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.
While people are gradually realizing that their planet is in danger, that some species will completely disappear, they don’t necessarily accept that they may have to renounce some of their comfort if they want to do something about it. That helps explain why some continue to wear real fur. (Although the demand for faux fur is now so high that some real fur has been marketed as fake.) In France, the love of women for fur and their love of animals creates a form of tension. The wildlife protection organization WWF plays with this tension in a creative new campaign.
WWF France created a line of clothing and accessories made from the “fur” of imaginary animals, called Wonder World Fur, showcased in beautifully shot photographs by Mark Seliger. The collection is actually on sale. This campaign and service prove that doing something good need not feel like a sacrifice, that we can awaken consciences with poetry and that we can find new and inspiring ways to address anxiety regarding environmental issues.
Who doesn’t want to do their part to improve the environment? Trouble is, few people are willing to change their everyday habits, and most efforts to raise environmental awareness only make us feel guilty for not doing a better job—and thus more likely to tune them out. Approaching the issue of water conservation from the flip side of the coin, the irreverent brand Axe recently launched a provocative campaign that suggests “showerpooling” (think carpooling but without the car and in a shower) as a way to cut down on water use.
An animated Web video gets straight to the point: “How can you save water without massive personal sacrifice?” The male body care brand claims its prescribed remedy for saving our planet’s most precious resource—taking a five-minute shower with a water-efficient showerhead while in the company of a “likeminded acquaintance” or an “attractive stranger”—can cut water usage by 20 percent. Axe provides more serious water-saving tips on Facebook, where people can pledge to “stop taking wasteful solo showers” and enter to attend the “Ultimate Showerpooling Party” by creating and documenting the largest showerpool.
Given our tendency to be selfish, habit-driven creatures, humor combined with simple actionable steps can go a long way in getting people both interested and involved, particularly in issues that are more abstract and large-scale. Let’s just hope invitations to a Showerpool don’t become the new bar pickup line.
The fast pace of urban life and resulting disconnect from nature is a point of tension and anxiety for city dwellers across the globe. For Chinese white-collar workers in megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai, the drive to succeed has led to intense pressure, long working hours and the type of sedentary day jobs that can be spiritually suffocating. Kean to this insight, outdoor brand The North Face launched a campaign advocating that people escape—if only for a weekend—and return to the wild in order to release, rediscover and reconnect to the world through valuable experiences.
In a humorous manifesto spot, urbanites are encouraged to literally drop everything in their hectic lives and retreat to the great outdoors, taking back their sanity in the process. Set to racing drums, the spot opens with a man who’s given up on a chaotic traffic jam (he exits his car, placing the keys on the roof as the voiceover commands, “Damn you, traffic jams”). A man smashes an alarm clock that’s signaling the beginning of his morning routine, and an office worker shoves files into the arms of her perplexed colleague before strolling out. As the commercial cuts across various urban stressors, the drums and voiceover climb to a crescendo, then break to scenes of nature and the sound of a deep exhale. We see people trekking across the plains and frozen tundra. “Your life deserves another possibility,” the voiceover says. “To discover. To release. To gain. Go wild.”
Snowy climates present a lot of potential fears and anxieties for drivers, including getting stuck in a snowy spot. Audi claims that its quattro system uses “continuously synchronized four-wheel drive” to provide unique stability that can get cars out of such situations. In Bulgaria, the automaker took advantage of a particularly difficult and snowy winter to sell consumers on the technology by presenting the product idea in an innovative way: They created an Audi quattro Action Team whose purpose, like the vehicle itself, was to help drivers stuck in the snow.
Over three days, the four-man team pushed and shoved 141 stuck cars, resulting in 141 grateful drivers and 141 Audi quattro ambassadors, as the brand says in this video. The campaign potentially increased awareness of the brand’s technology and an understanding of how it addresses a driver’s fear of getting stuck. The campaign allowed Audi to demonstrate that it’s not detached from drivers’ needs, and on the contrary is focused on solving their problems by providing appropriate solutions. It does so by approaching drivers directly, adding a human touch to the message that Audi is reliable and there to help in times of need.
