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.
As partisan anxiety ramps up in the period leading up to a major election, some brands have found ways to inject a bit of lightheartedness into the weighty moment. In 2010, as the U.K. prepared for a general election, IKEA’s website presented “kitchen designs inspired by our would-be PMs”; e.g., the design for Brown, dubbed Brün, was “durable and prudent for the economically conscious.” 7-Eleven has been running the “7-Election” for four presidential elections in the U.S.—a concept it’s also taken to other markets—with coffee buyers choosing cups based on their candidate of choice. “Get your steaming hot cup of democracy,” says the website, which displays current results (favoring Obama at present).
Now JetBlue is jumping into the fray, inspired by the frequently heard comments about leaving for another country if one’s candidate loses. With the “Election Protection” promotion, the airline is giving away 1,006 round-trip international flights to partisans disappointed by the election results. People indicate their preferred party online and are entered into the sweepstakes only if that candidate loses next month. “Live free or fly” is the tagline in a spot that shows people on the street vowing to take off if the election doesn’t go their way. With consumer concern heightening as polls predict a close election, voters will welcome a little levity, if not a chance to really escape if the worst-case scenario comes to pass.
During World War II, propaganda posters represented America’s unity: It was “us vs. them” during a difficult time. Today’s Americans may also feel they live in difficult times, with the economic climate enduringly bleak and the nation’s leaders mired in partisan bickering. But if there’s an “us vs. them” mentality, it’s a sense of the people vs. big institutions, especially the government. Americans feel deserted by their leaders—perceived as putting political interests before those of the people—and there’s no longer a sense that we’re all on the same team. (For instance, in a JWT survey conducted last year using our propriety online tool SONAR™, almost 8 in 10 expressed dissatisfaction with the government and only 12 percent viewed Congress favorably.)
In response, the 2-year-old Chamomile Tea Party has bought backlit platform ad space in the Washington, D.C., Metro to display posters inspired by WWII-era propaganda, speaking out against Washington’s partisan bickering and stalemates. For example, one headline reads: “I lost my job… And my home and my health care and my retirement and my self-esteem, while you played party politics.” The organization, founded by a graphic designer, is dedicated to disrupting partisan gridlock. The posters are bold and striking in tone and imagery. And by harking back to old propaganda messaging, they remind us of a time when America came together, a sobering contrast to the divisiveness of today. As the election nears, it will be interesting to see if other organizations or marketers tap into Americans’ discontent with and anxiety over the status quo.