Ebola. The name itself evokes various emotions for all of us—fear, frustration, anger, and perhaps most of all—anxiety.
For the last month, JWT’s AnxietyIndex has been navigating consumers’ sentiments around Ebola in an effort to help brands navigate consumer behavior in these times of heightened anxiety; tracking levels and intensity of consumer anxiety as well as the drivers of anxiety, both from a macro and micro perspective. Utilizing SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary research tool, we conducted an extensive quantitative study, sampling 500 adults 18-plus in the U.S.
What has culminated is a thought-provoking look at what consumers’ general anxieties are as of late, attitudes toward the Ebola disease and issues at hand, as well as brands’ overall role in prevention and the conversation itself.
While Americans largely remain anxious in 2014 about one thing or another, overall anxiety has declined over the past two years—especially since the high-anxiety days of the U.S. recession.
- The current Ebola outbreak has raised the level of anxiety about global pandemic diseases significantly.
- While Americans are very anxious about the possibility of a widespread Ebola outbreak—both in the U.S. and around the world—very few adults believe they are likely to actually contract the disease. As a result, relatively few are taking active precautions.
- Certain brands can credibly communicate about Ebola: Consumers indicate they would welcome messages from travel and health care brands, as their messages would reassure Americans of their safety. Ninety-two percent of respondents admire companies that are taking action to help stop the spread of Ebola; however, not all brands have consumers’ permission to inject themselves into the conversation.
- In fact, brands that do not have what consumers see as a direct role in minimizing the crisis—like sanitizer brands and OTC cold/flu medications—run the risk of appearing as though they are trying to exploit the situation.
To download the full report, click here.
Inevitably, many of us have already fallen short of our New Year’s resolutions, or will soon enough—it’s the annual cycle of optimism and hope, followed by anxiety about failing to live up to our aspirations. Only 8 percent of Americans achieve goals set out in their resolutions, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, a data point cited in a release for Balance Bar’s “anti-resolutions pledge” (a sweepstakes for a fitness-resort vacation). In keeping with the brand’s theme of balance, the marketer asks consumers to pledge to take small steps each month to make realistic lifestyle changes rather than create overly ambitious resolutions at the start of the year.
As part of the campaign, Balance is working with “lifestyle expert” Laurel House, aka The QuickieChick, who created 12 months’ worth of “realistic and achievable” tips, available at Balance.com. “For a snack, do you choose a bag of chips or do you choose a nutritionally sound Balance Bar?” asks Balance’s CMO in the release. “Not a life-changing decision, but a small one that can have benefits today and down the road.” The message—that Balance provides an easy alternative to junk food—makes sense at a time when consumers are increasingly wary of processed foods of all stripes.
Photo Credit: Balance
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.