For many, the most anxiety-provoking aspect of earthquakes is the fact that they can strike anywhere at any time, leaving no opportunity to prepare. Japanese lifestyle brand Muji is helping shoppers plan for the worst with its “Itsumo, Moshimo” (Whenever, Whatever) campaign. Shortly after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the retailer created a website illustrating how a number of its products could be assembled into emergency preparedness kits, preserved-food storage bins and furniture fasteners. Muji says the kits allow owners to “live daily lives comfortably, but … also prepare for the event.”
The suggested kits for work and school resemble a translucent briefcase, while the children’s kit is an easy-to-carry cotton backpack. Designed with various evacuation locales in mind, they’re packed with an array of emergency products (rope, LED flashlights, batteries, bandages, etc.), as well as a compressed T-shirt and towel to help disaster victims freshen up and coloring materials for children—taking a holistic approach to emergency preparedness. Recently these products, alongside instructions on how to use them in disaster situations, were featured in Muji’s six-week-long “Jishin, Itsumo” (Earthquake, Whenever) exhibit, the second time the retailer has held the event (the first was in 2009).
With seemingly daily reports of devastating natural disasters and terrorist strikes across the globe, many of us are on edge. While we’re powerless to do much, Muji’s efforts smartly provide some peace of mind by arming citizens with useful and nicely designed tools, without pinning a fatalist cloud above their heads.
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.
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.
Due to the energy shortages caused by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, Tokyo residents are focused on overcoming the summer season’s power saving challenge. The government is promoting the idea of wearing cooler, casual clothes such as aloha shirts and shorts in business settings, a campaign called “Super Cool Biz.” And home appliance manufacturers and electronics retailers are promoting “nostalgic” electric fans (which use less power than air conditioners) and energy-efficient LED light bulbs, turning the situation into a business opportunity.
Interestingly, Tokyo residents have started to enjoy these lifestyle changes. Although there are inconveniences, people also find it fun “going back to the good old 20th century culture” before air conditioning was everywhere, reverting to old-fashioned solutions. I shaved my 4-year-old son’s head, as he feels cooler with less hair. And people are competing with neighbors to see who saves the most energy.
One of the strengths of the Japanese is that they are essentially adaptable, able to roll with the punches and make the best of anxiety-provoking situations. It is important that companies and brands keep looking for ways to engage consumers in an upbeat way and help them see the upside of their current circumstances.
Getting around in São Paulo, the world’s fourth largest city, is not an easy task. Public transportation is crowded, insufficient for the millions who depend on it, while some 7 million cars clog the streets. Cars average just 18 kilometers an hour, slower than some remote-controlled cars. Last year residents lost 2 hours and 42 minutes each day in traffic jams, according to research from Ibope/Nossa São Paulo. Traffic jams can also prove dangerous, with “arrastões” (groups who attack and steal cars together) working busy avenues during peak times.
The mobility problem is a long way from being addressed, especially since the government isn’t investing in solutions. In another example of Creative Urban Renewal—one of our 10 Trends for 2011—media company Bandeirantes Group, in partnership with insurance provider SulAmérica, launched SulAmérica Trânsito in 2007, a radio station dedicated to broadcasting traffic news around the clock. During rush hour, it’s the No. 2 station in the city. At the end of 2010, they launched a new system to collect traffic data: Partnering with MapLink, a website specializing in digital mapping, they collect information from GPS systems installed in 1 million cars and identify their location and average speed. The system can also be accessed via mobile apps or online.
This system is proving much more reliable than the government’s. In mega-cities, where mobility issues generate anxiety and decrease quality of life, private-sector tools to ease the pain of traffic jams are more than welcome.
As a result of the earthquake and nuclear crisis, a shortage of power has become an everyday issue for Japanese consumers and businesses. There is a growing concern that this will impact economic recovery, with factories stopping operations every now and then, commuters delayed by trains that periodically stop or slow down, and shops and restaurants closing earlier. People have become extremely conscious of the need to conserve power in their everyday lives, especially with the hot summer approaching, a time when power usage peaks with use of air-conditioning.
Shortly after the earthquake, Yahoo! started displaying a “Power Usage Indicator” on its home page. It uses data from the utility TEPCO to show how much power is being used, updated by the hour, giving people a tangible way to gauge the current situation. Until the earthquake, most people didn’t think much about their energy consumption and used power as if the supply were infinite. The indicator makes people constantly aware of the issue and lets them know when to be especially careful about their own usage.
This is a good example of “branded utility”—finding practical ways to help people in response to the difficulties that arise during our recovery process.