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.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk around a social media-driven “narcissism epidemic” and the global selfies trend. In fact, a study out of the University of Michigan suggests that social media tends to appeal to people seeking to boost their egos by eliciting responses to their curated image. The anxiety that results from the desire to put forward an enviable image is leading to a phenomenon termed the Facebook or FaceTime facelift.
Social-media driven cosmetic procedures were first noted in the U.S. last year, and in March a poll by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery confirmed that “social media is leading consumers to have a more self-critical eye,” pointing to a 31 percent increase in requests for surgery as a result of online photo sharing. Now the phenomenon has been noted in India, with one report observing that more 20- and 30-somethings are signing up for minor procedures.
For consumers who want to refine the way they appear without resorting to medical help, various tools are popping up to help them achieve photo perfection. The iLipo app alters photos to simulate the effects of going under the knife (it’s intended to help users decide whether to pursue surgery), while advanced image-editing apps, like PicMonkey, help users whiten their teeth, slim their waists and brighten their eyes. And Chinese mobile brand Huawei is even integrating such capabilities into smartphone cameras, adding “instant facial beauty support” to remove wrinkles and blend skin tone.
For the latest installment of JWT’s AnxietyIndex, we compared levels of anxiety across 27 markets, as well as the drivers of that anxiety. Using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online research tool, we surveyed people in Western Europe (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K.), Eastern Europe (the Czech Republic and Russia), the Middle East and Africa (Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa), North Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea), South Asia (Australia, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand), North America (Canada and the U.S.) and South America (Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico).
This animation highlights some of our topline findings. Watch for a report on our findings in the coming weeks.
Today people are connected in so many ways, and yet in this globalized, fast-paced world, many people feel their interactions with friends and family have become more distant and impersonal. As we have reported, a range of brands (including Nestlé’s Abuelita in Mexico, Nescafé in Australia, the U.K.’s National Rail, and Tostitos in the U.S.) have responded to anxieties around losing connections to loved ones and missing out on family traditions by positioning their products as a means to get closer and reunite. Skype has joined in on this concept but from the digital perspective, emphasizing that online connections can help maintain strong ties when families are separated by long distances.
Skype’s “Stay Together” campaign illustrates that instead of breaking down family traditions, the Internet service enables people to maintain them. “Stay Together stories” show modern iterations of the family portrait, with Skype video from one end of the connection projected onto a wall at the other end, so the family can pose together; artist John Clang then creates a portrait. A 10-year-old in L.A., for instance, poses next to her cousin in Brazil to see how much taller the older girl has grown. The campaign also asks consumers to share their own stories about how they stay together with important people in their lives. There’s also a personal storytelling competition, and the most compelling entry will win an “Impossible Family Portrait” and a $10,000 travel certificate to bring relatives together in real life.
Targeting Americans who aren’t currently gym-goers, the chain Planet Fitness aims to soothe the anxieties of everyday shlubs who feel out of their element at the gym. It promises a “Judgement Free Zone,” described as a “safe, energetic environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected.” And its “no lunks” policy forbids overly macho behaviors like grunting and weight-dropping, with offenders asked to leave. This year Planet Fitness introduced the line “No Gymtimidation” in its messaging, with commercials that mock fanatics and other intimidating types.
The most recent iteration of the campaign, “No Pintimidation,” was inspired by a study that found that 42 percent of American mothers are stressed out by images on Pinterest. “Who can live up to all this pinned perfection?” asks the campaign microsite, which offers to “de-pintimidate” any overly intimidating images. The site adorns images that users upload with an overlay of whimsical patterns, cats, flowers, etc. Given the primacy of images on the Web these days, it’s a smart way to keep building the brand’s down-to-earth, fun and informal persona.
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.
U.K. mobile operator O2 has launched a fun new campaign that reminds us that although we’ve all become bored and jaded, “the modern world is astonishing” and “we can do the most incredible things.” (An echo of Louis C.K.’s “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”) The Telefónica brand urges consumers to “be open to amazing new technology and what it can do”—by being more like a dog than a cat.
The “Be More Dog” campaign likens people to cats (aloof, unimpressed) and advises us to be “be a bit more dog” because “to them, life is amazing.” The message is that we’ve become so cynical that we’ve lost all sense of wonder at the joys of modern technology. The commercial, which keeps the focus off O2 itself, extols the canine’s approach to life while showing the type of delightful pet shots that will get distracted viewers to stop and watch. It also refers viewers to bemoredog.com, where they can play a “grab the Frisbee” game and link to more information about O2’s offerings.
