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.
Ebola. 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.
Issues like global warming, terrorism, food safety, pollution, epidemics, etc., stir up dark visions of the future among many. And while potential parents have long asked, “Why bring a child into this world?”, the question seems increasingly potent. Unilever addresses this anxiety in a documentary-style four-minute video that ties into its new Project Sunlight sustainability initiative, which is aimed at “[creating] a better future for our children.” The theme seems to be hitting a nerve, with the film reaching No. 4 on Ad Age’s Viral Video chart last week and accumulating almost 8 million YouTube views since its Nov. 19 release.
The ad shows pregnant couples from around the world speaking about their anxieties associated with becoming parents, with one man saying, “We are scared—we are scared seeing the present, and we are scared for the future.” They are then shown a video that starts with a somber tone and images of war and poverty, but then turns into positive message: A voice-over explains that thanks to various Unilever initiatives, more crops are being grown every day, clean drinking water is becoming available to hundreds of millions, and everyday products will help prevent illnesses that affect millions of children today.
The spot ends with the words, “Breathe calmly—bring your child into this world; there has never been a better time to create a brighter future for everyone on the planet and for those yet to come.” Unilever is taking an almost universal worry among new parents and showing a different way of looking at the issue—focusing on the positives rather than the negatives—and its own role in that more hopeful outlook.
We’ve seen brands responding to Millennial anxiety—brought on by high unemployment and ongoing economic malaise—both by addressing the jobs issue directly (Campari, McDonald’s, Benetton) and by aiming to inspire, as Levi’s has done with its “Go Forth” effort. Now two spirits brands are taking the latter course to target this generation, telling them to “Transform today” and “Defy the odds” in global campaigns.
Absolut’s “Transform Today” campaign continues the vodka brand’s focus on artists, spotlighting four young creatives: a fashion designer, a digital media artist, a graphic novelist and the artist/musician Woodkid, whose song “Ghost Lights” is the soundtrack to a manifesto spot. They are all “recreating themselves in order to become something more.” Print ads feature go-get-’em slogans like “Dare to think beyond” and “See where you take you.” Absolut’s VP of global marketing tells Forbes: “The campaign is to put a stake in the ground about what we believe in as a brand, which is ‘The future is not a given, it is what you create.’”
Johnnie Walker’s new iteration of its “Keep Walking” campaign also looks to the future—five years ahead, in the form of “a message of hope from a successful man to his younger self.” A TV commercial depicts “people trying to move themselves forward, with one foot in the frustrations of today’s workplace and an eye on the potential of the future.” The ad is empathetic—“You’re doing a job you don’t get. You’ve got talent no one’s ever seen”—before assuring young viewers that the future promises better: “One day you’ll rise up, defy the odds, silence the doubters.”
We’ve described Millennials as Generation Go: Rather than wallowing in the idea that they’re a Lost Generation, this generation is both resilient and resourceful, and notably entrepreneurial-minded. Brands that tap into this spirit will strike a chord.
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.
A JWTIntelligence study featured in our latest trend report, “The State of Men,” explores several sources of anxiety for men today. One is physical appearance: Factors including the constant sharing of photos on social media and the hyper-competitiveness of job markets are helping to drive pressure on men to look their best. According to a survey we conducted in the U.S. and the U.K., more than three-quarters of men agree that “These days, there’s more pressure than in the past for men to dress well and be well-groomed” and that men face as much pressure as women to stay in shape/have a good body. Our survey, conducted from April 29-May 2 using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool, found that men are particularly sensitive about their midsection, whether it’s love handles, a beer belly or an insufficient six-pack. And there’s some evidence that such anxieties are starting early: Boys are becoming more concerned with body image at a younger age, according to a U.S. study published in Pediatrics.
Men are addressing these anxieties by turning to everything from cosmetic procedures to cosmetics. Aside from providing practical solutions, brands can speak to these anxieties by, at minimum, being sensitive to them. Men are seeing ever more highly sculpted male bodies, from Hollywood’s leading men to tongue-in-cheek advertising hunks like the Old Spice spokesmen and Kraft’s Zesty Guy. So marketers can dial down on the intimidation factor with more realistic models and positive messaging that avoids aggravating anxieties. For example, several underwear brands now perceive an “abs fatigue” among male shoppers, The New York Times reported in May. A designer with the 2(x)ist label said the company is shifting toward something “a little less steroid-y” in its images.
Communicating and understanding our pets is difficult. Are they enjoying their food? Feeling upset? Happy? How do they feel about sleeping in the bed versus on the floor? How can we really know? The unknown creates anxiety, particularly for pet parents who want to give their pet the world. So Petco and JWT agency Digitaria developed WholePets, a digital content hub for all things pets—giving pet parents a hub to find sound recommendations on how to address pets’ physical, mental, social and emotional needs.
