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.
During World War II, propaganda posters represented America’s unity: It was “us vs. them” during a difficult time. Today’s Americans may also feel they live in difficult times, with the economic climate enduringly bleak and the nation’s leaders mired in partisan bickering. But if there’s an “us vs. them” mentality, it’s a sense of the people vs. big institutions, especially the government. Americans feel deserted by their leaders—perceived as putting political interests before those of the people—and there’s no longer a sense that we’re all on the same team. (For instance, in a JWT survey conducted last year using our propriety online tool SONAR™, almost 8 in 10 expressed dissatisfaction with the government and only 12 percent viewed Congress favorably.)
In response, the 2-year-old Chamomile Tea Party has bought backlit platform ad space in the Washington, D.C., Metro to display posters inspired by WWII-era propaganda, speaking out against Washington’s partisan bickering and stalemates. For example, one headline reads: “I lost my job… And my home and my health care and my retirement and my self-esteem, while you played party politics.” The organization, founded by a graphic designer, is dedicated to disrupting partisan gridlock. The posters are bold and striking in tone and imagery. And by harking back to old propaganda messaging, they remind us of a time when America came together, a sobering contrast to the divisiveness of today. As the election nears, it will be interesting to see if other organizations or marketers tap into Americans’ discontent with and anxiety over the status quo.
If you knew you had only one year to live, what would you do? You’d likely throw caution to the wind. Any anxiety about taking risks would magically disappear. You’d go out strong. This is exactly what’s happening in Canada with the 80-year-old retail chain Zellers. This time next year it will be no more, replaced by Target. So Zellers is going all-out with a social marketing campaign that asks customers to submit their unforgettable memories of the store. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, the best stories receive a quirky reenactment.
These wacky online videos are a brave step for Zellers. Actually, they’d be a brave step for any marketing department. But why wait until you’ve received a death sentence before throwing anxiety out the window? What would have happened if Zellers had displayed this kind of boldness over the years? So long, Zellers. I hope your final days inspire more marketers to take chances—to treat each project like they have one year left to live. How freeing would that be?
Last year Banco Popular, Puerto Rico’s largest bank, changed the lyrics to one of the country’s most popular songs in a bid to help end an almost eight-year recession. This week the campaign, created by JWT, won the Grand Prix Lion for public relations at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
The bank wanted to help stimulate the economy by challenging a reliance on welfare (among 60% of the population) and a mindset celebrated in a hugely popular salsa song, “No Hago Más Ná” (“I Do Nothing”), by the band El Gran Combo. The lyrics include the lines, “It’s so good to live like this, just eating and not working/It’s so good to live like this, just eating, sleeping, and not working.” Banco Popular worked with El Gran Combo on a new version of the song that goes, “It’s so good to live like this, always willing to work/It’s so good to live like this, moving forward, never backwards.” The bank then started a successful campaign to make the new song the No. 1 track in Puerto Rico, generating around $2.3 million in earned media in the process.
The campaign addressed the bank’s core need (a better economy means more business for Banco Popular) and also boosted its image and reputation. At the same time, it helped to spark a political debate and, ultimately, a movement of Puerto Ricans committed to the island’s economic progress.
A supermarket in Rome, now owned by Carrefour, was looking to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its opening. Meanwhile, battling the economic crisis, Italians had started to cut back on groceries. The solution was a one-day promotion in which some prices were rolled back to 1961—a time of economic boom in Italy. That also meant posting prices in lira rather than the newer, controversial euro. For further nostalgia, the campaign copied the look and feel of ’60s ads.
The campaign went beyond a simple discount event, because more consumers visited the store for a few days even after the event ended. (The event itself attracted 20,000 customers, and over the next few days, the supermarket got a 25 percent boost in traffic.) People usually yearn for the past in times of economic crisis, and this promotion managed to provide a sense of the security and trust that today’s consumers associate with times long gone by.
A sense of nostalgia and desire for simpler times may be prevalent on the big screen, as we noted recently, but it’s also very palpable on the small screen. As with many of this year’s Oscar nominees, this hints at Americans’ desire for escapism—but in this case, it’s escapism to a magical world rather than to the past. From NBC’s Grimm, a supernatural crime show, to ABC’s Once Upon a Time, a drama populated by characters from fairy tales, the current TV lineup is laced with the mythical, magical and surreal.
What’s most interesting is that these shows aren’t just pure fantasy; they combine the fantastical with the contemporary world, for more relatable scenarios. Also interesting is the underlying lessons on morals and values ingrained in the stories. Is this a way to reintroduce a core set of values to an audience that’s been looking for guidance during anxious times? A fairy-tale world where consumers can not only escape but also learn something valuable—lessons to be applied back in the real world to help them reset—could be just the answer. We’ll soon see whether the fairy-tale world proves successful on the big screen, with two Snow White-themed films, Julia Roberts’ Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsmen with Kristen Stewart.
This new commercial for Fiat’s Panda is an Italian-themed mash-up of Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee spot from 2010 and its recent Super Bowl ads, “It’s Halftime in America” and “Imported From Detroit” (same company, same philosophy). Much like the U.S. commercials, it reassures Italians that we have the skills and drive to exit the crisis and that with pride and hard work, we will make it. “We can choose which Italy we want to be,” says the voiceover. “Now is the time to decide. Whether to be ourselves or to accept the views imposed on us. Now is the moment to start anew.”
Observing that the ad reflects the “austerity zeitgeist,” Reuters notes that it’s set at a Fiat factory near Naples where the automaker recently moved production of the Panda from a Poland plant. The spot uses the phrase “The things we make, make us,” the tagline from the Grand Cherokee spots, and concludes, “This is the Italy we like” as the Panda drives into the middle of a scenic old village square.
