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.
“Edible escapism” is how Brits are getting themselves through the slow economic recovery, according to JWT London’s latest Austerity Index. In a survey for the fifth Austerity Index report, 69 percent of British respondents acknowledged splurging on treats in the last three months, with 41 percent of these indulgences in the food or drink category. Treating, it seems, is eating. The report identifies foodie treats being used not only as a coping mechanism for therapeutic purposes but also as a social lifeline, a way to share experiences.
2014 marks the fourth year of austerity measures in the U.K.—strict coping behaviors are now ingrained, living standards have declined, and weariness about austerity remains unchanged. But our Austerity Index data reveals pockets of positive uplift, and the U.K.’s splurging habits suggest that these little mood-boosters are fueling optimism, even when household finances are barely surfacing.
“The way to Britain’s heart is surely through its stomach,” says Marie Stafford, Planning Foresight Director at JWT London. “It is a sign of the power of the experience economy, our need for social contact and a marker of how far Britain has come in its relationship with all things epicurean that food and drink should become our chosen indulgence.” However, this throws the country’s polarization into sharp focus: “It seems even more unfair that many households struggle to purchase nutritious food,” says Stafford.
The full report is available to download at austerityindex.com, along with reports from previous quarters.
In Saudi culture, charity is a duty. It’s part of everyone’s life, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. And with the rising cost of living in the kingdom, more citizens are aware of the need to help one another. But not often do we find them approaching the subject with an activation worthy of global brands.
Recently, a Saudi citizen in the city of Hail placed a refrigerator in front of his house and encouraged residents of the area to donate leftover food to help the needy, sparing them the shame of asking for food. A Saudi cleric, Sheikh Mohammed al-Arefe, confirmed this in a tweet, saying: “I’ve always said the people of Hail are generous. A man puts a refrigerator in front of his house for leftover food; an indirect act of charity for the needy. Oh how I love you Hail!”
The tweet received an overwhelming response from al-Arefe’s followers, who re-tweeted it more than 7,000 times. More people are now encouraging this idea with the month of Ramadan approaching.
These days people are anxious about what goes into their food, looking for items that are “natural” and “free” of just about anything. And with consumers more cognizant of ingredients in their own food, they’re paying more attention to their pets’ meals. In response, marketers are offering products that cater to the growing interest in pet nutrition. Pet food giant Iams offers a line of all-natural dog food, and Purina has beyOnd, made with natural ingredients.
More dog owners are also sharing their own meals. As ABC News reports, Gayle Pruitt, a nutritionist and chef, recently wrote a cookbook about preparing joint meals for humans and pets. Dog-Gone Good Cuisine: More Healthy, Fast and Easy Recipes for You and Your Pooch promises time- and money-saving recipes to feed your dog the same dinner you make for yourself.
Taking a cue from the trend of treating Fido’s nutrition and cuisine like your own, some pet food companies are going beyond just “all natural.” Innova has a new line of pet food that promises “real, wholesome ingredients from places we know, grown and raised with care.” Recipes incorporate farm-raised turkey, cold-water salmon and ranch-raised bison. There are even gluten- and dairy-free options, from Heights Farm Premium Pet Foods in the U.K. And a small pet bakery, Boston Baked Bonz, offers organic and animal-free treats, like wheat-free cranberry clove muffins and quinoa cookies.
Wonder when we’ll see doggy kale chips go mainstream? Restaurants for both you and your pup? With consumers spending more and more to ensure their pets’ well-being—Americans spent a record $55.7 billion on their pets in 2013—that might be sooner than you think.
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.
Chipotle’s new animated short film and mobile game, designed to “change the way the world thinks about its fast food,” follows on from 2011’s “Back to the Start.” That film, which was later edited into a TV commercial, depicts a family pig farm that turns into an “industrial animal factory” before the farmer regrets the move and reverts to his older ways. The latest, featuring Fiona Apple’s “hypnotic” cover of “Pure Imagination” from the original Willy Wonka, shows a young scarecrow caught up in the dark, menacing world of Big Food production. Authoritarian crows inject poultry with hormones and package meat labeled “100% beef-ish!” In both the movie and the game, the scarecrow must break out of the assembly line and forge his own path, growing food naturally to “cultivate a better world.”
