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.
The “Post-80s” (people born between 1980-1989) are a frequently targeted consumer group in China. They are often described as more Westernized, individualistic, independent and even rebellious. However, along with these glittering badges, Post-80s are under great social and economic pressures and experiencing a high level of anxiety due to high housing prices, a stagnant job market and their single-child identity. Ford EcoSport, a small SUV targeting Post-80s, adopted a straightforward approach to openly address this anxiety.
In this online video, a young man with a realistic, down-to-earth manner talks honestly about his pressure from family and work, and his anxiety about being “short of money.” He mocks the idealistic “pursue your dream” attitude that most youth brands romanticize in their communications and says his “dream” car is one that balances the expectations from his parents, girlfriend and boss. Rather than an aspirational approach, the campaign takes the practical stance that the EcoSport is an affordable vehicle that meets the needs of the different people and occasions in your life. This is the first time in China’s car market that a brand has acknowledged this imperfect reality and addressed consumer anxiety in a direct and pragmatic way, rather than just promising a far-fetched dream.
The Arab Spring got started last January after Tunisians ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, their president and dictator. But 24 hours after he flew away, much of the hope generated by the popular uprising started turning into fear. The social instability, the strikes, the uncertain economic situation made Tunisians very anxious—you might say they were anxiously optimistic.
The authorities imposed a curfew in response to rumors of robberies and other crimes, and people became obsessed with staying in contact with relatives so they could be assured of their safety. Since many retailers closed down, Tunisiana, the leading mobile operator, decided to credit each of its 6.5 million subscribers (most of whom are prepaid) the equivalent of 65 cents per day during the curfew. This move was very well received, a note of solidarity that reinforced the brand as the closest to people in Tunisia.
This move was also the reason why a month later, Tunisiana was one of the first brands able to go back to advertising (initially on outdoor and radio ads), the first to give a point of view on what the country was going through. Created by JWT Tunis, it was a simple message, anchored in the brand values: The future can only be bright. This commercial, celebrating the new birth of Tunisia, launched a little over a year ago. A Facebook app invited people to send optimistic messages to their friends in the future, and the number of messages sent was shown on the app as an optimism meter.
The campaign was one of the year’s most remembered, and the slogan “Belmosta9bel metfelin” became a popular expression to express optimism. The brand said just what people needed to hear, to believe again in their future.
This new commercial for Fiat’s Panda is an Italian-themed mash-up of Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee spot from 2010 and its recent Super Bowl ads, “It’s Halftime in America” and “Imported From Detroit” (same company, same philosophy). Much like the U.S. commercials, it reassures Italians that we have the skills and drive to exit the crisis and that with pride and hard work, we will make it. “We can choose which Italy we want to be,” says the voiceover. “Now is the time to decide. Whether to be ourselves or to accept the views imposed on us. Now is the moment to start anew.”
Observing that the ad reflects the “austerity zeitgeist,” Reuters notes that it’s set at a Fiat factory near Naples where the automaker recently moved production of the Panda from a Poland plant. The spot uses the phrase “The things we make, make us,” the tagline from the Grand Cherokee spots, and concludes, “This is the Italy we like” as the Panda drives into the middle of a scenic old village square.
After Fiat’s struggle with labor unions and Italy’s struggle with the economy, and with a new technocratic government that’s trying to turn a crisis into an opportunity, the spot shows an Italy that’s ready for a change. What Italy do we want to be?
“Life is packed with things you have to do, but sometimes you have to live a little,” says Matthew Broderick in the manifesto commercial for Honda’s “Leap List” campaign as he re-enacts some of the iconic scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He goes on: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you’ll miss it.” In this Super Bowl spot and other TV, print and Web efforts, Honda positions its CR-V, a compact SUV, as a tool for getting things done—not routine things like picking up groceries but rather ticking off bucket list aspirations before life passes us by.
The campaign encourages viewers to make a “Leap List” before moving on to the next big chapter of their lives. TV spots show early thirtysomethings on the cusp of major life decisions, like having a baby or getting married. They start tabulating all the things they wanted to accomplish—finishing a short film, seeing the northern lights in Alaska, learning to play the drums and so on—before starting the next chapter of their lives. After a brief hesitation, each character agrees to move ahead with their significant other, but only if they can do a few things first. “Before you make a leap in life, make a list of all the stuff you wanna do. Then get it done in the all-new CRV,” the voiceover says. Other spots show people actively checking off items on their list. A Web component encourages viewers to create (and complete) “Leap Lists” while entering for a chance to win a CR-V.
By tapping into easy-to-identify-with anxieties about living a life unfulfilled, Honda smartly illustrates that its vehicle isn’t simply about getting drivers from point A to B, it’s about helping people live life to the fullest.
“People judge me by the type of technology I have”—a third of the U.S. and U.K. respondents to a survey we conducted late last year agreed with the statement. And in an age where technology signals status, Apple has the highest cool quotient among tech brands. In the tablet category, it has a stranglehold on the market, becoming almost synonymous with “tablet.” So if you’re competing against a dominant brand with high consumer satisfaction, where do you start?
In a Super Bowl spot for the XOOM Android powered tablet, Motorola makes the bet that some consumers are by now developing a concern about being just another of the masses and want to differentiate themselves. Interestingly, it’s Apple’s own strategy from the 1984 Macintosh launch during the Super Bowl, turned back on the brand.
