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.
Educating kids is a task that can create many moments of anxiety for parents. Not all parents know how to cope with the curiosity of their children, and some are afraid they won’t give the right answer to ongoing questions. One of the most feared and inevitable questions, of course, is “Where do babies come from?” In this amusing Kia Sorento commercial, which debuted on the Super Bowl, a father copes with this awkward question by telling his son about Babylandia, a planet filled with all kinds of babies. When it’s time for the tots to leave, they carry out an epic space journey by rocket and touch down on Earth.
The skeptical son starts to offer an alternative theory conveyed by a friend—which is when the father interrupts and orders the car’s voice-controlled music system to play “Wheels on the Bus.” In the end, the Sorento has succeeded in extricating the father from an anxiety-provoking situation. As more cars gain advanced technologies, brands will need to focus less on the technical specs and more on how the tech meets everyday needs. Here, the family car brand shows that its technology provides the tools to deal with a familiar family issue, giving parents confidence that “It has an answer for everything,” as onscreen copy promises at the close.
The Volkswagen Jetta has long been a go-to vehicle for singles, but now the brand is also targeting young married couples. A safety-centric spot addresses head-on the anxiety and apprehension new parents feel about protecting their vulnerable new baby. New parents leaving the hospital carefully place the baby in a car seat and pull the car out, only to be cut off by a van. Scared, the baby sees his brief life flash before his eyes—the gentle humor here lies in how short and basic his flashback is. “If your life flashes before your eyes, make sure it’s in an IIHS top safety pick,” says the voiceover.
By focusing on the emotional experience rather than the product feature, the message of safety resonates and takes on more meaning.
Chrysler has been responding to consumer anxiety by playing up tried-and-true American values and the country’s pioneer spirit in its advertising. Last spring we wrote about a campaign that showed everyday Americans overcoming the odds, and Chrysler’s epic “Halftime in America” spot was one of the 2012 Super Bowl’s most popular ads. For this year’s Big Game, a spot for Chrysler’s Ram truck focused on traditional components of the American Dream such as hard work, dedication, family and community building—things that many Americans fear are being replaced by aspirations for fame and fortune, something we outline in our report “American Dream in the Balance.”
The spot quotes from a 1978 speech by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey that celebrated the virtues of the American farmer. “And on the eighth day,” booms Harvey’s voice, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.” As intimate portraits of present-day farmers appear onscreen, we hear Harvey saying that God needed someone who was resourceful, family oriented and admirable. The spot concludes with a toast “to the farmer in all of us,” reminding Americans that the nation was once a land of farmers. Ram has declared 2013 as “The Year of the Farmer” and outlines how it’s “celebrating … the lifestyle that keep[s] America growing” on a microsite. Its CSR component involves support for the Future Farmers of America.
This spot reminds viewers that the deep-seated values of the American Dream endure, even if many feel the Dream is becoming harder to achieve. The Dream continues to “revolve around a gritty, keep-on-keeping-on spirit,” with characteristics like determination, discipline and self-belief integral to the concept, as we note in our American Dream report.
With continued economic uncertainty, many shoppers remain hesitant or unable to make big-ticket purchases, especially the un- or underemployed Millennials. In response, some brands have been creating crowdfunded registries for consumers. We wrote about Best Buy’s Pitch In card back in 2010, which we described as “bridal registry meets microfinancing meets layaway”: Friend or family contributions to the card tally up to help customers secure the costlier items on their wish lists.
Now an automaker is embracing this concept. Consumers looking to buy a Dodge Dart—a compact sedan that Chrysler introduced last year—can log onto DodgeDartRegistry.com, customize the features and then seek funding for specific car parts, using social media to promote their cause. As a TV commercial outlines, “Dad sponsors the engine for your birthday. Grandma sponsors the rims for graduation.” Car seekers can ask for enough dough to fund a down payment, the car in full or anything in between. As with a Kickstarter campaign, there’s a time limit: Fundraising can run for a maximum of 90 days. At completion, buyers receive a check, with which they in theory purchase their new Dart. Since the launch earlier this month, around 1,200 people have created registries, but donations have thus far been minimal.
It’s likely the campaign will resonate with Millennials, the target audience here, who firmly believe in the collective ethos—that every bit counts in addressing today’s challenges.
One of the most important and expensive purchases consumers make is a car, and the process is often fraught with confusion and fear. TrueCar aims to eliminate that by gathering market data and showing buyers what they can expect to spend on average for vehicles in their area, based on what others have paid; it also has a network of certified dealers who “offer a hassle-free car-buying experience.” The model is somewhat different from other price-comparison sites for car buyers, as The Economist outlined earlier this year.