As we noted in our 10 Trends for 2012 report, consumers are becoming more concerned about sustainability, a trend that’s on the rise. They’ve also become anxious about the processes behind food production (even spurring McDonald’s in Australia, for instance, to sponsor a TV film showing a group of Australians touring its operations, from farm to factory to retail). Chipotle harnesses these concerns and uses them to direct the public to a friendlier alternative: “The more you know about where your food comes from and what it takes to produce it, the more likely you are to take care in seeking out something that’s raised responsibly,” says Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s CMO, in a behind-the-scenes video.
While many are praising the film’s message, others have called it fear marketing that takes advantage of urban consumers’ ideological anxieties. While the film does stoke anxieties, it’s likely targeted at consumers already harboring concerns about their food and looking for alternatives.
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.
Kerry LowLow, an Irish company that markets low-fat cheese spreads, recently got buzz with a commercial that pokes fun at the clichéd women we often see in diet commercials. The spot cleverly mocks typical low-fat-food commercials and three stereotypical women they often feature. “Muffin Gal is stressed with weight and completely obsessed with cake,” explains the soundtrack, while “Smug Gal nibbles crackers all day so she fits in her jeans OK” (cue shot of thin woman happily bouncing back on her bed, arms spread out). Ditzy Gal prances around in her underwear eating yogurt. “Sick of clichés? So are we,” reads onscreen copy at the end.
The brand’s positioning is based around encouraging a healthy relationship between women and food. Says a mission statement on the LowLow website: “We say ‘enough’ to feeling bad about food. We believe that everyone should taste, savour, share and, above all, enjoy great food. … LowLow makes food to feel good about (and our plan is to make our ads that way, too).” Rather than play into consumers’ anxieties about food—the video parodies the ideas that women should only eat small portions and resist all cravings—brands can take a more positive approach. Last year, for instance, we wrote about a Kellogg’s campaign in the U.K. that asked women, “What will you gain when you lose?”
As the cost of living in the U.K. rises and Brits become increasingly anxious about covering the cost of their weekly shop, supermarkets must work harder to keep customers loyal. According to recent research, the cost of living in the U.K. is 11 percent higher than the international average and an incredible 18 percent higher than it is in the United States. In addition, since the horsemeat scandal broke, U.K. advertisers can no longer rely solely on a “cheapest price” message. The public still wants their food to be as inexpensive as possible, but the scandal made it clear that there’s often a price to be paid when offerings appear too cheap to be true.
Low-cost supermarket Asda has previously focused on price against their competitors. In a marked departure from its usual method of communicating, the retailer is now engaging the consumer with the reality of juggling a busy household and bills in an amusing, charming and also honest way, before the lowest-price message comes along in all its glory. Asda’s new price lock initiative, which freezes the costs of essentials for a 12-week period, seems a clever tactic to prevent regular and potentially new consumers from shopping around week on week.
From the buzz of the alarm clock to the frantic rush to get ready, early morning can often be the most anxiety-producing time of day. Recently we wrote about Tropicana’s “Worst Morning Ever” campaign, which empathized with harried commuters. Now a spot from McDonald’s in Austria uses whimsical humor to show a McDonald’s breakfast as a respite from a typically stressful morning.
With the line “Not everything is as easy as a McDonald’s breakfast,” the “Easy Morning” commercial puts a slightly surreal spin on a man’s morning, from alarm clocks buzzing around his head to a horde of impatient shoes awaiting him to a claustrophobic sidewalk crowd. Relief comes at McDonald’s, where the protagonist relaxes with a very appealing looking “Viennese breakfast” and cappuccino. Though most of us don’t actually have time for a leisurely breakfast stop, the commercial makes us aspire to do so.
The horse meat scandal is perhaps the greatest food transparency issue in recent years. It continues to grow, and here in the U.K., the majority of big retailers have been affected in one way or another. The country’s largest retailer, Tesco, has felt the effects the hardest, with a number of their value products implicated. This resulted in an apology ad that guaranteed a full refund in national press.
By contrast, the scandal has played into the hands of Morrisons, which can claim “100% British meat” and has around 1,700 butchers across 500 in-store butcher counters in the U.K. They capitalized on the scandal with ads stating, “100% British. 100% of the time.” Morrisons has said they’ve had an unprecedented number of customers approaching them for advice and to buy fresh burgers, among other meats. The results have been significant: fresh meat counter sales have risen 18 percent, sales of fresh beef burgers are up 50 percent, and sales of beef mince are up 21 percent.
As we noted last year during the “pink slime” scandal in the U.S., as consumers grow increasingly anxious about food quality, brands that can clearly illustrate safety and purity will continue to gain ground over those with suspect ingredients.