After Fiat’s struggle with labor unions and Italy’s struggle with the economy, and with a new technocratic government that’s trying to turn a crisis into an opportunity, the spot shows an Italy that’s ready for a change. What Italy do we want to be?
This year there’s a definite air of nostalgia to the Oscars, with a majority of Best Picture nominees peering into the time tunnel: War Horse (World War I), The Artist (Old Hollywood), Midnight in Paris (1920s Paris) and so on. The Oscars are often cited as a cultural barometer of sorts, so what does this say about our mindset? JWT London asked a panel of British film viewers why we plunder our past so readily.
Participants (35 percent) were most likely to believe it’s a response to the times. The past offers escapism at a time when we’re buffeted by a harsh economy, global unrest and the spectre of terrorism. This is closely aligned to a feeling of “reassurance and comfort,” suggested by 32 percent. And 34 percent think it’s a response to cinema’s focus on technical fireworks: More than a whirlwind of special effects and explosions filmed in IMAX, 3D or even 4D, people are looking for an old-fashioned storyline.
There’s certainly nostalgia for the cinematic past. When asked to name the greatest era in cinema history, 78 percent pointed to a period before the turn of the century, and a majority (66 percent) believe today’s Hollywood A-listers don’t have the star quality they used to. Significant percentages would also like film-going to resurrect relics from the past like usherettes bearing treats (40 percent), a short feature before the film (35 percent) and the intermission (28 percent). Fewer than 3 percent choose downloading or streaming as their favorite way to watch films.
This reflects a wider appetite for all things retro, like classic TV (72 percent) and retro recipes (54 percent). Most people believe things used to be simpler (84 percent) or even better (51 percent). Even 50 percent of those aged 18-39 wish things “could be how they were in the old days.” Today’s unprecedented pace of change means we constantly need to learn new ways to live, which can be overwhelming. Looking to the past is a form of escapism and a reaction to the complexity of modern life. Nostalgia is a way to tap into familiarity, which builds emotional connections and warmth.
With continued forecasts of economic gloom in various parts of the world, the usual focus on unfettered holiday spending feels out of sync with the times. So some shoppers are embracing the idea of simple pleasures, opting for a less materialistic season. With retailers reporting depressed sales figures in an economically cautious Britain, for instance, The Christian Science Monitor reports anecdotal evidence of less-commercial holiday outings, such as an uptick of interest in carol concerts.
Some marketers are tapping into this mindset by emphasizing relationships and togetherness rather than overstuffed Christmas stockings. In a heartwarming spot set to Jimmy Durante’s mid-century classic “Make Someone Happy,” Vodafone reminds viewers that “It’s the little things we all do at Christmas that make us happy.” The spot shows people giving “free” gifts, such as cleaning the snow off a neighbor’s car or calling in a radio song dedication for a friend.
Jack Daniel’s is more direct in its approach, with the line “It’s not what’s under the tree that matters. It’s who’s around it.” A print ad and commercial show residents of Lynchburg, Tenn.—home to the iconic American distiller—coming together for the lighting of a giant Christmas tree constructed from whiskey barrels. The concept is meant to pay homage to the brand’s 19th-century founder, who supposedly “liked to bring people together at his home during the holidays,” harkening back to a time of simpler celebrations.
As brands and consumers alike work out how to navigate the new normal in the year ahead, watch for marketers to focus on the basic pleasure of bringing loved ones together.
Colombia is known for its great cultural and regional diversity, with the Andes carving a complex cultural map that fostered a plethora of micro cultures. However, most people in the main cities have never heard of them. And now these cultures are in danger of losing their age-old craftsmanship traditions as young people gravitate to urban areas and quicker ways to make a living. The “Orgullo Perdido” (“Lost Pride”) campaign from Club Colombia, a beer brand that emphasizes craftsmanship and the tradition of premium lager, is focused on rescuing and promoting 10 key endangered traditions, addressing concerns about the country losing elements of its heritage. (The work is by JWT Bogotá.)
The brand gathered a team of social and anthropological specialists to determine which handcrafts were most threatened, then narrowed down the list based on factors such as economic viability and positive impact on the community. The 10 skills—which include making filigree jewelry, woven fabrics with natural dyes and traditional marimbas—are documented on a microsite through clips showcasing the artisans and their environs. Visitors can vote on the three traditions that best represent Colombia’s national pride. Special edition Club Colombia cans showcase some of the crafts.
Colombians are clearly interested in holding on to their unique culture, and the campaign is striking a chord. In two short months there have been more than 145,000 votes on the website, which has attracted about 123,000 unique visits. Around 10,000 comments have been made on social media, almost all of them positive toward the initiative and the brand.
The recession has changed consumer sentiment toward low-cost, basic products, which are no longer seen as cheap and down-market but rather a proud social statement—a shift leveraged in an Effie-winning rebranding for Israel’s Tara Dairy (Tara), Tara’s products had been considered outdated for an age when many consumers opt for milk that’s fortified in various ways or low fat, and communication was aimed at older, conservative shoppers.
JWT Israel decided to tap into nostalgia for a “back to basics” message, but with a fun, humorous spin. To illustrate Tara’s tagline, “It all begins with excellent milk,” a series of commercials feature Israeli comedic icon Menashe Noy cast as a typical 1960s dairy farmer on a kibbutz. Tending to his cows in a rolling green meadow, Menashe Noy tells stories about his favorite cow in an old-fashioned and annoying but funny way, with many irrelevant details, jumping from one loosely related anecdote to another. He conjures up a simpler time for Israeli viewers.
The campaign managed to both create an aura of nostalgic simplicity around the brand and position Tara as a youthful, energetic brand.