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.
There has been a noticeable shift in how South Africans have been addressing the country’s alarmingly high incidence of rape. It seems to have been sparked by the brutal murder in early February of a 17-year-old who was gang raped. There was a strong reaction on Twitter, and in mid-February the public reacted with a national #BlackFriday to create awareness of #StopRape. On the same day, Lead SA—an initiative from Primedia Broadcasting that encourages citizens to “stand up and lead South Africa”—partnered with four radio stations, which emitted a beep every four minutes to remind listeners of the rape crisis. DJs at the stations also used the day to talk about rape (coincidently, the conversations were heavily amplified due to the Oscar Pistorius shooting two days before).
Now, many are asking what this really achieved. Did it simply give participants the perception of making a difference, or did it actually make a difference? As columnist Chris Moerdyk put it: “I get the feeling that we are resorting to a habit that we as a nation have developed recently and that is to complain to each other about something, hear government continually ‘addressing issues,’ holding incessant talkshops, making lots of speeches, but not actually rolling their sleeves up and getting something done.” Ultimately, he says, “We all get used to it and live with it.”
Is there a role for brands to play in helping to drive change? While this is a difficult topic to wade into, marketers like Gillette in India have found ways to respond to violence against women by encouraging men to change their mindset.
Certain purchases, such as condoms, will be met with a degree of embarrassment and social anxiety, especially in sexually conservative countries. In Dubai, where premarital sex is actually illegal, Durex recently released the SOS Condoms app as a whimsical way to deliver the product with discretion. The idea is that users simply select their location and Durex product of their choice, and within an hour, a courier disguised as a pizza delivery guy, cop or tourist arrives to slip the customer the condoms. The video below illustrates how the service works, at least in theory (a Dubai reporter received his order from a man sans disguise, carrying the condoms in a plain bag). While Durex has reportedly halted the Dubai initiative, the company is asking consumers to vote via a microsite on where else to launch the service.
Meanwhile, in a Valentine’s Day promotion, Trojan plans to deploy so-called Safe Ride taxis in Manhattan for two days this week in an effort to counter myths associated with condom use, according to a press release. Participants will get a free ride in exchange for answering trivia questions, part of an educational campaign that includes the website FactsAboutCondoms.com.
The Durex app shows a novel way for brands to shift from simply selling a product to helping customers procure it in real time. The idea of helping consumers keep what happens behind closed doors a private matter is a smart one, though it remains to be seen if the initiative can be implemented on a wider scale or is more about PR buzz. In Trojan’s case, providing a real-life or digital forum for correcting misconceptions is always a good strategy for brands whose misinformed consumers may be too anxious, nervous or embarrassed to ask questions related to the product.
With stress spiking and happiness a hot topic, as cited in our 10 Trends for 2013, we’ll see more marketers emphasizing themes of stress relief as a way to boost happiness. In 2011, we highlighted Hanes’ message that consumers could de-stress by de-cluttering their underwear drawers. Now Ikea is tapping into this idea in a U.K. and Ireland campaign for its storage and organizational systems: A commercial beautifully creates the anxiety-provoking atmosphere of an uber-cluttered home, with piles and piles of stuff keeping a young couple apart—until their place is transformed into an organized ideal. The tagline: “Make Room for Your Life.”
Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) is currently promoting a similar theme in her latest book, Happier at Home, which outlines a yearlong guide to improving one’s home and, as a result, one’s quality of life. While the Ikea scenario is an exaggerated one, most of us can easily imagine feeling happier if only the mess at home could be sorted out.
With U.S. flu levels at epidemic proportions this season, many of the bedridden have been indulging in the natural human tendency to find someone to blame for their misfortune. In response, minimalist drug company Help Remedies has created a Facebook app to help flu sufferers pinpoint which of their inconsiderate friends is the culprit.
“Help, I Have the Flu” digs through the user’s social network, looking for keywords such as “sneezing,” “coughing,” “vomiting” and “flu” in status updates, as well as check-ins at drugstores. The app even takes late-night updates into consideration, given that sleep deprivation increases the risk of getting sick. The app then enables users to send a message to their disease-spreading friend and even send some Help medicine. Those who’ve escaped the flu so far can use the app to “find out who among your friends is most likely to give you the flu, and then proceed to avoid them.”
By helping consumers feel empowered while they’re physically vulnerable, this lighthearted app successfully shows that the brand can address the customer’s physical and emotional well-being.
Midwinter, after the holidays are over, is inevitably a dreary time. Two years ago we wrote about a project called Smile for London that sought to combat the “January blues” for travelers in the city’s Tube system with “positive, thought-provoking visual stimulation.” Now, The Sun newspaper in the U.K. has launched “The Big Smile Giveaway,” looking to get people to “smile in the face of winter blues.” “January sucks,” declares a girl missing her two front teeth in a quirky ad that launched last week. But she urges that we “smile through the pain, the snotty noses and the rain” and confidently suggests we “kick January where there ain’t no sun.”
The campaign includes “smile squads” that will hit towns across the country to “purvey random acts of kindness, from paying road toll charges to providing cups of tea,” according to The Guardian. The effort is focused around a range of promotions, including bargain holidays and various family-themed offers. It’s the perfect time of year to position the brand as a source of cheer and positivity, focusing on “the things that make life fun,” as the toothless singer proclaims.
