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.
Two years ago, we wrote about FirstBank’s “History Lessons” campaign, which cautioned consumers to stick to sound financial decisions, highlighting examples of past investments gone wrong (Holland’s tulip mania in 1637, stock speculation in 1929 and the recent housing bubble). With consumers anxious over being caught in a vulnerable financial position, the ad dissuaded them from “Get rich quick” schemes. Now, the Colorado-based bank wants to “Restore your faith in free.”
A commercial shows a brand new leather couch, flat-screen TV and floor lamp in the middle of a public square, with a large sign declaring “Free.” Footage captures passersby strolling past the items with a fleeting glance, looking around for “the catch” or approaching with extreme skepticism. Some go in for a closer look, but poking and prodding does little to assuage their doubts. The voiceover asks: “Have you ever noticed how skeptical people are of ‘free’? As if the word ‘free’ automatically means something must be wrong. But what if ‘free’ really just meant ‘free’?” The ad closes with FirstBank’s free offerings.
Print ads proclaimed “Free happens” and included giveaways that ranged from free pedicab rides to and from Colorado Rockies home games to 1,500 free meals from a food truck, which posted a sign stating, “There is such a thing as a free lunch.”
It’s easy to be skeptical and cynical today, so FirstBank reminds consumers that if they can turn off their anxiety, not everything is too good to be true.
A JWT campaign for Puerto Rico’s Banco Popular that involved changing the lyrics to one of the country’s most popular songs—a bid to help stimulate the economy by challenging a reliance on welfare—won the Grand Prix Lion for public relations at last year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In 2012, JWT San Juan worked with Banco Popular on a campaign that sought to keep the momentum going and inspire Puerto Ricans battered by a long economic slump.
The bank, which is the country’s largest, sponsored track star Javier Culson, who was competing in the 400-meter hurdle event at the Summer Olympic Games. Banco Popular turned Puerto Rico into a giant track by placing 10 hurdles around the island, each representing an obstacle the country needed to overcome. Thousands of people checked-in at each one and shared the obstacles on social media for a chance to win tickets to the Games. The bank also produced a series of episodes showing people overcoming challenge, as well as a half-hour documentary on Culson that aired the night before the race. Ultimately, the CEO of Banco Popular was able to award Culson the bronze medal at the Olympics.
Whether or not Culson had won a medal, Popular succeeded in lending a happy symbolism to his participation. The campaign emphasized that everyone needs to overcome obstacles in order to progress, instilling Puerto Ricans with hope.
The economic crisis has made consumers worldwide wary of big banks. In Spain, where the crisis has hit hard, the government was forced to bail out one of the country’s biggest banks, Bankia, to the tune of $130 billion, according to Time. Reverting to the time-honored practice of stashing cash under a mattress is not the safest choice, plus home insurance underwriters won’t cover money unless it’s kept in a safe. That’s where My Mattress Safe comes in.
A former mattress manufacturer in Spain, Paco Santos, is marketing this keypad-activated safe built into the side of a mattress, allowing anxious Spaniards to keep their money close at hand. A dramatic commercial for the mattress safe opens with a scene of rioting in the streets. After a man opens his mattress safe, a tear that has fallen down his face recedes back into his eye as his anxiety about his money fades. Alternative solutions like this show how far banks have fallen in terms of consumer trust—and how ingenious entrepreneurs are becoming in responding to this mistrust.
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.
Four years after the financial crisis began, banks in the U.S. are still working to combat consumers’ negative perceptions of Wall Street. With good reason: According to a recent study we did, around 4 in 10 Americans consider financial institutions’ credit and lending practices an impediment to achieving the American Dream.
Back in 2010, we wrote about a campaign from JPMorgan Chase that sought to assure viewers by depicting the brand as an icon of responsible practices and an institution that’s all about helping the little guy. Now, Chase (the firm’s banking subsidiary) is showcasing how its Business Banking unit is assisting small businesses and communities in a campaign called Mission Main Street. A series of ads begin with the line “Every small business has a mission. At Chase, it’s our mission to help,” and then tell the story of one business (longer versions are housed on the campaign’s microsite). One shows the co-owner of a toy business explaining how a friendly Chase rep (“He understood our business, he had children himself”) allowed him and his partner to build their company. “With a little luck, with a little help from our partners like Chase and with a lot of hard work, Green Toys could be the next great American brand,” he says.
As we noted in our recent report on the American Dream, Americans currently see a range of obstacles to achieving the Dream; brands can position themselves as part of the solution, helping to enable success and knock down impediments. This campaign is a good example of a brand demonstrating how it’s doing this for small businesses.
Parents face constant anxiety about whether they are doing the right thing for their children, and when to say yes vs. when to say no. Arguably, today’s parents are more indulgent than ever, and the inclination is to give in to every desire and demand. Norwegian financial services firm DnB Nor takes this “new normal” to a very abnormal extreme by showing a mom who has granted her teen boy’s fanciful childhood wish to marry his parents so they could stay together forever. The mother explains how they had to move to a rural area outside Norway to get married and are now spending the boy’s savings on his long-ago dream of a rocket ship that will fly to Mars and hand out ice cream. We’re clearly far outside the orbit of sanity.
