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.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk around a social media-driven “narcissism epidemic” and the global selfies trend. In fact, a study out of the University of Michigan suggests that social media tends to appeal to people seeking to boost their egos by eliciting responses to their curated image. The anxiety that results from the desire to put forward an enviable image is leading to a phenomenon termed the Facebook or FaceTime facelift.
Social-media driven cosmetic procedures were first noted in the U.S. last year, and in March a poll by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery confirmed that “social media is leading consumers to have a more self-critical eye,” pointing to a 31 percent increase in requests for surgery as a result of online photo sharing. Now the phenomenon has been noted in India, with one report observing that more 20- and 30-somethings are signing up for minor procedures.
For consumers who want to refine the way they appear without resorting to medical help, various tools are popping up to help them achieve photo perfection. The iLipo app alters photos to simulate the effects of going under the knife (it’s intended to help users decide whether to pursue surgery), while advanced image-editing apps, like PicMonkey, help users whiten their teeth, slim their waists and brighten their eyes. And Chinese mobile brand Huawei is even integrating such capabilities into smartphone cameras, adding “instant facial beauty support” to remove wrinkles and blend skin tone.
Targeting Americans who aren’t currently gym-goers, the chain Planet Fitness aims to soothe the anxieties of everyday shlubs who feel out of their element at the gym. It promises a “Judgement Free Zone,” described as a “safe, energetic environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected.” And its “no lunks” policy forbids overly macho behaviors like grunting and weight-dropping, with offenders asked to leave. This year Planet Fitness introduced the line “No Gymtimidation” in its messaging, with commercials that mock fanatics and other intimidating types.
The most recent iteration of the campaign, “No Pintimidation,” was inspired by a study that found that 42 percent of American mothers are stressed out by images on Pinterest. “Who can live up to all this pinned perfection?” asks the campaign microsite, which offers to “de-pintimidate” any overly intimidating images. The site adorns images that users upload with an overlay of whimsical patterns, cats, flowers, etc. Given the primacy of images on the Web these days, it’s a smart way to keep building the brand’s down-to-earth, fun and informal persona.
“Nowadays every professional with a smart device can confirm that it is impossible to get away from work,” says a video describing Amstel’s “Safe” initiative in Bulgaria, bemoaning that stressed-out workers have forgotten the purpose of free time. People are afraid of missing out on things, constantly checking emails and notifications and sharing or checking in with their social networks. So Amstel is temporarily installing lockers in bars around Bulgaria: Patrons who stash away their phones receive a free Amstel beer as part of a promotion that aims to “liberate” free time for bar patrons, reminding them how to socialize without digital distractions.
The appeal of De-teching (one of our 10 Trends for 2011) seems to grow each year. Last year we spotlighted the “Bacardi Together” campaign that encouraged people to spend more time together in real life rather than on social media. In another category, Kit Kat launched Wi-Fi-free zones in Amsterdam to help people “have a break,” as the brand’s tagline goes in part. And among many other examples, last year McDonald’s Arabia named Sept. 28 as “A Day Offline,” encouraging people to spend more quality time with family. It seems that as mobile devices take over our lives, brands have myriad opportunities to help people step away from technology and better engage in the moment.
Who wants to think about having their organs removed after death? It’s an anxiety-provoking notion, even if many people believe that donating organs is a good idea in theory. A Cannes Grand Prix-winning campaign out of Brazil has helped to remove that anxiety by giving soccer fans a compelling reason to sign a donation card: the ability to become “immortal fans” of their favorite soccer club, keeping their passion alive.
Organ donor cards were distributed to fans of Sport Club Recife at the stadium, through a Facebook app or through the mail. The integrated campaign featured real patients on transplant waiting lists promising to be loyal fans, thus giving people a real connection and reason to donate. Having their hearts continue to beat for Sport Club Recife is a concept that hits close to home for many ardent fans. As one says in the case study video, “First God, second Sport Club Recife, third family, fourth work.”
By getting Sport Club Recife fans to feel they are helping their team by signing a donation card, the campaign succeeded in making people more at ease and even excited about becoming a donor. So much so that more than 51,000 organ donor cards have been distributed to date, and organ donations increased by 54 percent in one year.
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?”
A JWTIntelligence study featured in our latest trend report, “The State of Men,” explores several sources of anxiety for men today. One is physical appearance: Factors including the constant sharing of photos on social media and the hyper-competitiveness of job markets are helping to drive pressure on men to look their best. According to a survey we conducted in the U.S. and the U.K., more than three-quarters of men agree that “These days, there’s more pressure than in the past for men to dress well and be well-groomed” and that men face as much pressure as women to stay in shape/have a good body. Our survey, conducted from April 29-May 2 using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool, found that men are particularly sensitive about their midsection, whether it’s love handles, a beer belly or an insufficient six-pack. And there’s some evidence that such anxieties are starting early: Boys are becoming more concerned with body image at a younger age, according to a U.S. study published in Pediatrics.
Men are addressing these anxieties by turning to everything from cosmetic procedures to cosmetics. Aside from providing practical solutions, brands can speak to these anxieties by, at minimum, being sensitive to them. Men are seeing ever more highly sculpted male bodies, from Hollywood’s leading men to tongue-in-cheek advertising hunks like the Old Spice spokesmen and Kraft’s Zesty Guy. So marketers can dial down on the intimidation factor with more realistic models and positive messaging that avoids aggravating anxieties. For example, several underwear brands now perceive an “abs fatigue” among male shoppers, The New York Times reported in May. A designer with the 2(x)ist label said the company is shifting toward something “a little less steroid-y” in its images.
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.