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.
From boosting local retail outlets with Cash Mobs to advocating for an entire national economy, the DIY ethos seems to be coming out in full force lately. Launched in February by a team of Greeks across the globe, Up Greek Tourism is a private grassroots campaign to help boost tourism to the economically ravaged nation. “Governments are trying to find solutions, but we as individuals should not wait. We need to help ourselves,” says one lead fundraiser in a YouTube plea for donations. In just 20 days, the team was able to raise $20,352 on Loudsauce.com from 333 people, surpassing the initial goal of $15,000.
The funds were used to secure an electronic billboard in New York City’s Times Square for 30 days. The ad, designed by Greek designer Charis Tsevis, displays a montage of iconic Greek tourist destinations to tempt passersby into booking a Greek holiday. Just as we saw during the Great Recession, anxiety is stimulating proactive responses among consumers and citizens who are feeling let down by big institutions. Rather than accept defeat, some are taking economic matters into their own hands with the mindset that change is possible and that many small efforts can combine to help turn things around, whether on a local or a global level.
With local economies across the globe still in the gutter, civic-minded citizens are coming up with creative ways to inject some cash into small retailers. Back in 2009, the 3/50 project started asking Americans to pick three locally owned stores that they wanted to see survive the recession and spend $50 a month at them. Cash Mobs, the latest iteration of this idea, involves well-intentioned shoppers “mobbing” local retailers.
Consumers can nominate a small business in their town for a Cash Mob by contacting the owner. From there, Cash Mob organizers encourage their Facebook, Twitter and other networks to patronize the store en masse at the appointed date and time. Mobsters commit to spending at least $20, “to give the business owner a little bit of economic stimulus,” as the Cash Mob website puts it. Retailers report that the mobs can boost a day’s sales by two or three times, according to theInternational Business Times. After starting in the U.S., the movement is spreading—last Saturday was International Cash Mob Day, and nearly 200 mobs were reported around the world.
“There is no science to it, and there are also no hard and fast rules,” Cash Mob’s organizer told Reuters. Consumers are increasingly taking an improvised, DIY approach to improving the economy—frustrated by slow progress and losing faith in big institutions—and using the organizing power of social media to bring about community change on their own. Brands can help drive these efforts, as American Express is doing with Small Business Saturday, for example. Indeed, our research found that 79 percent of respondents in a survey we conducted wish a brand or company would make a substantial investment to improve their local community. At a time when CSR and more traditional marketing efforts are meshing, such projects present ways for big brands and corporations to show that they care and are tapped into the needs of the local communities in which the operate.
It seems that London’s massive riots have brought out the best and the worst from the city. Citizen response to the violence and looting has been a “Blitz spirit,” as observers have been putting it, with people coming out in force to restore their streets, organizing via Twitter (e.g., @Riotcleanup has over 81,000 followers). Neighborhood retailers like Starbucks, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s have supported the efforts with free treats for volunteers and emergency services workers. And Charles Bentley & Son brushware company donated brooms, brushes and dustpans to the “broom army” of helpers.
The agency community has pitched in too, with BBH interns launching Keep Aaron Cutting to support an elderly barber whose shop was destroyed and digital agency Dare creating This Is Our London, which collects positive tweets and photos (akin to This Is Our Vancouver, set up by that city’s tourism commission in June, also in response to rioting).
In the longer term, we’re watching to see how brand messaging and initiatives respond to post-riot anxiety.
Coca-Cola’s campaign for this Christmas in Spain tries to go beyond the message of hope and happiness it airs traditionally. Instead the brand has created a digital free-cycling space, called The Hope Store, where people can donate up to three items and then acquire what others have listed; Coca-Cola pays for the shipping for the first 40,000 items. Since participants can select only as many free items as they’ve uploaded, giving more means receiving more.
Increasingly, to survive in a world of consumption-shy consumers, brands will have to shift focus from simply selling products or services to helping consumers. This may mean building communities, providing advice, offering entertainment, etc. In this case, Coca-Cola is helping people donate to others while helping those who may be unable to afford Christmas gifts get some free goods.
The onslaught of bad economic news last year left many consumers feeling powerless, incapable of regaining control over their lives. Hornbach, a DIY specialist store with 130 locations in nine European countries, sought to inspire and invigorate DIYers with “Make it your project,” a 2009 campaign that won a gold Euro Effie Award in mid-September. The campaign helped attract millions of new customers, with the percentage of those who “purchased something at Hornbach within the past twelve months” increasing by 18 points, according to the Effie Award case study. Competitors, by comparison, reported a 2 percent decline in the same time frame.