Motorola offers consumers the reward of being an individual. (A somewhat ironic twist, since five years ago the masses were flocking to buy its RAZR phone.) It becomes a choice between hopping on the Apple train—joining a world of identical droids, all wearing the iconic white earbud headphones, who shuffle mindlessly through a monochrome urban universe—or breaking away. One young man retains his power to choose his own path and uses a XOOM to woo his love interest.
In the end, Motorola’s product will have to deliver. But in the battle to gain some attention and drag on the momentum of a juggernaut like the iPad, turning Apple’s massive success into a weakness appears to be the best chink in their armor to exploit.
When you think “luxury,” you likely think of anything but Detroit. Chrysler’s Super Bowl commercial assumes as much, with the narrator asking, “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about ‘the finer things in life?’” The two-minute ad answers that by showcasing the Chrysler 200 as a car rendered luxurious by Motor City’s “hard work, conviction and the know-how that runs generations deep.”
The ad does a great job of burnishing the image of Detroit, considered one of the most miserable cities in America but also one of our “Things to Watch in 2011,” based on excitement around the city’s progress toward remaking itself as a smaller and more efficient town and the influx of creative entrepreneurs. The spot taps into the hope many Americans feel for the struggling town, which is almost a metaphor for the country itself (the ad contrasts Detroit with the more glamorous America, saying “We’re from America, but this isn’t New York City, or the Windy City, or Sin City”).
While one might feel proud to drive a car built by the people of Detroit, the message is a bit of a stretch. Detroit is still down and out, and it’s not quite convincing that a city’s toughness and resolution translate to an ability to manufacture luxury, especially if “it’s as much about where it’s from as who it’s for,” as the spot proclaims. By contrast, in Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign, we see the people of working-class Braddock, Pa., going to work in their Levi’s jeans. We’re not so sure many more Detroiters other than Eminem (who stars in the spot) will be driving Chrysler 200s around town anytime soon.
“Live fast, save young”—that’s the motto UBank preaches to Australian Millennials in its latest campaign geared at urging them to acquire smart financial habits early in life while promoting its USaver account. (This updates the campaign we wrote about a year ago.) Instead of celebrating the lavish trappings of stardom, UBank cleverly debunks the myth of “easy money and success” that so many young people ascribe to. The spots use catchy graphics and quick cuts to outline how two celebs transformed their 15 minutes of fame into business empires.
“Actress” cheekily asks viewers how they think today’s “it” girl, who seems to have had fame handed to her, got to the top. She “went to film school by day and worked tables by night, saving up all her tips for a film camera”; then, when the public was ready to give her the boot, the actress was ready to start a production company. “Now she’s in the mags, the perfume aisle and the boardroom, making Hollywood work for her.” Finally, viewers are reminded that, “When you see her on the red carpet rocking the free bling and the goodie bag, remember, she’s earned it.”
Considering that nearly 40 percent of young Australians feel their generation was dealt an unfair hand by the downturn, the messaging feels right for an unwaveringly optimistic (though sometimes childish) cohort that’s coming of age in uncertain economic times. It’s assuring to hear that hard work and determination can still pay off, especially if financial planning is approached like a marathon, not a sprint.
Al-Rahji Bank, one of the largest banks in the Middle East, has been doing something interesting: sponsoring advertorials that educate Saudi newspaper readers on what to expect when applying for a home loan. The advertorials provide general information, rather than a promotional message. Al-Rajhi wants to ensure that people seeking home loans are well-informed on the complexities before visiting the branch—a smart move given how poor customer service is here in Saudi. Once an ad has motivated customers to visit the bank, they can’t rely on sales staff to provide much help.
Importantly, the advertorials also help to assuage anxiety around home loans and help people understand that a home is likely within their reach. Recent AnxietyIndex research by JWT found that Saudis are anxious about making major purchases in the near future and that as many as 64 percent are not confident about their ability to get a home loan, making this one of the biggest worries among Saudis. AnxietyIndex has written about educational-themed initiatives from several other financial institutions—a good way to position themselves as supportive and helpful at a time when consumers are anxious.
In Spain, unemployment—currently at 18.8 percent—is the main public concern, and we aren’t seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet. This situation has hit one generation more than any other: youngsters who are neither studying nor able to find work. A recent study showed that 15 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds aren’t active. University degrees are no longer a guarantee of a job, and Spanish youth are apathetic and unmotivated. Their parents lack strong arguments to push them forward.
Naturally, a TV channel saw this as an opportunity for a reality show: Eight of these ninis (which stands for “no job, no studies”) live in a house where they’re learning everything from social skills to math, home economics and handy jobs. The results are not too promising so far. The kids don’t seem to be learning much from the experience, and the content aired so far is surely not making parents any less anxious than they already are.
Stay Hungry Stay Foolish is a recent book published in India about business school graduates who followed their hearts and dove into entrepreneurial ventures (the phrase was popularized in a Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs made several years ago, quoting an issue of The Whole Earth Catalog from the 1970s). Some of these entrepreneurs left a cushioned corporate career, some were fulfilling a childhood dream, a few were redefining retirement as a second inning.
The stories are diverse and rich. And while the endings are happy, there are many anxious moments along the way. But it was also anxiety that helped push these people along. This is also a prevalent theme in “layoff lit,” a trend we recently posted about.