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.
Quiestlemoinscher.com (“who is the less expensive”) is a very well-known and successful price-comparison website that Leclerc, the French hypermarket chain, created a few years ago. It lets consumers compare local prices for national brands and private labels by clicking on a region of the map or by entering a postal code. It provides a real utility, especially in a crisis period when everybody needs to save money and pays attention to differences of even a few cents. (Last year French consumers’ purchasing power declined for the first time in three decades, according to Retail Detail.) The website shows that Leclerc is the least expensive brand/store 98 percent of the time, according to the retailer.
More recently, with Leclerc’s competitors making the same, “We are the least expensive” pitch, the retailer had to find another innovative way to prove its lowest-price claims. In addition to a smartphone app that lets customers scan products to compare prices, Leclerc has extended its service to in-store screens where customers can check on the prices of major competitors. By setting up this type of device, Leclerc brings a highlight of the Web directly into the physical store, whether or not the customer has a mobile device.
Quiestlemoinscher.com is a smart initiative that has brought assurance and, of course, savings to consumers, making the retailer a real ally in this time of crisis. For a majority of French people, Leclerc is now one of the most trusted of French brands.
Most Indian families are of the belief that girls are better off at home after sunset, in part because of the belief that they’re not safe out alone at night. Hero MotoCorp, a motorcycle and scooter maker, is aiming to break down these prejudices through a campaign dubbed “Why should boys have all the fun?” Its scooter brand Pleasure, targeted at women, questions the status quo and asks girls to reclaim the night.
A TV commercial opens with a free-spirited, confident girl who is about to take off on her bike at night when her young male neighbor spots her and says that “Hitler Uncle” (her father) won’t be happy seeing her step out so late. She dismisses him with a nonchalant retort, “Why put brakes on a night of fun?” while taking off on her Hero Pleasure. She is soon joined by her friends on their bikes. The spot ends with her dancing the night away at a party with her father, while the neighbor who questioned her is dragged out by his ears, by his mother. The girl tells the boy: “My dad is happy, but your mom seems to be becoming the Hitler.” The commercial signs off with the line, “Why should boys have all the fun?”
Hero MotoCorp not only manages to raise a relevant social issue that bogs women down but also does so without hurting the sentiments of the older generation. It steers clear of becoming a brand that encourages “rebellious behavior” by ensuring that the approval of the father comes out strongly.
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.
NASCAR fans are die-hard. They’re some of the sports world’s most dedicated fans around–often driving 500 miles or more to see their favorite drivers round corners at 200 miles per hour within inches of each other. But sometimes life has other plans for race weekend. A few years back, Daytona International Speedway introduced ticket insurance, a way to ease customers’ minds and convince them to renew their tickets more than six months in advance. The insurance protects against job loss, illness and myriad other unfortunate circumstances that may prevent someone from attending a race.
Until recently, however, this insurance protection didn’t cover against Mother Nature. So last year, when the Daytona 500 was postponed (for the first time ever) due to rain, fans who couldn’t stay on until Monday were unable to get a refund on their unused tickets. But now, Daytona has changed insurance providers, and rain delays are covered. That’s one more reason to book early and keep those tickets in the family.
America’s Boomers are facing a delayed retirement, in part because many long-term investments plummeted in value during the downturn. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, a Conference Board study found that nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 45 to 60 are intending to put off retirement, up from 42 percent two years ago. Annuity.com taps into these financial-planning anxieties to sell this generation on fixed annuities.
In a commercial, the annuity check is represented by a safe, carried by a man clad in black suit and black shades. He follows the check’s recipients from supermarket to sauna to doctor’s office and beach—he’s always there. The voiceover explains the benefits of an annuity, assuring that “best of all, your money’s not at risk from the ups and downs of the stock market, and that means you won’t have to put off your retirement.”
Last year we wrote about how Prudential is targeting this cohort, by confronting head-on the hard realities they’re facing. Watch for more marketers to addresses the anxiety felt by most Americans when it comes to retirement.
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.”
As we recently discussed on our sister site, JWTIntelligence.com, food safety remains a top concern for Chinese consumers thanks to the proliferation of toxic additives, fake foods and other serious lapses across the nation. The result is that many consumers choose international labels over domestic brands as a means of ensuring quality and safety. Mindful of this, McDonald’s in China has focused on the trustworthiness of its ingredients—and in turn is viewed as a healthy option.
Recent TV ads featured “‘100% fresh beef’ on the chopping block, farmers picking tomatoes from the vine and chickens eating high-quality feed,” a company spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. Last year, an ad promoting McDonald’s chicken products showed a child playing with baby chicks as a voiceover talked about “the importance of following the rules of nature,” according to an Ad Age column. The aim is to communicate a hygienic, natural and healthy lifestyle. Yes, healthy—while many Chinese consumers are aware that McDonald’s offerings are high in fat, “When it’s a choice between a little extra fat in your shake or a little extra melamine, healthy eating can take on a whole new meaning,” as one reporter observes.
Western and Chinese brands alike will need to reassure Chinese consumers—who have grown weary of being dragged around the block when it comes to food safety issues—by communicating quality as well as transparency.
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.
The recent start of the National Hockey League playoffs, caused a great deal of buzz around the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not on the ice—the Leafs missed the playoffs for the seventh straight year—but in the form of a full-page apology letter to the fans, taken out in all the Toronto papers on the same day. The chairman of the team’s board assures fans that their passion and loyalty are not taken for granted, acknowledges that the team’s performance was “unacceptable,” and says the organization makes no excuses for the disappointing results.
There’s great deal of anxiety around this team on all levels. It was a dreadful season, and fans are angry. But if consumer anxiety makes wallets tighten, somehow the Leafs have found a way to split the defense. Games are always sold out; TV revenue is through the rafters. High consumer anxiety = continued loyalty? A lot of businesses would love even a little bit of that Toronto Maple Leaf “magic touch.” While most businesses will never have it as good as the Leafs, there’s something to be said for adopting practices that allow for greater transparency and a sense of humility. They can bring a much-needed level of respect to customer relations—no matter what business you’re in.
These days, consumers look at financial services and insurance companies with anxiety and hesitation. There’s a lingering mistrust, and the standard endorsement seen in financial advertising is no longer enough to win over the hearts and investments of consumers. What could resonate more?
We recently posted about Esurance’s socially driven approach, which encourages potential customers to check out feedback from the insurance provider’s policyholders on Facebook. Finnish insurance company If is taking this idea a step further, with a microsite, Kysy Vaikka! (Just Ask!) that makes available around 800 existing policyholders during business hours to talk with potential customers. As described by Springwise, the site also features video messages from 10 customers, recorded on home webcams, who describe the benefits of being an If policyholder.
Other types of marketers are also experimenting with “fan-sourcing,” and there’s a company, Needle, that specializes in setting up sales platforms that tap into a fan base. For example, one Needle client is headphone and apparel brand Skullcandy, which hires existing customers to answer shoppers’ questions online. Making customer opinions more direct, with the brand providing little more than a platform, lends much of the power of word-of-mouth to the recommendation. And if the feedback isn’t uniformly enthusiastic, it only reinforces how transparent the brand is being, which in turn can forge greater trust.