The TVC features an anthem intended to instill consumers with a sense of urgency about stepping up and starting to address what needs fixing, from the everyday details—the wobbling table, the crack in the wall, the paperwork and the garden work—to the much bigger picture (forgotten dreams, broken banks, bureaucracy and democracy). Viewers are told to “make it your project” while a montage of dreamlike imagery and a fierce set of strings builds to a crescendo. The DIY message hit home among consumers feeling let down by big institutions during the Great Recession, reminding people that things are fixable if you start taking concrete action, and that each small fix creates positive change, whether on a personal or a global level.
Home improvement retailers have been hawking DIY as an empowerment tool for some time, but the downturn has seen some other brands looking to the same strategy. Consider iSold.com. The U.K. real estate service, backed by supermarket chain Tesco, is offering a package that includes home valuation, online and print advertising, and agent-led open houses for £999 and up. The service aims to straddle the line between pure online selling—via eBay, for example—and agent-lead sales. Considering that U.K. real estate agents earn 1.5 to 2 percent on each home sale, according to the iSold site, the package could save sellers thousands of pounds. Home owners are responsible for negotiating selling prices and meeting with prospective buyers, but that could be a good thing for iSold. Owners made to feel helpless by the recession might like a turn in the driver’s seat.
In Spain, the downturn has not yet slowed, and the economy is still under a dark cloud. Brands are feeling this lack of oxygen, and new campaigns are few and generally conservative. One area where we’re seeing some activity is brand stores. This trend is being accelerated by the real estate crisis, which has created lots of cheap opportunities. Finally brands are playing with shops as experience spaces for consumers.
First, Danone opened up a store in Barcelona, a huge yogurt bar and restaurant project. Now Casa Knorr has launched in Barcelona and Madrid, with free cooking and nutrition workshops for kids and adults, as well as product tastings. Workshop attendees will learn to put together a weekly menu and prepare healthy snacks, and even be accompanied on instructive supermarket shopping trips by a chef and dietitian.
These consumer experience labs are a smart investment. It will be interesting to see whether they become a permanent part of the marketing mix once the downturn ends.
The DIY category tends to benefit from downturns, since many people prefer to save money by doing repairs and renovations themselves. Plus, since people tend to cocoon rather than go out, they want to make their homes as pleasant as possible—focusing on family needs and the home is seen as a solid investment.
So bauMax, an Austrian-based chain in Central and Eastern Europe that’s akin to Home Depot, was clever to revive its Selfman hero, who guides ambitious DIYers via a series of How-To videos. Each video segment is several minutes long and embeds advice and instructions within a humorous plot; a handy list of tools needed for the project is also included. The result: While the DIY industry in Austria had a sales decline of 1.6 percent between September 2008 and June 2009, bauMax sales increased 1.5 percent.
Cairo’s newest consumer trend is the rise of a Facebook marketplace, with people selling everything from used books to jewelry to designer fashions from Paris via Facebook groups. In a struggling Egyptian economy, many retailers have been forced to increase their prices. So people are drawn to some of the bargains on Facebook (one seller is offering designer handbags for 20-30 percent less than the original price), as well as the ability to select items from the comfort of their own homes. Online shopping has never been much of an option here in Egypt—there aren’t many domestic online retailers, and buying from abroad entails paying high customs fees and involves credit card complications. Facebook has therefore provided Egyptians with a local online shopping option. While this heralds trouble for shops and upscale department stores, Facebook represents a massive opportunity for entrepreneurial individuals taking a chance on a sleepy retail market.
DIY isn’t just what you do after a shopping spree at IKEA. Today, do-it-yourself is influencing a range of categories, including entertainment, food, beauty and fashion. From locals organizing and promoting their own parties and events to teens formulating at-home beauty treatments, the ethos of DIY is becoming increasingly pervasive.
A confluence of factors is shifting this movement from the fringe to the mainstream, chief among them the anxiety brought on by the Great Recession—DIY is simply cheaper than the alternatives. DIY also seems like the savvy, even chic thing to do at a time when frugality and anti-consumerist sentiment are proliferating. The Internet is also a key factor, helping DIY-ers learn from and inspire each other. And in a world where mass-produced goods dominate, DIY allows for a sense of discovery and a way to stand out from the crowd.
Our latest trend report explores how DIY ideas and attitudes are affecting consumer behavior and purchasing habits in a range of categories, and looks at what it means for brands and marketers. You can download the report from our Trends and Research page.