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.
Women feel constantly under pressure to meet society’s “beauty standard.” From cosmetics to fashion, brands play a major role in how this “beauty standard” is defined and perceived. More often than not, women end up feeling like they’ve failed to meet what is generally an unattainable notion of beauty, resulting in anxiety and low self-esteem. We’ve posted about several marketers that have addressed this issue, including Under Armour (whose “What’s Beautiful” campaign urged women to take power back “from the marketers who want us to look Photoshopped”) and Thai cosmetic brand Oriental Princess, which told women, “Why be like everyone else? Why not accept the way you are?”
Dove, known for using “real” women in its “Campaign for Real Beauty,” last year created an app that replaced negative ad messages with positive messages. In its mission to take a stand against other beauty brands, Dove is trying to transform beauty into a source of confidence, proving to its audience how blind they are when it comes to self-perception—and that they are “more beautiful than you think,” as its latest campaign demonstrates. In a social experiment that quickly went viral, Dove hired an FBI-trained forensic sketch artist and had him draw portraits of women based on their own descriptions of themselves and then descriptions provided by relative strangers. The differences between the two sketches said it all: The women look more beautiful, happier and fresh in the sketch based on the stranger’s description.
Anxiety is all about uncertainty, so Dove is giving women a reaffirmation of their beauty. Sometimes all we need is a reminder.
Consumer anxieties are building around any chemicals whose safety has been called into question, whether found in food, household cleaners or personal care products. This has led to shoppers looking for more transparency from brands and passing over some products that contain suspect components, from phthalates to parabens. Now, in a first for a major personal care brand in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson has committed to cutting usage of several potentially harmful chemicals and reformulating its product range by 2015. Neutrogena, Aveeno, RoC and Clean & Clear are among the company’s personal care brands, along with its Johnson’s baby line (J&J already pledged to cut chemicals from baby products by 2013).
“We want people to have complete peace of mind when they use our products,” the VP of product stewardship and toxicology for J&J’s consumer health brands told the AP. As part of the initiative, Johnson & Johnson launched a website, Our Safety & Care Commitment, that details the company’s “five-level safety assurance process” and its policy on ingredients, with information on specific chemicals of consumer concern. J&J emphasizes that the company is keeping up to date with not only new regulations and scientific developments but also “consumer views and concerns.” While anxieties around ingredients sometimes exceed any proven dangers, with “natural” products proliferating, companies will need to address their customers’ fears.
We’re seeing more and more campaigns that aim to make women more confident in themselves rather than inducing anxiety by putting forth unattainable beauty standards. Dove, long known for using “real” women in its “Campaign for Real Beauty,” recently created an app that replaced negative ad messages with positive messages. Under Armour’s “What’s Beautiful” campaign urges women to take power back “from the marketers who want us to look Photoshopped.” In Thailand, the Oriental Princess cosmetics brand says, “Why be like everyone else? Why not accept the way you are?” and in Slovenia, Avon installed a mirror on a busy street that dealt out compliments to women passing by.
Kellogg’s joins the club with a Special K campaign in the U.K. called “What will you gain when you lose?” With an emphasis on the internal benefits of losing weight, gone are the brand’s slender models dressed in red. A new commercial features real women of various shapes and sizes getting weighed on the street, with the scale showing words like “amazing” and “stylish” rather than a number. On the campaign website, women can record their goals and share what they’ve achieved. Brands are coming to understand that a positive, hope-fueled approach can be more effective than one that simply showcases aspirational ideals.
We’re all well aware of how demoralizing unrealistic depictions of beauty can be for women, since we’ll never be as flawless as the airbrushed and Photoshopped images we see everywhere. This is one reason behind some of the startling statistics about women and self-image—for example, one study (cited by Dove) found that only 4 percent of women feel they’re beautiful. Two new campaigns are encouraging women to take an active role in shifting the status quo.
Dove has been a longstanding opponent of unrealistic imagery, with its “Campaign for Real Beauty.” In the campaign’s latest iteration, the personal care brand undertakes an “Ad Makeover” on Facebook, aimed at eliminating negative marketing messages that play on women’s insecurities. A Dove app allows women to replace these taunting ads with feel-good messages such as “The perfect bum is the one you’re sitting on.” Dove is also offering the opportunity to be featured on a living billboard as part of its Show Us Your Skin promotion; women can upload photos that will be projected in bustling Times Square and on Dove’s websites.
Athletic brand Under Armour is also on a mission to showcase more positive images of womanhood, with its “What’s Beautiful” campaign. As an Under Armour marketing exec told Marketing Daily, “What we get really frustrated with is advertisers who talk about beauty in terms of how you look, not what you are made of.” In a manifesto spot that shows women athletes working hard, the voiceover proclaims that it’s time to take power back “from the marketers who want us to look Photoshopped, from the magazines who want us topless, from the people who think we should be happy just the way we are.”
These marketers, along with some others such as Thailand’s Oriental Princess, stand out in a category that has historically relied on generating anxiety in women. Taking the opposite approach, these messages give power back to women, helping them to feel more comfortable in their own skin and begin redefining what it means to feel beautiful and sexy.