You can filter tips by pet type and topic to find details on Cat Nutrition 101, for instance, or house training a new dog. Having an online destination with go-to tips from a trusted source not only helps to relieve anxiety about how to enhance pets’ lives but ultimately to be better, happier parents.
Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest causes of anxiety, especially when dealing with it alone. An online ad for Google demonstrates how the company’s tools, such as Google Chat or Google+, can help people deal with their uncertainties and worries together. In showing a young couple expecting a baby imminently—the most tense of times—Google illustrates its claim to “make the web work for you.”
The sweet two-minute film illustrates how the couple stay in touch throughout the day, using Google, and seek answers to their pressing questions. The wife seeks natural ways to cope with labor, the husband nervously calculates tuition fees, and each of them searches for baby names (the wife lands on Beatrice for a girl, the husband on Elvis for a boy). The wife seeks advice from friends on Google+, wondering how to tell her husband there will no longer be room for his record collection. Finally, the location-sharing feature comes in handy when the contractions begin, allowing the husband to find his wife and get to the hospital in time.
Google successfully conveys that it is more than a search engine and that its various products can make daily life easier, more efficient and even less anxious.
In recent years, the higher cost of living, unemployment and drought have pushed many Thai families into long-term debt. In a March 2012 study by the Thai Chamber of Commerce, 80 percent of Thais admitted to problems repaying debt over the previous 12 months. Many Thais, especially villagers and low-income families, lack the skills to formulate strategies to handle accumulating debt. Instead, they tend to simply hope that someone will intervene on their behalf or that a stroke of good luck will provide the needed funds.
For the past six years, the Ichitan green tea brand has responded to this situation with a hugely successful marketing campaign built around a lucky draw promotion called Richie Thunder Jackpot. The latest installment asks consumers to send an SMS with a unique code printed inside the bottle cap. Every day for 60 days, Ichitan selects a winner, who receives a gold bar valued at 1 million baht (just under $35,000). A TV commercial for the promotion features company founder Tan Passakornnatee as a hero whose mission it is to solve debt issues. The spot reminds Thais of the most urgent problems associated with debt: coping with rising food prices (represented through duck, chicken and pig mascots) and the difficulties of small businesses facing bankruptcy.
The commercial is lighthearted but demonstrates that the brand understands consumers’ current anxieties and offers a solution to a lucky few.
Unlike most of the other BRIC countries, the level of financial literacy is quite low in South Africa, as evidenced by our lack of a saving culture. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2011-12 Global Competitiveness Report, South Africa ranks 72nd in the world for its gross national savings, well behind China, which is second, India (15th) and Russia (44th). One finds that many South Africans hold a deep-seated belief that managing money is difficult—so difficult that it’s considered less stressful to put your head in the sand when it comes to all things financial than to tackle the issue head on.
This isn’t surprising, given that the South African banking industry has been notorious for making money management difficult. In the last 18 months, however, there has been a seismic shift in the industry with the realization that more value lies in helping people break through this fear. One example comes from Nedbank, one of the top four retail banks here, which launched My Financial Life, a free application that pulls together and analyzes all your financial information, then offers a snapshot view of your financial well-being. It also provides six core functions to help users analyze their behavior and manage their money in an easy-to-understand way. Tools include a net-worth calculation tool; a spend analysis function; a budgeting tool; a saving-for-a-goal feature; alerts; and a calendar view, which helps track debit orders against payments owed. The best part is that it’s available to all consumers, whether they are customers of the bank or not.
The percentage of women in India’s workforce has fallen so sharply that it has skewed the global numbers, prompting an International Labour Organization investigation. ILO’s new report expresses concern over the fall in labor force participation for women from more than 37 percent in 2004-2005 to 29 percent in 2009-2010. India ranks 11th from the bottom out of 131 countries, behind even Bangladesh and Pakistan. The recent brutal rape in Delhi, that made international headline, has only fueled the fear around women’s security. In light of this, there are many corporations that are doing their bit to tackle issues of safety and empowerment for women. Telecom companies in particular are going out of their way to make women feel safe.
Vodafone India operates Angel Stores, which are managed and run by women only; last month Vodafone opened the 16th such store in the country. The idea is to ensure equal opportunities for women while providing a safe and productive work environment, and to make women customers feel more comfortable as well. Meanwhile, MTS India has launched a “Women MPowered Plan,” which permits women to make calls despite a negative balance and offers special rates as well as safety tips. The company also provides free self-defense classes and gives away pepper spray to women buying a new prepaid connection. Bharti Airtel is providing specialized products for women, such as an emergency alert service and a call manager to block stalkers.