Adopting extreme diets in the name of health and wellness has become common practice. But whether or not they’re effective, sticking to them inevitably bumps up anxiety and stress (scientists have even drawn parallels between the effects of suddenly cutting out high-calorie foods to the withdrawal symptoms felt by detoxing drug addicts). So some food brands are assuring consumers they can “Fuck the diet,” as Unilever’s Du Darfst said in a controversial tagline earlier this year, by eating in a more sane way.
In a recent campaign for Healthy Choice, converts to the brand comically testify that the frozen meals helped save them from years of “desperate” diets that had them living abnormally deprived lives. A former “No-Carb Queen” confesses, “For years I thought I hated children’s laughter. I had no idea I was just hungry.” A man who had fallen into the “Juice Fast” explains that Healthy Choice entrées helped him “turn his life around” and realize he loves solid as well as liquid food. The spots conclude, “Don’t diet. Live healthy.” Similarly, Du Darfst, a line of convenience foods, aimed to acknowledge the frustrations tied to following various diet rules (e.g., “No fat, no carbohydrates and no food after 5:00,” as the brand’s site joked). The campaign aimed to help diet-conscious consumers “reawaken (their) passion for food.”
Healthy Choice and Du Darfst address consumers’ anxiety about making smart food choices by promoting balance rather than an “all or nothing” approach. Increasingly balance is becoming the prevailing ethos when it comes to healthy living, with the appeal of extremes—from food to energy drinks to medications—starting to fade.
As we recently discussed on our sister site, JWTIntelligence.com, food safety remains a top concern for Chinese consumers thanks to the proliferation of toxic additives, fake foods and other serious lapses across the nation. The result is that many consumers choose international labels over domestic brands as a means of ensuring quality and safety. Mindful of this, McDonald’s in China has focused on the trustworthiness of its ingredients—and in turn is viewed as a healthy option.
Recent TV ads featured “’100% fresh beef’ on the chopping block, farmers picking tomatoes from the vine and chickens eating high-quality feed,” a company spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. Last year, an ad promoting McDonald’s chicken products showed a child playing with baby chicks as a voiceover talked about “the importance of following the rules of nature,” according to an Ad Age column. The aim is to communicate a hygienic, natural and healthy lifestyle. Yes, healthy—while many Chinese consumers are aware that McDonald’s offerings are high in fat, “When it’s a choice between a little extra fat in your shake or a little extra melamine, healthy eating can take on a whole new meaning,” as one reporter observes.
Western and Chinese brands alike will need to reassure Chinese consumers—who have grown weary of being dragged around the block when it comes to food safety issues—by communicating quality as well as transparency.
Consumer anxieties are building around any chemicals whose safety has been called into question, whether found in food, household cleaners or personal care products. This has led to shoppers looking for more transparency from brands and passing over some products that contain suspect components, from phthalates to parabens. Now, in a first for a major personal care brand in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson has committed to cutting usage of several potentially harmful chemicals and reformulating its product range by 2015. Neutrogena, Aveeno, RoC and Clean & Clear are among the company’s personal care brands, along with its Johnson’s baby line (J&J already pledged to cut chemicals from baby products by 2013).
“We want people to have complete peace of mind when they use our products,” the VP of product stewardship and toxicology for J&J’s consumer health brands told the AP. As part of the initiative, Johnson & Johnson launched a website, Our Safety & Care Commitment, that details the company’s “five-level safety assurance process” and its policy on ingredients, with information on specific chemicals of consumer concern. J&J emphasizes that the company is keeping up to date with not only new regulations and scientific developments but also “consumer views and concerns.” While anxieties around ingredients sometimes exceed any proven dangers, with “natural” products proliferating, companies will need to address their customers’ fears.
Breast cancer is one of the most common causes of death for Mexican women, but the subject of breast self-examination is an uncomfortable one in Mexico, which means many women never find out how to do it. In June, Procter & Gamble’s Olay won a bronze Lion in the media category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for an effort that focused on addressing women’s endless worries around breast cancer. The brand gave away T-shirts on the streets that featured a QR code, which launched an augmented reality tutorial on self-exams via a computer’s webcam—women could go through it in private without having to ask anyone for guidance. There was also a site where they could share their thoughts with other women.
According to the Lions entry, in two months more than 200,000 women performed self-exams using the code. The effort helped to position Olay as a brand that cares about the well-being of Mexican women while giving these women a tool to address their feelings of uncertainty about whether they might have breast cancer. The tutorial helps provide a sense of self-control, and the online conversations are a step toward taking the stress and stigma out of an uncomfortable/anxiety-provoking topic.
We’ve written about Heineken promoting responsible drinking by tapping into consumers’ fear of missing out, or FOMO. In Russia, Martini brand vodka, partnering with a taxi company, is promoting responsible behavior around drinking by aiming to ease concerns about getting home safely. The company installed “TakeMeHome” machines in nightclubs and bars: When a customer buys a cocktail with Martini, it includes a straw that connects to a Breathalyzer. If the drinker’s blood alcohol content is too high to drive safely, he or she receives 30% off taxi services. The patron enters a phone number and is then contacted by the service. The machine also dishes out pithy statements about the person’s results—for example, a blood alcohol level of 1 to 1.5 reads, “At the moment you are probably calling someone you never call or telling everyone how awesome they are.”
It’s a tricky concept, since drinkers are incentivized to keep imbibing in order to get the taxi discount. But merrymakers often lose track of how much they consume when they’re out having a good time, and the TakeMeHome machine does give customers a straightforward answer to the all-too-common question, “Am I too drunk to drive?”