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.
In the wake of the recession, visions of retirement are no longer what they once were. Rather than dreaming of sailboats and vacation homes, Americans are simply dreaming of retiring at all. Given that fewer than a quarter of those with a retirement account say they feel financially secure and look forward to retirement, according to Mintel, it’s clear that there’s great uncertainty and insecurity around the issue of retirement. While many financial services companies have attempted to reassure insecure consumers by highlighting their strength and stability, a new campaign from Prudential goes a different route.
The “Bring Your Challenges” campaign confronts head-on the stark realities faced by most Americans when it comes to retirement and rallies consumers to bring Prudential these challenges rather than shying away from them. The print executions very frankly acknowledge the changing realities and needs of today’s retirees and illustrate how Prudential is there to help navigate this new landscape. Underscoring the reality theme, the “Day One” TV spots feature real-life Americans on their first day of retirement, and the “Day One” microsite lets consumers communicate with each other about retiring.
Prudential is attempting not only to redefine how consumers view retirement (as a start, rather than an end), but how they speak about it. The company also directly addresses the new normal of today’s economy, sending the message that it’s there to help apprehensive consumers adjust.
In August, we wrote about Upward Spiral, the job-creation organization from Starbucks’ Howard Schultz. Now, Starbucks is enlisting its customers in an employment-focused initiative called Create Jobs for USA , a partnership with the community-lending nonprofit Opportunity Finance Network. Starting next month, Starbucks patrons will be able to donate to Create Jobs for USA in many of the stores and online, with a donation of $5 or more earning a red, white and blue wristband with a tag reading “Indivisible.” (Starbucks itself will kick in $5 million and also announced two profit-sharing programs, with a store in Harlem and one in L.A. giving at least $100,000 in the first year to a community group in each neighborhood.)
“Americans helping Americans create jobs” is the tagline for the initiative, which gives the “haves” (those who can afford the indulgence of a Frappuccino) an easy way to help the have-nots. “We want to match up every person who has $5 to share with every person who can’t spare $5,” said the CEO of Opportunity Finance Network. Schultz is also emphasizing that “We’re not going to wait for Washington” (as he told Businessweek), and there’s clearly plenty of mileage in the idea that citizens and brands alike need to take responsibility for driving change.
While Occupy Wall Street is providing an outlet for grassroots anger, that movement as yet has no clear objectives other than simple expression. This initiative presents one small way for people to make a tangible difference.
With America’s unemployment rate at 9 percent and no great cause for optimism about the country’s job situation, Hallmark is now selling layoff-themed greeting cards. The messages range from inspirational (“Losing your job does not define you. What you do about it does”) to humorous (“One day, you’ll look back on all this with the wisdom that distance bestows,” reads the front of one card, while the inside adds, “and you’ll say: Wow, that sucked”).
They are a response to consumer requests, Hallmark creative director Derek McCracken told NPR, saying that the cards offering more moral support with “a little humorous twist” are doing well. Some have turned up the snark in response to news of the cards, with comments along the lines of “The last thing people who lost their jobs need are cardboard reminders of their misfortune,” from The Consumerist.
When asked whether the cards might be exploiting a bad situation, McCracken noted, “People in times of need will always need to connect” and that the greeting card offers a “bridge” for communication in difficult times. In other words, the cards likely do more for the anxiety of the tongue-tied but well-meaning consumer buying the card than for the layoff victim, and in that they serve their purpose well.
Everything costs a fortune in Australia. Seriously—electricity and petrol have risen 70 percent in the last five years, and a train ride from Sydney’s airport to the city takes more than an hour to earn on Australia’s minimum wage. Any Australian can tell you prices for things that used to be bastions of unpretentious affordability—like the meat pie, the thong (the kind that goes on your foot) or a train ticket—but are now just another thing that empties your pocket.
A lighthearted new commercial from the underwear brand Rio gives Australians permission to be cheap when it comes to their underthings, making it look silly to splurge on items that have become unnecessarily upscale. “They’re not an investment—you don’t pass them down to your kids!” the voiceover reminds viewers, concluding with the line “Let’s put some reality back into underwear.” Practicality rules in today’s New Normal climate, and brands with a value offer have plenty of opportunity to position themselves as a modern refuge of affordability.