The surreal spot ends by advising, “Don’t give your children what they want, give them what they need” and pointing viewers to a new savings account for children. DnB Nor’s promise is to help people act more intelligently when it comes to money (a message conveyed with somewhat less offbeat humor in a 2011 ad featuring George Clooney) and more profoundly, there’s an implicit promise to help parents stay grounded in reality, doing what’s really right for their kids.
Managing one’s finances responsibly is anxiety-provoking at any age, but especially for young people just getting started in life at a difficult economic time. We’ve spotlighted efforts by Australia’s UBank to educate Millennials about smart saving habits (“Live fast, save young”). Now Charles Schwab is targeting this cohort with a similar approach, positioning the brand as an advisory figure that can help change irresponsible financial behavior (“Don’t blow your cash”). In a new online video campaign titled “Oh Chuck! I Blew My Cash,” several videos portray Millennials chatting with company founder Charles R. Schwab about amusing incidents of ridiculous overspending. One guy, for instance, has splurged on 90 pairs of sneakers, while a woman has bought pricey animal masks at a Renaissance fair. As they go on, Schwab remains cool and collected, offering advice on better ways the money might have been spent.
By illustrating real anecdotes (each vignette claims to be a true story), Schwab reminds viewers they’re not alone in their reckless habits. And by showing the company founder in conversation with these flummoxed spenders, the ads position the bank as an accessible and friendly but straight-talking confidant.
Last year Banco Popular, Puerto Rico’s largest bank, changed the lyrics to one of the country’s most popular songs in a bid to help end an almost eight-year recession. This week the campaign, created by JWT, won the Grand Prix Lion for public relations at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
The bank wanted to help stimulate the economy by challenging a reliance on welfare (among 60 percent of the population) and a mindset celebrated in a hugely popular salsa song, “No Hago Más Ná” (“I Do Nothing”), by the band El Gran Combo. The lyrics include the lines, “It’s so good to live like this, just eating and not working/It’s so good to live like this, just eating, sleeping, and not working.” Banco Popular worked with El Gran Combo on a new version of the song that goes, “It’s so good to live like this, always willing to work/It’s so good to live like this, moving forward, never backwards.” The bank then started a successful campaign to make the new song the No. 1 track in Puerto Rico, generating around $2.3 million in earned media in the process.
The campaign addressed the bank’s core need (a better economy means more business for Banco Popular) and also boosted its image and reputation. At the same time, it helped to spark a political debate and, ultimately, a movement of Puerto Ricans committed to the island’s economic progress.
An earlier blog post showcased Pakistan’s Fatima Fertilizers for understanding the anxieties faced by farmers and offering a solution. This time around, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) is working toward eradicating one of the biggest drivers of anxiety among farmers here: getting enough money to sow their crops. They generally have to rely on local lenders, known for their unethical practices and unfair terms, and with little
negotiation power, farmers are forced to go along.
NBP’s “Kissan Dost” (Farmer Friend Agriculture Program) offers a solution by providing lower interest rates than local lenders, with gold as collateral. This eliminates the ills of informal borrowing, such as delayed loan distribution and high interest rates. To illustrate this offering, a testimonial spot shows two farmers, one of whom needs to secure funds. The topic of approaching a local lender comes up, and both appear well aware of the trouble surrounding this approach (“If you are talking about that local village lender, then forget it. I ain’t going to be friends with him, he will be at my door the day after he issues me the loan for his payments,” says the farmer seeking a loan). The other farmer clarifies that he’s referring to the “Kissan Dost” program, which helped him out for last year’s harvest with a cash loan and relaxed repayments. The spot then details the benefits of working with NBP over a local lender.
With most farmers only remotely familiar with formal banking and having limited interaction with the institution—typically to pay utility bills—this NBP program can serve as a great first move to capture a huge market amid the throat-cutting competition in this category.
Last month, as part of its 375th anniversary, the Crédit Municipal de Paris began forgiving loans for some 3,500 clients with debts of less than €150. The state-run institution, a cross between bank and pawn shop, was created by a 17th century doctor, journalist and philanthropist to provide the poverty-stricken—who would even pawn mattresses for small cash loans—with access to loans at reasonable rates. With the downturn, Crédit Municipal de Paris has seen a 57 percent uptick in clients over the past three years and reports repayments are extending to an average of 24 months, up from 10 to 13 previously. (“Our director likes to say our waiting room is like that of a hospital emergency room,” a spokeswoman told Good. “Everyone comes to it at some point.”)
With a rising number of people down on their luck and scraping together whatever they can to make ends meet, this gesture is a nice way for the institution to show that it’s staying true to the philanthropic principles laid out nearly 400 years ago.