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.
Upscale U.K. department store Harvey Nichols positions its women’s-wear department as the answer to a holiday-season anxiety for potential customers: that after searching for the perfect party getup, they’ll be upstaged by another woman wearing the same thing. This “nightmare” scenario is taken to an extreme in a humorous video: Two women at the same party are wearing the same distinctive red dress, and instead of figuratively shooting daggers at each other, they start shooting red lasers from their eyes, destroying much of the space. Eventually one of the women is defeated—but then a third woman arrives in the same dress, and a new battle begins.
“Avoid a same dress disaster this season,” says the on-screen copy at the end. This type of retailer can’t compete on price, but it can compete with the ubiquitous chains on unique offerings that are perfect for showing off at holiday parties.
We’re all well aware of how demoralizing unrealistic depictions of beauty can be for women, since we’ll never be as flawless as the airbrushed and Photoshopped images we see everywhere. This is one reason behind some of the startling statistics about women and self-image—for example, one study (cited by Dove) found that only 4 percent of women feel they’re beautiful. Two new campaigns are encouraging women to take an active role in shifting the status quo.
Dove has been a longstanding opponent of unrealistic imagery, with its “Campaign for Real Beauty.” In the campaign’s latest iteration, the personal care brand undertakes an “Ad Makeover” on Facebook, aimed at eliminating negative marketing messages that play on women’s insecurities. A Dove app allows women to replace these taunting ads with feel-good messages such as “The perfect bum is the one you’re sitting on.” Dove is also offering the opportunity to be featured on a living billboard as part of its Show Us Your Skin promotion; women can upload photos that will be projected in bustling Times Square and on Dove’s websites.
Athletic brand Under Armour is also on a mission to showcase more positive images of womanhood, with its “What’s Beautiful” campaign. As an Under Armour marketing exec told Marketing Daily, “What we get really frustrated with is advertisers who talk about beauty in terms of how you look, not what you are made of.” In a manifesto spot that shows women athletes working hard, the voiceover proclaims that it’s time to take power back “from the marketers who want us to look Photoshopped, from the magazines who want us topless, from the people who think we should be happy just the way we are.”
These marketers, along with some others such as Thailand’s Oriental Princess, stand out in a category that has historically relied on generating anxiety in women. Taking the opposite approach, these messages give power back to women, helping them to feel more comfortable in their own skin and begin redefining what it means to feel beautiful and sexy.
Piazza Italia, a low-budget apparel chain, is celebrating people Italians can be proud of. With the new tagline “Sponsor for the common people,” Piazza Italia leverages the economic and political situation here: Italians have continuously been submerged by corruption scandals in all the topics we love and fear the most: politics, soccer championship, taxes, pensions. … The campaign is for the ones who had the courage to say no to corruption, for the ones who wake up every day to do their job without falling into the temptation of easy money.
In its first TV commercial, the brand features close-ups of various everyday folks. A voiceover says: “We don’t sign autographs. We wait in line. We don’t have a foreign bank account. We don’t have the leather chair or long life pension. We are the ones who take the field every day without taking a bow, the ones without powers but with big responsibilities. The ones who dream, who get indignant but never throw in the towel. Somebody says we are nobody. The truth is that we are mostly everyone. We are the ones who make true miracles.” In addition, a print campaign portrays the role models Italians should look to, like soccer player Fabio Pisacane, whose refusal to accept €50.000 to fix a game started a judicial inquiry into illegal betting (“calcioscommesse”) on soccer games.
“Noooooo!” This month JCPenney introduced its new “Fair and square” pricing policy by playing off the idea that keeping up with sales and special offers is stress-inducing in the extreme. Various shoppers scream when they’ve just missed a sale, an item they’ve bought subsequently gets discounted, they’re stuck in a huge sales-event line or they’re overwhelmed with coupons. “Enough. Is. Enough,” viewers are told cryptically, then referred to the retailer’s Facebook page, which explains the new “Fair and square” pricing policy.
The spot’s screaming has been deemed “annoying and disturbing” by some, but the real question is whether “Fair and square” will draw shoppers who prefer straightforward pricing to the highs (and lows) of scoring deals. The new policy, based on a red, white and blue scheme, incorporates some discounting: Red prices indicate “great prices, everyday,” blue refers to “best prices” (clearance markdowns that take place two Fridays a month), and white indicates a month-long promotion (e.g., back-to-school specials). The aim is to end what new chief executive Ron Johnson termed “fake prices,” telling The New York Times last month that “Now most things are on 60 percent markdown, and every time we do that, we’re discounting Penney’s brand.”
Reactions have been mixed. A pricing strategy consultant writes on the Harvard Business Reviewblog that the retailer isn’t differentiated enough to succeed with value pricing, while an enthusiastic commenter who describes herself as a busy mom says she’s gotten “darn tired” of the pricing game. The downturn has not only trained many shoppers to find or wait for the best deals but also to understand fake prices for what they are. The time seems right for a more straightforward approach that acknowledges consumers are smart enough to see through the hype.
Everything costs a fortune in Australia. Seriously—electricity and petrol have risen 70 percent in the last five years, and a train ride from Sydney’s airport to the city takes more than an hour to earn on Australia’s minimum wage. Any Australian can tell you prices for things that used to be bastions of unpretentious affordability—like the meat pie, the thong (the kind that goes on your foot) or a train ticket—but are now just another thing that empties your pocket.
