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.
When a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi was gang-raped and beaten to death last December, the horrendous crime spotlighted the fact that, in India, rape has long been depressingly common. (The U.N.’s human rights chief calls rape in India a “national problem.”) To address these atrocities against women, and more generally the sheer lack of public safety they feel in India, Gillette has embarked on a unique journey with a new campaign, “Soldier for Women.”
The objective is to inspire young Indian men to awaken their “inner valor” by embracing what a case study describes as the five values an ideal man should incorporate into his daily life: courage, camaraderie, discipline, integrity and grooming. A television spot showcases men and women from different social strata coming together, and we see men stand by women, as soldiers. The supers tell the story: “Soldiers wanted. Not to guard the borders. But to support the most important battle of the nation. To stand up for women.” Some commenters on YouTube criticize that women can stand up for themselves, but the point is more the final line, about respect: “Because when you respect women, you respect your nation.”
Since the high-profile rape, thousands of Indians have been stirred to rise up and express their anger and anguish through nationwide protests. The issue has created a huge furor across the country, with people questioning India’s very system of basic rights and equalities. Gillette taps into this strong vein of feeling in its social media component: A Facebook page asks consumers to share stories about people who have stood up for women (in exchange for free razors), and on Twitter the hashtag is #SoldierforWomen. The conversations and response among the public have been great so far.
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 Spain’s unemployment rate reaching a record 26 percent (double the EU average, according to the BBC), some 6 million Spaniards are currently jobless. Aiming to brighten up the day for some of those without work, radio program Carne Cruda 2.0 on Spain’s Cadena SER radio network organized a flash mob to serenade an unemployment office in Madrid.
A woman with a clarinet stood up and began playing the opening chords of “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road hit. As onlookers took notice, a second clarinetist joined in, and before long the waiting room was filled with musicians playing the tune. An adorable young woman cheerily belted out the lyrics as a chorus came in, accompanying her. Onlookers smiled, some taking out their phones to document the event. Workers in the office emerged from their cubes to see what the commotion was about, and for a moment everyone in the room seemed to forget their troubles. This simple idea helped bring some cheer to struggling Spaniards in that office and beyond (the video has generated around 1.5 million views in three weeks).
With many U.K. consumers facing an austere Christmas, upscale supermarket chain Waitrose created a stripped-down TV commercial for the holiday season and donated an additional £1 million to local causes. “At what is a difficult time for many people across Britain, we feel that Christmas is the right time to give more back to good causes in the communities we serve,” explained Waitrose’s marketing director in a release. The ad shows food celebrities Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal—who regularly appear in Waitrose ads and waived their fees this time around—in an empty studio. They explain that “instead of a fancy TV advert,” Waitrose is giving more to charity (customers help decide which causes Waitrose should allocate money to).
Will consumers feel the gesture is appropriate in light of their current economic anxieties, regarding the lavish commercials from Waitrose’s rivals as wasteful? Or will they miss the usual festive flair on their screens and see the retailer as “a bit holier than thou,” as one YouTube commenter complains (“Like when someone gives some village a goat for Christmas on your behalf”)?
American anxiety over the widening class divide and a seemingly entrenched downturn is finding expression in Occupy Wall Street and the similar protests around the U.S. So far one corporate brand has come out as a supporter: Ben & Jerry’s. Although owned by Unilever for the past decade, the ice cream purveyor has always tied its brand identity to the hippie origins of its namesake founders—look no further than flavors like Imagine Whirled Peace and the new Fair Goodness Cake (which touts a commitment to using only Fair Trade ingredients within the next few years). Now, The Guardian jokingly suggests “Choc-u-pie Wall Street” as the next new flavor.
A board of directors statement on the company website shows one of the brand’s signature cows holding an “Occupy” sign and expresses “our deepest admiration” for the activists. The movement hasn’t formulated a coherent message, so Ben & Jerry’s outlines five grievances that it supports, including class inequality, the unemployment crisis and the expense of higher education. Noting that the company “pays a livable wage to our employees,” the statement includes links to Ben & Jerry’s position on issues including “climate justice” and “peace building,” and explains how its lobbying money has been spent.
With more Americans struggling and worrying that better times aren’t ahead, how will brands respond? Supporting what some see as an anarchistic protest won’t work for most marketers, but there are many ways to position a brand as part of the solution. Starbucks, for example, just announced Create Jobs for USA, an initiative to solicit customer donations for a community lending organization.
Action America, a nonprofit launched just before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is “dedicated to turning the events of 9/11 into positive action.” Sponsored by a coalition of nonprofits and corporations, the effort is spearheaded by Marquis Jet founder Kenny Dichter along with AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong. It directs “Actionists”—those who are “purveyors of positivity”—to ActionAmerica.com, where they can find local volunteer opportunities as well as donate to the 9/11 Memorial or the Wounded Warriors Project. A sharing component encourages visitors to spread the word about the campaign and share memories or photos related to the World Trade Center. And New York Says Thank You, a documentary sponsored by individuals and Action America corporate patrons that looks at four New Yorkers who helped other communities recover from disaster, aired on Fox-owned MyNetwork stations on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary.
