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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Last month we wrote about an ad for Unilever’s sustainability initiative: Couples expecting a child watch a video that shows images of war and poverty before moving on to describe innovations demonstrating that, in fact, “there has never been a better time to create a brighter future for everyone on the planet and for those yet to come.” In a similar but more pop culture-y vein, a Millennial-focused commercial for the Honda Civic starts off by showing some of the things young people are anxious about today—news about Wall Street crises and home foreclosures, environmental issues like melting glaciers—before tapping into the generation’s naturally optimistic mindset and focusing on both silly and serious reasons to feel positive.
“Today is pretty bad,” laments the lead singer of Vintage Trouble, the bluesy band seen in the spot, which runs 30 seconds on TV and for a full 2:38 online. But it’s really not so bad, counter a series of perky Millennials—science, selfies, puppies, even Nyan Cat are all reasons for optimism. (The spot gets specific about new innovations, naming “meta-materials, artificial blood, space mining, genetic therapy, biotech, 3D printers.”) The band’s lyrics soon become more upbeat too: “For the most part, give or take, today is actually … pretty great.”
Millennials, observes Atlantic correspondent James Fallows, are “tired of hearing that everything is terrible.” By contrast, this approach represents a “bolder ‘glass is way more than half full’ pitch than I recall seeing in any other political or commercial campaign,” he writes, while avoiding a “boosterish/denialist” tone. While the multitude of pop culture references feels like overkill in the longer version, the campaign smartly attempts to connect with the target audience by reflecting their hope-fueled mindset.
It seems that British consumers are beset by the blues at this time of year. Last January, we wrote about a commercial from The Sun newspaper in which a young girl declares that “January sucks” and suggests that we “kick January where there ain’t no sun.” Now Heat, which uses the tagline “Heat makes you happy,” is telling readers that the magazine is “turning the most depressing month of the year into the happiest.”
The effort is focused around a lighthearted petition to David Cameron to create a public holiday on the third Monday in January and call it Blue Monday. A holiday would help counteract the “recipe for national misery” that comes with bleak weather and the financial fallout of the holiday season. On this year’s “Blue Monday,” the brand will attempt to cheer up consumers with a “kitten cam,” a live stream from a pet shelter (viewers will be able to adopt an animal too). Hey, you can’t go wrong with kittens at any time of year, especially during one of the lowest points for consumer mood.
Photo Credit: Heat
Two years ago around this time, we wrote about a campaign that attempted to allay anxiety over tax season by focusing on the brighter side of taxes: “Jackson Hewitt’s How You Do It,” which emphasized the joy of receiving the coveted refund check. This year, tax-prep software brand TurboTax is similarly looking at the silver lining of tax season by positioning it as a chance to take pride in one’s accomplishments of the past year.
Commercials in the campaign, dubbed “It’s Amazing What You’re Capable Of,” each highlight a life event that impacts taxes, like getting married, buying a house or having a child. The spots then lightheartedly describe how exciting these milestones are. Taxes are just “a recap. The story of your year. And that’s why we make the tools we make,” explains the spot “The Year of the You.” The voiceover goes on: “That’s why we do everything we do. Because we think you should be the one to tell that story.” Viewers are not likely to see tax prep in an entirely new light, but the commercials are a nice way to prompt them to feel a little more positive about the process.
Inevitably, many of us have already fallen short of our New Year’s resolutions, or will soon enough—it’s the annual cycle of optimism and hope, followed by anxiety about failing to live up to our aspirations. Only 8 percent of Americans achieve goals set out in their resolutions, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, a data point cited in a release for Balance Bar’s “anti-resolutions pledge” (a sweepstakes for a fitness-resort vacation). In keeping with the brand’s theme of balance, the marketer asks consumers to pledge to take small steps each month to make realistic lifestyle changes rather than create overly ambitious resolutions at the start of the year.
As part of the campaign, Balance is working with “lifestyle expert” Laurel House, aka The QuickieChick, who created 12 months’ worth of “realistic and achievable” tips, available at Balance.com. “For a snack, do you choose a bag of chips or do you choose a nutritionally sound Balance Bar?” asks Balance’s CMO in the release. “Not a life-changing decision, but a small one that can have benefits today and down the road.” The message—that Balance provides an easy alternative to junk food—makes sense at a time when consumers are increasingly wary of processed foods of all stripes.
Photo Credit: Balance
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.
Photo Credit: JWT London