A lighthearted new commercial from the underwear brand Rio gives Australians permission to be cheap when it comes to their underthings, making it look silly to splurge on items that have become unnecessarily upscale. “They’re not an investment—you don’t pass them down to your kids!” the voiceover reminds viewers, concluding with the line “Let’s put some reality back into underwear.” Practicality rules in today’s New Normal climate, and brands with a value offer have plenty of opportunity to position themselves as a modern refuge of affordability.
Retailers, very familiar with the economic crisis that continues to grip Western economies, must tread lightly with pitches aimed at getting people to spend money. A tactful “we understand your pain” approach can go a long way in creating brand loyalty.
Spanish retailer Mango is offering shoppers a way to update their wardrobes at a discount, ensuring their closets remain up to date without spending a lot of money. The company’s Mango for Mango program allows customers who sign up for a loyalty card to return used clothes purchased from any of its stores for up to one year after the initial purchase date and in exchange get a new article of clothing at a 20 percent discount. (Shoppers who had loyalty cards prior to January 2011 are entitled to a 25 percent discount.) The Web component includes a virtual closet which helps shoppers keep track of their purchases. For now, the program is only in place in Mango’s Spain stores.
Not only does this initiative give Mango customers a way to refresh their wardrobes, but also allows them the flexibility to try new fashion with the knowledge that when they tire of one thing, they can try something new. It’s a take on Non-Commitment Culture, one our 10 Trends for 2011. So far, more than 40,000 customers have signed on to the program, according to Mango, which is also donating 1 percent of each purchase within the program to the Vicente Ferrer Foundation in India, which builds homes in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
In a time when buying new clothing may be seen as an unnecessary expenditure (after all, most people have a closet full of clothes) Mango gives women an easy way to justify a new item or two: They can wear it now, and exchange it later, ensuring that they are always in fashion. And always shopping at Mango.Photo Credits: http://shop.mango.com/
Under-garments and anxiety may not seem to go hand-in-hand, but this month a Hanes campaign somewhat counterintuitively connects stress with socks, T-shirts and underwear. The brand has named March National Clean Out Your Drawers Month, listing “peace of mind” as the top reason consumers should put this task on their to-do lists. A press release also pushes the connection, declaring that “denial, anxiety and forgotten undergarments” are “hiding in the back of America’s underwear drawer.”
The hoarding phenomenon is invoked, with a senior VP explaining that “We’ve learned through research that many people experience anxiety when throwing things out, which results in keeping items that will never again be used.” Once relieved of the burden of unwanted underthings, visitors to the brand’s Facebook page are advised to “restock your freshly cleaned drawers with new clothes from Hanes.” (Also, oddly, they’re told to donate “gently used” castoffs to Goodwill, though even the neediest seem unlikely to want secondhand socks and the sweat-stained tees that people are most likely to toss.)
We all know exercise is a great way to combat stress, but interestingly we haven’t seen athletic brands get much mileage out of this. Asics, however, is turning out beautiful executions based around the idea that, in the brand’s words, “by staying active, you can shed negativity.”
The latest execution shows runners with word clouds around them seemingly shedding words such as “angst” and “worry.” A new tagline spells out the idea: “Running releases more than just sweat.” A similar, year-old commercial in the campaign shows words such as “stress” and “fear” as a runner races through sheets of water.
Making literal the connection between mental and physical well-being is logical for Asics, a Japanese company whose name is an acronym for the Latin “anima sana in corpore sano,” or “a sound mind in a sound body.” And it’s especially logical at a time when consumer anxiety is high and solutions to some of our biggest problems (unemployment and the economic crisis, terrorism, the environment) have no quick or easy solutions.
God, I’m 30! This is an anxiety being voiced by a growing number of urban women in India today. With delayed marriages, a non-discriminating culture at home and financial freedom thanks to full-time jobs, women today should have it easy. But they are facing a very different kind of uncertainty, one unknown to women a generation earlier. Not having found Mr. Right or professional success, having only a handful of friends who don’t yet have kids, early signs of weakened immunity and aging of skin—there’s no dearth of items on these women’s worry list.
Personal care brands are leveraging this trend in a big way with soaps, day creams, night creams, serums, etc. Now, in what seems to be a first, we have a movie dedicated to this woman, due out this month. Starring actress Gul Panag, Turning 30!!! follows the trials and tribulations of a modern Indian professional as she bids goodbye to her twenties. Watch for brands across more categories directly engage this Sex and the City demographic, helping her battle her blues, rediscover herself and grow into her thirties.
The holiday season is a hectic and often anxious time: Fighting crowds while shopping, the obligatory string of parties and the unavoidable trip to your in-laws has a tendency to take a good portion of the peace, love and joy out of Christmas. A clever pun from Banana Republic, “Love the Present,” reminds busy shoppers to slow down and take a breather. (The holiday theme was accompanied by a “Find the Love in the Present” photo contest.) It’s also a subtle nudge to buy now rather than wait for better economic times, or maybe even partake in some “self-gifting” as we wrote about a few weeks ago.