We’re living in a Super Stress Era (one of JWT’s 10 Trends for 2013), and news headlines filled with what seems like more doom and gloom than normal are only driving more stress and anxiety among consumers. Brands can help lift spirits by offering consumers some unexpected moments of cheer. Earlier this summer, TD Bank scored a viral hit after it created a few special ATMs that dispensed gifts to loyal patrons in Canada, part of its “TD Thanks You” campaign; these customers got anything from extra cash to a ticket to visit a faraway daughter with cancer. The smile-inducing video has garnered 10 million-plus views.
To illustrate its tagline “Awakens a smile in you,” Brazilian bread brand Nutrella also jumped on the joy bandwagon with its “Friendly Mirror”: a mirror placed around public places that gave random compliments to people walking by. (An idea similar to Avon’s 2011 “Miraculous Mirror” campaign in Slovakia.) Meanwhile, in early August, Honda promoted its annual summer clearance event with a “Summer Cheerance” campaign, which included a “Cheerance” playlist in tandem with Pandora, piñatas for passersby to swing at, a “Stand Here for Cheer” box (which released surprises like saxophone serenades and a bouquet-toting bear) and silly fun in partnership YouTube celebrity Andrew Hales.
For consumers weighed down by anxieties, marketers have the opportunity to be a bright spot, building a brand narrative based in joy.
Last month we wrote about an ad for Unilever’s sustainability initiative: Couples expecting a child watch a video that shows images of war and poverty before moving on to describe innovations demonstrating that, in fact, “there has never been a better time to create a brighter future for everyone on the planet and for those yet to come.” In a similar but more pop culture-y vein, a Millennial-focused commercial for the Honda Civic starts off by showing some of the things young people are anxious about today—news about Wall Street crises and home foreclosures, environmental issues like melting glaciers—before tapping into the generation’s naturally optimistic mindset and focusing on both silly and serious reasons to feel positive.
“Today is pretty bad,” laments the lead singer of Vintage Trouble, the bluesy band seen in the spot, which runs 30 seconds on TV and for a full 2:38 online. But it’s really not so bad, counter a series of perky Millennials—science, selfies, puppies, even Nyan Cat are all reasons for optimism. (The spot gets specific about new innovations, naming “meta-materials, artificial blood, space mining, genetic therapy, biotech, 3D printers.”) The band’s lyrics soon become more upbeat too: “For the most part, give or take, today is actually … pretty great.”
Millennials, observes Atlantic correspondent James Fallows, are “tired of hearing that everything is terrible.” By contrast, this approach represents a “bolder ‘glass is way more than half full’ pitch than I recall seeing in any other political or commercial campaign,” he writes, while avoiding a “boosterish/denialist” tone. While the multitude of pop culture references feels like overkill in the longer version, the campaign smartly attempts to connect with the target audience by reflecting their hope-fueled mindset.