Brands are more likely to connect with today’s anxious consumers by emphasizing the core value of hope, inspiring optimism rather than stoking fears, as we’ve long noted. O2 has found a way to tie its brand to a life-affirming message that most viewers can connect with, illustrated with the most viral of digital themes.
Price cuts, in conjunction with federal, state and local government incentives in the U.S., have made some electric vehicles very cost effective, and so perhaps more enticing. But range anxiety, the fear of being stranded without enough power to reach one’s destination, a long-documented concern, remains a barrier to wider EV penetration. The obvious solution is to ensure that, as with traditional vehicles, there are sufficient stops along all routes to guarantee that drivers will be able to refuel, or in this case recharge. Indeed, Tesla, Nissan and Chevy have all opted to roll out new charging solutions, including faster chargers and expanded charging networks. In addition, a number of other innovative strategies have emerged.
To quell consumer concerns, Fiat, in a partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is including 12-days-per-year access to gasoline-powered vehicles that buyers of its 500e can use for long-distance trips. According to the rules of the program, drivers can redeem up to $504 per year at Enterprise’s companies for three years. And Tesla Motors, which has seen its stock soar, recently debuted a battery-swapping system that will allow customers to have their battery switched out for a fully charged one at Tesla charging stations, rather than wait 30 minutes for a free recharge. The process takes only 90 seconds, which the company emphasizes is faster than a fill-up at a gas station.
As The Times of India celebrates its 175th anniversary, the largest English daily in the world is rededicating itself to leading change in the country. (Five years ago the newspaper’s “Lead India” campaign, from JWT, won a Grand Prix at Cannes.) Sponsored by India’s largest automaker, Maruti Suzuki, “I Lead India” seeks to mobilize youth and make them grassroots agents of change at a time when Indians are filled with negativity and pessimism. The country has seen a shocking increase in both government corruption and crime, and Indians are losing confidence in their leadership.
The campaign advocates going beyond armchair criticism, with a TV commercial urging viewers to stop pointing fingers and blaming others. Instead, it pushes Indians to stand up and be counted. “It’s down to the individual. You are your own leader,” says the chant that accompanies scenes of young people joining together to set fire to the status quo. Print ads encourage youth to be the change they want to see (a sentiment often credited to Gandhi). On the Web, the Times is on the lookout for youth across 26 cities to create a brigade that could spearhead change, tackling issues of critical relevance to their cities. “I Lead India” is a clarion call for the next generation.
“Nowadays every professional with a smart device can confirm that it is impossible to get away from work,” says a video describing Amstel’s “Safe” initiative in Bulgaria, bemoaning that stressed-out workers have forgotten the purpose of free time. People are afraid of missing out on things, constantly checking emails and notifications and sharing or checking in with their social networks. So Amstel is temporarily installing lockers in bars around Bulgaria: Patrons who stash away their phones receive a free Amstel beer as part of a promotion that aims to “liberate” free time for bar patrons, reminding them how to socialize without digital distractions.
The appeal of De-teching (one of our 10 Trends for 2011) seems to grow each year. Last year we spotlighted the “Bacardi Together” campaign that encouraged people to spend more time together in real life rather than on social media. In another category, Kit Kat launched Wi-Fi-free zones in Amsterdam to help people “have a break,” as the brand’s tagline goes in part. And among many other examples, last year McDonald’s Arabia named Sept. 28 as “A Day Offline,” encouraging people to spend more quality time with family. It seems that as mobile devices take over our lives, brands have myriad opportunities to help people step away from technology and better engage in the moment.
America’s tech giants have been struggling to explain their privacy policies after reports that companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft gave the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM program access to customer records. Mozilla, the free software community best known for such products as Firefox and Thunderbird, is setting itself apart from the pack. The organization, which was not implicated in the scandal, has helped to launch a coalition of advocacy organizations and some tech businesses that has a simple request for the U.S. Congress: “Stop Watching Us.” The website is designed as a petition that consumers can sign—and to date almost 500,000 have done so.
The petition calls for “immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs.” As we have noted on this blog, anxieties around data and privacy are real, and consumers are increasingly looking for ways to maintain privacy in the social age. A longtime proponent of the Open Web movement, Mozilla is standing up for consumers by being proactive in its commitment to consumer privacy. Watch for more brands to emphasize privacy and security guarantees—Microsoft, for example, is running a privacy-themed campaign—and perhaps even tout a non-U.S. home base as a selling point, as Norwegian company Jottacloud is doing.