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.
As we have noted, with the move of 3D printing into the mainstream, companies have been thinking about ways to leverage the new technology to redefine consumer experiences. Belgian insurance company DVV has reimagined the problem of losing one’s keys with Keysave. The upcoming service lets customers make a 3D scan of their keys, which is virtually stored in a secure database. Then, if they find themselves digging through purses or kicking through sand with their keys nowhere in sight, they can download the 3D file and bring it to a 3D print shop (or anyone with a 3D printer) to get new copies.
Assuming that 3D printing becomes a widely available service, the program is an intuitive adaptation of the technology that eases an everyday anxiety—as long as customers can be assured their key scans are ultra-secure. Meanwhile, a somewhat simpler solution is now available via a free app from the startup KeyMe that enables people to scan keys using a smartphone. Once they’re locked out, users pay for access to the scan, and the company says any locksmith can re-create the key using instructions displayed on the phone. A handy benefit is that users can also digitally share keys with friends or family.
Perhaps most useful, Nokia will soon start selling proximity sensors that use Bluetooth and NFC to communicate with the company’s Lumia phones. Dubbed Treasure Tags, they can be attached to keys or anything else that people routinely lose track of, even cars.
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.
U.K. mobile operator O2 has launched a fun new campaign that reminds us that although we’ve all become bored and jaded, “the modern world is astonishing” and “we can do the most incredible things.” (An echo of Louis C.K.’s “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”) The Telefónica brand urges consumers to “be open to amazing new technology and what it can do”—by being more like a dog than a cat.
The “Be More Dog” campaign likens people to cats (aloof, unimpressed) and advises us to be “be a bit more dog” because “to them, life is amazing.” The message is that we’ve become so cynical that we’ve lost all sense of wonder at the joys of modern technology. The commercial, which keeps the focus off O2 itself, extols the canine’s approach to life while showing the type of delightful pet shots that will get distracted viewers to stop and watch. It also refers viewers to bemoredog.com, where they can play a “grab the Frisbee” game and link to more information about O2’s offerings.
Brands are more likely to connect with today’s anxious consumers by emphasizing the core value of hope, inspiring optimism rather than stoking fears, as we’ve long noted. O2 has found a way to tie its brand to a life-affirming message that most viewers can connect with, illustrated with the most viral of digital themes.
Movistar, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in Argentina, is lowering the cost of unlimited service if its consumer community comes together and gives the brand a certain amount of Facebook “likes,” clicked votes or SMS messages. The idea behind the campaign is that when people come together, each one is able to get more. A commercial tells viewers that after “liking” many useless things, finally there’s a “like” that gives real benefit. “Life is more if you share,” says the ad. The brand is also promoting the concept by asking consumers to vote for which of several bands will perform a free concert.
With Argentineans deeply concerned about the rising cost of living, this is an interesting approach to price sensitivity in the context of inflation. Plus, a mobile provider promoting the idea of community is smart at a time when people are becoming more aware of how electronic devices isolate us from others and affect the way we interact.
With recent crimes against women in India echoing loudly around the nation and the globe, the everyday anxieties of Indian women are surfacing like never before. Brands across categories are taking up the cause in different ways. We’ve posted about Gillette, which is calling for men to act as “Soldiers for Women,” Vodafone’s all-women stores and a Times of India initiative. Add two more to the list: Tata Tea and Nokia.
Tata Tea takes the stance of not just putting women on par with men but ahead. In a spot for the brand, popular Bollywood icon Shahrukh Khan walks the walk by pledging to feature female co-stars ahead of his name in the title credits. Khan is seen conducting an interview with a young journalist, who asks for his opinion on women’s equality. Khan says women shouldn’t be equal to men—rather, they should be ahead in every field, mentioning education, medicine, politics, engineering and media. The journalist challenges his response, noting that male film stars are always billed before female counterparts. Khan calls for a retake of the shot and announces that from now on, he’ll get second billing to his female stars. A voiceover says, “For a big change, everyone must make a small start,” and Khan concludes, “We have more to do. Ahead.”
Meanwhile, Nokia Asha is smartly bringing to life its Nokia Nearby app, showing young women leading a harassing goon to the nearest police station with the help of the app. In a TV commercial, two young women are walking down the street when a man in a car begins catcalling and following them as they walk toward a Chinese restaurant. The clever women change course and instead head to the nearest police station. Preoccupied with trying to get their attention, the man drives into the trap, and a policeman interrogates him.