“If you don’t look beautiful, you won’t get anywhere in life.” Often women underestimate themselves and live by others’ judgment, and many cosmetics brands reinforce this, creating anxiety. Oriental Princess, the largest cosmetics brand here in Thailand, aims to alleviate this by telling women that they’re not alone, that they have a voice and should not live their lives by the labels that others give them.
The brand created the Oriental Princess Society, reachable both online and offline, which now has 1 million-plus members throughout Thailand. Its message to these women: Take pride in yourself rather than worry about how others see you. A recent commercial illustrates this, asking empowering questions like, “Why be like everyone else? Why not accept the way you are?” and “Why not listen to yourself?”
Online, the society acts like a social and discussion network. Women set up an account with filters that let them choose issues of interest. Content is generated by members or invited guests. When relevant issues are posted, the women who have expressed interest are tagged and involved in the discussion. These discussions then become themes that come to life offline at the Oriental Princess stores, where members can be more actively involved with the society. Through the society, Oriental Princess illustrates that it’s not just another cosmetics brand selling a promise.
Everyone wants to look younger. And we all fear appearing worn out, unhealthy and, worst of all, older than we actually are. In Israel, the Wissotzky tea brand is linking the health benefits of green tea with a beauty benefit as well—a way to help look younger and healthier.
The campaign started with two teasers, each showing a man and a woman in their mid-late 30s asking viewers, “How old do you think I am?” They requested that viewers send SMS messages guessing their ages. Two weeks later, commercials aired in which the actors each read one or two of the guesses and revealed their true ages, and viewers discovered that the advertisement was, of all things, about green tea. The man (a cyclist) and the woman (who jogs) are both shown enjoying the tea as part of their active lifestyles. The woman tells viewers that while it’s said that youthful looks are genetic, she feels that green tea is working for her; the spot also explains that green tea’s antioxidants protects the body from within.
Wissotzky is changing perceptions of tea as a soothing drink for the ill or the elderly, placing its green tea brand into the wellness category. And this campaign positions the drink not just as a way to stay well but as a good idea for anyone a little anxious about losing their youthful looks and sex appeal.
It’s easy for women to feel anxious and insecure about their looks when the standards of beauty can seem so unattainable. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone (or something) that could ease anxieties about imperfections and assure you that you’re beautiful? Avon, which has been in Slovakia for 20 years, wanted to show women that they have grown more beautiful each year.
Avon accomplished this by installing the Miraculous Mirror on a busy street. A large mirror equipped with a camera, microphone and loudspeakers attracted onlookers. Avon representatives monitored the mirror via a WiFi connection, and would interact with people as they walked by, providing compliments such as “you look beautiful today” and “hardly a flaw may be seen.” The playful interaction between the mirror and passersby created a positive feeling for women who stopped to look at themselves in the mirror and eliminating, perhaps, the beauty flaws that only they could see.
Teens are perpetually anxious about what their peers think of them. While today’s digital world is one where teens tend to wear masks—even with close friends—they want to know how they are really perceived. To help Israeli teens uncover the answer, Face-It, a skin care line from Israeli pharmaceutical company Trima, created a campaign titled “Face-It—That’s What You Are” on Facebook. Almost 100,000 teens took part, and 38,000 “liked” Face-It on Facebook; they also downloaded mobile coupons, contributing to a substantial sales increase.
Teens were invited to send Facebook friends of their choosing questionnaires with questions such as “How up to date am I when it comes to fashion?”; “How funny are my jokes?”; and “How good a friend am I?” While answering the questions, users were exposed to the Face-It products and a “Buy one, get one free” coupon. The questioner received the results privately, while friends responded anonymously. We kept the tone playful and light and created a wide range of questions, so each teen was sure to get some positive and funny answers.
By recruiting members of their social network to help them face one of their greatest anxieties, teens could gain insight into their public persona. Participants started talking about and comparing their scores, and suggesting new Face-it questions related to things they wanted to know but were afraid to ask. The campaign succeeded in reaching existing and potential customers by creating a better match between the offer and the user’s profile, as well as uncovering the “true value” of the brand—a value that is far greater than a mere economic opportunity.
We all know exercise is a great way to combat stress, but interestingly we haven’t seen athletic brands get much mileage out of this. Asics, however, is turning out beautiful executions based around the idea that, in the brand’s words, “by staying active, you can shed negativity.”
The latest execution shows runners with word clouds around them seemingly shedding words such as “angst” and “worry.” A new tagline spells out the idea: “Running releases more than just sweat.” A similar, year-old commercial in the campaign shows words such as “stress” and “fear” as a runner races through sheets of water.
Making literal the connection between mental and physical well-being is logical for Asics, a Japanese company whose name is an acronym for the Latin “anima sana in corpore sano,” or “a sound mind in a sound body.” And it’s especially logical at a time when consumer anxiety is high and solutions to some of our biggest problems (unemployment and the economic crisis, terrorism, the environment) have no quick or easy solutions.