“None of us will ever forget 9/11, but we must not let it scar the national psyche or have us live in fear,” said Dichter in a press release. “We can all subvert the intention of terror and take 9/11 back by using it to unite the nation in positive action. This is exactly what happened immediately following the attack and it needs to happen again.”
Providing an outlet to address ongoing anxiety about terrorism and act on the patriotic feeling generated after 9/11 is a good way to rally Americans, many of whom have been left feeling helpless by the recession and the country’s waning influence on the world stage. People are seeking ways to do their part to get the nation back on track, and this effort can help participants feel they’re a part of a bigger movement that can make an impact—an ongoing trend we termed Collective Consciousness. This effort is likely to ring well with today’s consumers. Let’s get America back on track, one action at time.
As East coast residents held their breath awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irene last weekend, The New York Times announced via Twitter that it would offer all its digital storm-related content for free. (The paper introduced a paywall in March, limiting nonsubscribers to 20 free online articles per month.)Newsday, a Long Island paper, did the same. The gesture reminds us of Lonely Planet’s decision to give select digital travel guides away for free during the massive air travel disruptions caused by Mount Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption in spring 2010.
During times of distress and uncertainty, these simple acts of public service can go a long way in creating goodwill while reminding those who may scoff at the idea of paying for digital content that shelling out a few bucks provides access to information you need, whenever you need it.
We’ve seen a few brands playing up their role in creating jobs, from Volkswagen and Woolworths in the heat of the recession to McDonald’s earlier this year. Now Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is going a step further by becoming an advocate for corporate hiring. Following the U.S. debt crisis, Schultz circulated a company-wide memo emphasizing the corporation’s responsibility to “ease the collective anxiety inside and outside the company” given the “uncertain times.” In a subsequent “Letter to America,” he outlined ideas to “get things moving,” aimed both at America’s politicians and its businesses. A new politically focused organization, Upward Spiral, is promoting these ideas, which include opening up jobs (employers can make a “pledge to hire”).
Starbucks has said it expects to hire 70,000 people in the U.S. over the next six to 12 months, according to The Seattle Times, although the company has not said how many hires represent new positions rather than simply turnover. In his “Letter to America,” Schultz highlighted their pledge to break an economic “cycle of fear and uncertainty.” Schultz is positioning Starbucks as an agent for positive change at a time when U.S. unemployment is on the rise, the news media summarizes recent layoffs under headings like “Job killing companies” and finance giants such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and UBS—perhaps key barometers of stability—have been dramatically cutting their global workforces. Layoffs send out powerful messages to an anxious public, with the companies responsible becoming the target of consumer frustration and animosity. Given the climate, Starbucks’ stand can comfort consumers by championing their cause, at least until the company is forced into more layoffs of its own.
Japan’s energy shortage, a result of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, is top of mind for its citizens—amid the summer heat, the government is urging businesses and households to limit electricity usage, giving rise to adoption of lighter business dress, “green curtain sets” and so on. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is rewarding households that manage to cut their power usage by 15 percent with entry into a drawing to win prizes such as digital cameras. Some brands are helping to motivate consumers: Jusco supermarkets are offering a bonus to customers who can show an electricity bill with a 15 percent reduction for the month of July: They get a credit worth 200 yen ($2.50). While it’s a relatively small reward, shoppers will appreciate the recognition and the retailer doing its part for this national effort. How can your brand encourage actions that contribute to the collective good?
Following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Nestlé customer service got calls from consumers saying they would like to support the victims with Kit Kat. The precedence was Kit Kat Mail, an award-winning 2009 initiative (from JWT Japan) that allowed people to send a good luck token and a personal greeting to exam-taking students right on the Kit Kat package. So in late May, Nestlé started selling “zunda flavor” Kit Kat nationwide—the product had been available only in Northern Japan, where zunda (green bean paste) is a traditional sweet and where tourists would buy it as a souvenir. It costs 10 yen (about 12 cents) more than regular Kit Kats, and Nestlé is donating this portion of sales to the Japanese Red Cross.
Nestlé had already been sending supplies to victims but hadn’t planned a product to support the victims emotionally—one that allows purchasers to “support and cheer for people they care for with Kit Kat,” as the wrapper copy states. The product makes customers think about the Tohoku victims and encourages a more emotional bond. This represents a new way of supporting victims, allowing Nestlé to utilize Kit Kat’s brand value to make support and donation activities a little more relevant and impactful. It is a simple yet meaningful way for Nestlé to use a core strength to bring more emotional impact to its contributions.