A new TV ad opens by saying “Let’s talk truth,” noting that “Buying a car can be overwhelming” and is “a process filled with anxiety.” TrueCar emphasizes that it’s committed to openness, fairness and a better car-buying spirit, delivering the message that all deals and transactions are transparent. It induces confidence in the consumer, especially the promise to eliminate the fear of haggling. As Scott Painter, TrueCar’s CEO, said in a release, “Nobody wants to be a sucker and overpay.”
When people think about car care, they don’t often get the warm and fuzzies. Auto maintenance is often a stressful process, leaving drivers feeling like they’ve been up-sold or inconveniencing them to the point of deep frustration. While drivers understand the importance of routine maintenance—particularly as more of them try to hold on to their cars longer—many put it off for as long as possible, not eager to be stranded at the dealership for hours while wondering if that mechanic is trying to find something to fix.
Jiffy Lube recently launched a campaign via JWT Atlanta with the tagline “Leave worry behind,” centered on relieving anxiety around automotive maintenance. The message is that Jiffy Lube’s expert preventive maintenance services mean you don’t have to worry about being hoodwinked by those “other guys.” While the TV commercial focuses on differentiating Jiffy Lube from other maintenance providers, the service centers further support the mission of combating customer anxiety, with improved appearances, free coffee, additional transparency through windows overlooking the service bays and the use of a database loaded with manufacturer recommendations. In addition, the OCS program, introduced last year, enables customers to pick their own oil change intervals, giving them a sense of input and control in the process, whereas before they felt little to none.
Jiffy Lube is rethinking how we think about car care, taking steps to make the process more pleasant for drivers. How can other categories that also create anxiety similarly help to alleviate undue stress?
We’ve written about Heineken promoting responsible drinking by tapping into consumers’ fear of missing out, or FOMO. In Russia, Martini brand vodka, partnering with a taxi company, is promoting responsible behavior around drinking by aiming to ease concerns about getting home safely. The company installed “TakeMeHome” machines in nightclubs and bars: When a customer buys a cocktail with Martini, it includes a straw that connects to a Breathalyzer. If the drinker’s blood alcohol content is too high to drive safely, he or she receives 30% off taxi services. The patron enters a phone number and is then contacted by the service. The machine also dishes out pithy statements about the person’s results—for example, a blood alcohol level of 1 to 1.5 reads, “At the moment you are probably calling someone you never call or telling everyone how awesome they are.”
It’s a tricky concept, since drinkers are incentivized to keep imbibing in order to get the taxi discount. But merrymakers often lose track of how much they consume when they’re out having a good time, and the TakeMeHome machine does give customers a straightforward answer to the all-too-common question, “Am I too drunk to drive?”
Watching a child fly the nest must be one of the most anxious points of a parent’s life. Can it really be that the vulnerable baby they brought into the world is ready to face it on their own? This year, just as Britain’s teenagers sat for their final school exams, two brands released TV spots themed around reassuring apprehensive parents.
Volkswagen, which has built a reputation for safe, reliable cars, positions the Polo as something of a surrogate parent in a charming and emotionally charged 90-second spot. It shows the relationship between dad and daughter build from the moment she’s brought home from the hospital to the day she heads off to university, driving away in a new VW Polo while her father chokes back the tears. The car acting in loco parentis offers a seamless connection between the brand and the sentimental story, allowing VW to forge a bond with consumers and reinforce its longstanding brand values.
In a somewhat clunkier variation on the theme, NatWest uses the (mis)adventures of a young woman (is it just daughters that cause such worry?) on a gap year to promote its latest online banking tool. It’s a platform for the bank to show off their mobile app and further the customer-focused positioning they’ve been using in a bid to rebuild trust following the global banking crisis. But it seems an arbitrary choice to promote what is, essentially, just Internet banking; it almost feels as though the bank is exploiting parental anxiety. Although it may seem right to approach advertising by understanding the anxieties in consumers’ lives, it has to be equally relevant to the brand or product, or it feels false.
Texting while driving is a fast-growing concern across the globe. Parents are worried about their teenage drivers texting, but seasoned drivers are also bringing a new level of risk to the streets. As a result, we’re seeing more safety messages targeting drivers, such as efforts we’ve spotlighted from Subaru and Oprah. While this type of work tends to take an earnest tone, that’s not the only route to go, as two recent PSAs demonstrate.
A recent message from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration promoting “Stop the Texts” day is lighthearted, showing text bubbles popping up during inopportune and inappropriate moments. The visual device does a nice job of illustrating how inappropriate texting while driving is without taking viewers into a shock-centric, fear-based place. The tone of an anti-texting message from Belgium is more blatantly humorous, promoting responsibility among young drivers by actually getting them to text via a Candid Camera-type setup. During a driving test, the administrator tells drivers they will need to show an ability to text as they drive, and we see them struggling to do so safely (thankfully, away from regular traffic).
While serious issues often call for serious messaging, humor often does a better job with the heavy lifting when targeting a younger, less receptive audience.