While brands like these are beginning to tap in to the Indian woman’s concerns about equality and safety, time will tell how far and deep they’re willing to travel. Brands will need to go beyond just taking a stance or voicing an opinion to actually finding relevant ways of tackling these societal issues if they are to truly capture trust and admiration.
The percentage of women in India’s workforce has fallen so sharply that it has skewed the global numbers, prompting an International Labour Organization investigation. ILO’s new report expresses concern over the fall in labor force participation for women from more than 37 percent in 2004-2005 to 29 percent in 2009-2010. India ranks 11th from the bottom out of 131 countries, behind even Bangladesh and Pakistan. The recent brutal rape in Delhi, that made international headline, has only fueled the fear around women’s security. In light of this, there are many corporations that are doing their bit to tackle issues of safety and empowerment for women. Telecom companies in particular are going out of their way to make women feel safe.
Vodafone India operates Angel Stores, which are managed and run by women only; last month Vodafone opened the 16th such store in the country. The idea is to ensure equal opportunities for women while providing a safe and productive work environment, and to make women customers feel more comfortable as well. Meanwhile, MTS India has launched a “Women MPowered Plan,” which permits women to make calls despite a negative balance and offers special rates as well as safety tips. The company also provides free self-defense classes and gives away pepper spray to women buying a new prepaid connection. Bharti Airtel is providing specialized products for women, such as an emergency alert service and a call manager to block stalkers.
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.
During disasters and the prolonged relief efforts that follow, access to information and the ability to connect with loved ones is crucial to alleviating anxiety—which we noted back in 2010, following the Chilean earthquake, and last year, after Hurricane Irene. Now, in the wake of Sandy, one of the largest hurricanes to hit the United States, companies large and small are stepping in to help with at least one major issue for victims—lack of power.
Duracell unleashed a “Power Forward Community Center” in New York City’s Battery Park, enabling people to charge devices and also get online at computer terminals. And the company’s “Rapid Responder” four-by-four truck, which is suited up with power outlets, is roaming the streets of New York and Hoboken, N.J. People can also get free Duracell batteries to keep their radios and flashlights going.
Similarly, Verizon sent out mobile charging stations to several affected areas in New Jersey, West Virginia and Ohio. Yesterday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said AT&T will provide charging spots at the food and water stations the city is setting up. And, in areas where they are operational, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile retail outlets are allowing visitors to charge their devices in-store. Some local businesses also lent a hand where they could: In New York City’s East Village, for example, one restaurant, Percy’s Tavern, posted a sign reading “Friends and neighbors, please make use of our generators for phone charging to contact friends & family to let them know how you are.”
During times of distress, relatively low-cost gestures like these can go a long way in restoring a sense of normalcy for people affected while building good will toward the brand.
This week we posted on our sister site, JWTIntelligence.com, about Rent the Runway showcasing user photos so customers can see how the designer dresses look on similarly sized, everyday women. New York restaurant Comodo is taking this idea into the dining realm, encouraging customers to share photos of their meals on Instagram using the hashtag #ComodoMenu. This results in a visual menu showing what all the Latin American-inspired dishes look like. The restaurant’s menu includes the hashtag, so patrons can readily find the “Instagram menu.”
By tapping into consumers’ love of photographing and sharing their meals over social media, Comodo simultaneously spreads word-of-mouth and helps to reduce any anxiety among current diners about ordering badly (a more common worry as diners get increasingly budget-conscious). Seeing the pictures, and any comments, can help patrons avoid remorse over ordering a disappointing dish and feel more confident about what to get. The Instagram menu also makes ordering more fun and turns the experience into a collaborative one, giving customers a solution to their concerns and also encouraging them to be a part of that solution.
Texting while driving is a fast-growing concern across the globe. Parents are worried about their teenage drivers texting, but seasoned drivers are also bringing a new level of risk to the streets. As a result, we’re seeing more safety messages targeting drivers, such as efforts we’ve spotlighted from Subaru and Oprah. While this type of work tends to take an earnest tone, that’s not the only route to go, as two recent PSAs demonstrate.
A recent message from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration promoting “Stop the Texts” day is lighthearted, showing text bubbles popping up during inopportune and inappropriate moments. The visual device does a nice job of illustrating how inappropriate texting while driving is without taking viewers into a shock-centric, fear-based place. The tone of an anti-texting message from Belgium is more blatantly humorous, promoting responsibility among young drivers by actually getting them to text via a Candid Camera-type setup. During a driving test, the administrator tells drivers they will need to show an ability to text as they drive, and we see them struggling to do so safely (thankfully, away from regular traffic).
While serious issues often call for serious messaging, humor often does a better job with the heavy lifting when targeting a younger, less receptive audience.