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.
Two years ago we wrote about McDonald’s’ transparency kick in the U.K. (the site What Makes McDonald’s) and Canada, where yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca invited consumers to ask whatever questions they had, “even the tough ones.” Those efforts followed an Australian TV documentary sponsored by the brand, McDonald’s Gets Grilled, which showed several consumers touring various company operations, sometimes asking challenging questions. The latest effort to address anxieties about fast food—exactly how it’s made and with what ingredients, etc.—is an American campaign that answers consumers’ most frequently asked questions.
A YouTube video series features Grant Imahara from the show MythBusters visiting McDonald’s suppliers. Another video shows people asking questions at an outdoor ad that solicited queries. Naturally these are all questions that McDonald’s can answer easily; answers are posted online (e.g., Chicken McNuggets do not contain pink slime and are made from the tenderloin, breast and rib, ground with a bit of chicken skin and a marinade). The company is also soliciting questions via tweet and tweeting responses.
The simple act of opening up to questions may reassure some of today’s increasingly skeptical consumers. But as the ranks of curious, educated and anxious eaters keep growing, McDonald’s will have to do more to boost confidence that it sells “real” food made from wholesome ingredients. With both McDonald’s and Coca-Cola stumbling at the moment—“Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors,” writes Slate—we’ll see food companies not only marketing in new ways but also changing their products to meet rising demand for better-for-you ingredients.
As part of its “How Matters” campaign, Greek yogurt maker Chobani aired the new commercial “Farmland” during the Oscars on Sunday night. With a message reminiscent of Chipotle’s animated short “The Scarecrow,” the spot opens on a serene farm, shimmering in the morning sun. However, with each successive shot, the viewer sees an increasingly artificial setting: The crowing rooster is only a recording; labeled test tubes hang from trees; the cows are hollow plastic molds, filled with a white powder by men in lab coats; and the grass is artificial turf. As the camera pans out, a voice-over states, “Most 100-calorie yogurts are made with artificial ingredients and sweeteners. But here at Chobani, we believe 100 percent natural ingredients is all you need.” Then the viewer is taken to lush farmland, brimming with life, as farmers tend to real, living cows and pick fresh fruit. The ad ends with a farmer saying, “A cup of yogurt won’t change the world, but how we make it might.”
Chobani, which claims to be “the only [Greek yogurt] producer with all-natural ingredients,” according to Adweek, addresses the growing anxieties consumers have about how food is produced—primarily if the food is “real” or not. With the dramatized juxtaposition of artificial vs. natural, Chobani reassures consumers that its yogurt is produced responsibly and the way nature intended.
We recently posted about hypermarket chain Leclerc and its price-comparison site Quiestlemoinscher.com (“who is the less expensive”), a popular tool for French shoppers. With consumers in many markets anxious about the cost of everyday goods and exceedingly price-sensitive, shoppers are ever more apt to research the lowest-price options. In response, mySupermarket aims to “bring price transparency to the shopping experience and help you shop smart.” The online-shopping service launched in 2006 in the U.K., where it claims 2.9 million registered users, and is now expanding to the U.S.
In the U.S., the service lets shoppers choose among staples sold by eight major retailers (Amazon, Walmart, Target, Soap.com, Diapers.com, Drugstore.com, Walgreens and Costco), alerting users when they can save further by choosing a different size or alternative product. Shoppers check out via mySupermarket, which “optimize[s] your cart to get you free shipping,” according to a promotional video. According to TechCrunch, the company is also planning a mobile app that would notify shoppers about relevant promotions when they’re in stores.
While many brick-and-mortar retailers are fretting about showrooming, it’s a trend that generally hasn’t applied to supermarkets—but they’re still vulnerable in the face of new digital tools that give consumers more workarounds and comprehensive data. At the same time, however, marketers might find opportunities here: The company told TechCrunch that its app will enable brands to communicate with opted-in consumers—for instance, alerting them to price decreases on favorite items or sending a reminder to stock up on various staples.
Anyone who’s ever lived in New York knows just how grinding-down and numbing the subway commute can be. Missed trains and hurried crowds, combined with life’s other frustrations, make for plenty of negative energy during rush hour. Recognizing this, Tropicana offered its Twitter stream for people to vent their morning frustrations as part of its “Worst Morning Ever” campaign. The outdoor component features the tweets with the best (or worst) morning mishaps, displayed around the city’s subway stations. Says one, for example: “Turns out I did check the correct weather, for California.”
