The Brazil Opportunity: A Guide for Marketers,” there’s also BoicotaSP, another Facebook outlet where consumers identify businesses or brands they believe are exploitative, with the list serving as a database of places to boycott. And Reclame Aqui (Complain Here) is a website where Brazilians can post complaints about brands, products and customer service.

Brazil’s newly empowered “citizen consumers” are engaged and ready to challenge both government and business, aided by digital tools. As Brazilians take a more active role in shaping their world, they will not only fight perceived offenses committed by marketers but also expect brands to work with them to make things better. Heineken’s Delegates app, for instance, allows users to comment on bars they patronize and suggest ways to improve the experience.

Photo Credit: Rio $urreal

Hyundai, Subaru pitch safety to protective parents

We’ve seen a spate of car commercials that target dads anxious about keeping their kids safe. A sentimental 2012 Volkswagen spot from the U.K. shows a dad caring for his daughter over the years until finally buying her a Polo as she goes off to college. (In the U.S., Volkswagen has also pitched its Jetta to safety-conscious young parents.) In a 2013 Subaru ad, a dad with a young daughter admits, “I’m overprotective”—and that’s why he chooses the brand.

Now, we have Subaru’s “Flat Tire,” in which a teen girl works to change a tire in the rain—a task assigned by her dad, as we learn when he comes over to say, “Told you you could do it,” as she finishes up. In voiceover he adds, “I want her to be safe, so I taught her what I could, and got her a Subaru.” And then there’s “Dad’s Sixth Sense,” one of two Super Bowl spots from Hyundai, in which a dad saves his son from myriad physical mishaps as the kid grows up, whether it’s nearly getting kicked by a kid on the swings or whacked by a bat meant for a piñata. Ultimately, however, it’s Hyundai’s auto emergency braking that saves the kid, now a teen driver who’s distracted by a pretty girl as he steers a Genesis down the block.

This type of pitch will connect with today’s worrywart parents (and stereotypically it’s the dad in charge of all things car-related), and the emotional component behind these messages layers a sweet tone onto the sell.