The campaign isn’t all snark and gloom. Some of the billboards instruct commuters on how to reverse the negativity, encouraging passersby to help beautify the transit system by smiling. And naturally, Tropicana is positioned as the good part of New York mornings in other posters. The campaign succeeds in addressing consumer stress and anxiety by helping commuters realize they’re not the only ones grumbling on the way to work, helping the weary find some strength in solidarity.
Childhood offers nearly limitless opportunities for anxiety and embarrassment (and anxiety over potential embarrassment). Parents get to relive those moments through their kids—or, turning the tables, serve as the cause of humiliation. Ragú’s “A Long Day of Childhood” campaign lightheartedly addresses the pitfalls of growing up and suggests the spaghetti sauce brand as a solution for parents looking to provide comfort. The campaign features a series of TV and radio spots that highlight common childhood “traumas,” from having Mom wipe your face clean with her spit and friends drawing on you at night during a sleepover to walking in on your parents during their “intimate” time. Each spot ends with a country-twanged song featuring the lyrics, “They need Ragú, ’cause growing up’s tough. Give them Ragú—they’ve been through enough.” The spots end with the line, “A long day of childhood calls for America’s favorite pasta sauce.”
Ragú also created two YouTube videos from user-submitted photos of their awkward youth—full of bad haircuts and outdated styles— and will later include online and mobile phone apps that let parents share their children’s troubles with multimedia and even personalize the song’s words. Although embarrassing at the time, these anxiety-riddled moments have an inherent humor that Ragú successfully taps into, at the same time reminding viewers of how much their favorite brands offered some solace all those years back.
Aiming to address a range of consumer anxieties about fast food—exactly how it’s made and with what ingredients, etc.—McDonald’s has been on a transparency kick in several markets. On our sister blog JWTIntelligence.com, we recently wrote about an Australian TV documentary that the brand sponsored, McDonald’s Gets Grilled, which showed six consumers touring various company operations (from farm to factory to retail), sometimes asking challenging questions. In the U.K., McDonald’s recently retooled its five-year-old transparency-focused site, MakeUpYourOwnMind.co.uk, into What Makes McDonald’s, because “there are still lots of myths out there about McDonald’s, and lots of things that people simply don’t know about us,” a U.K. marketing VP told Marketing magazine. The site includes articles and videos that take consumers behind the scenes of company operations.
In Canada, yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca invites consumers to ask whatever questions they have, promising to answer “even the tough ones.” Questions touch on a range of issues, such as pink slime, chemicals in Big Macs and conditions that chickens are raised in. Two weeks ago the brand generated buzz after posting a video response to a question about why the food looks different in advertising. The director of marketing for McDonald’s Canada takes viewers through the food-styling process, explaining why various tricks and tweaks are applied to the basic burger. Consumers responded to the brand’s “unwrapping the process” (one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2012): The video generated a few million YouTube views in a matter of days.
Competitive pressures are forcing manufacturers and retailers to take transparency to the max—as we noted in one of our 10 Trends for 2010, Maximum Disclosure—revealing ever more about everything from nutritional data to sourcing, as well as the people and processes behind the brand. The ranks of the curious (and anxious) consumer keep growing, though in many cases the simple fact of disclosure will matter more than the specific information revealed.
Lurpak has been setting the bar for food advertising in the U.K. for some time. The premium butter brand is a champion of real cooking, using extreme close-ups and unusual perspectives of hero ingredients together with charming voiceovers delivered in Rutger Hauer’s distinctive, sultry tones to build an inimitable advertising style. But while its “Saturday Breakfasts,” “Kitchen Odyssey” and “Bake Club” campaigns have left us salivating, these days the sight of a chunky dollop of butter sizzling in a saucepan may prove off-putting for those anxious about calories and cholesterol.
With health and wellness continuing to preoccupy consumers everywhere, Lurpak has introduced a Lightest variant to its portfolio, and celebrates the color and variety of healthy ingredients in the “Wonderful and Wise” launch campaign. Print and outdoor feature a rainbow of dozens of types of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and grains, and a well-executed interactive online version includes food facts, recipes and an ingredient of the week. Aiming to banish the sad, dull image of healthy food, the campaign sums it up in the TV ad with the line “Healthy doesn’t have to taste humdrum.”
This Lightest variant isn’t Lurpak’s first foray into reduced fat butter—they already have a Lighter version on the shelf. But where Lurpak Lighter offered a cynical commentary on the dieting world in the 2007 “Fads” commercial (“It’s not rocket science; just eat a little less fat. … Relax, Waist Watchers. Who’s for an extra helping of common sense?”), the brand now seems to acknowledge that healthy eating is a permanent part of consumer lifestyles, and it isn’t something to be anxious about.