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.
It’s been more than two years since the date 3/11 took on a special significance in Japan. This disaster followed 20 years of recession that caused the Japanese to shrink emotionally: With the country’s competitiveness declining, the whole society became accustomed to getting overtaken by many emerging countries. Then came that disaster, and many Japanese felt they might never recover. But anxiety seems to improving, thanks in part to the new prime minister, who emphasizes the will to be No. 1 in the world in certain areas and is urging industries to institute pay increases; the stock market is rising for now.
Responding to the inferiority complex that Japanese often have when it comes to comparisons with Western nations, especially Americans, the satellite broadcasting company Wowow recently ran a campaign called “Japan is doing well.” Eight TV commercials, which promoted the company’s monthly featured programs, showed a typical Japanese boy cleverly outwitting a competitive Western boy to attract a girl’s attention in a comical way. The idea points to Japan’s recovery and captures a feeling of optimism that some people are starting to feel.
We’ve seen a lot of brand messages in the past two years that can be categorized as “cheering-up,” “social contribution” and “love and bonding.” It looks like we’re now getting to the stage of motivating beyond optimism.
Coca Cola brought its “Happiness” brand message to consumers in Italy last fall with “Let’s Eat Together,” a campaign focused around making mealtimes more sociable again. For its “Happiness Table” stunt, the brand drove a van with the iconic Coca-Cola branding into a square in Naples and set up dining tables, inviting locals to join the fun. Bottles of soda were served up alongside some signature dishes from Italian chef Simone Rugiati. The concept extended to a Let’s Eat Together tool on Facebook, enabling users to invite family and friends to eat with them.
While “eating together is a primary source of happiness,” as the brand notes in this case study video, our busy professional lives are draining any quality time we have with our friends and family. Italy, the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement, seems like an ideal place to pitch a message that Coke has been spreading across markets (we wrote about the German campaign “Coke sets the table” several years ago).
As Spain’s crisis grinds on, more of its marketers have been addressing the situation directly, as Agence France-Presse reported last year, “trying to lure hard-hit buyers by appealing to Spanish values of friendship, family, and proud resistance.” We’ve posted about some of these efforts over the last few years, including campaigns from a radio program, Mahou beer, Carrefour, Coca-Cola and Campofrío, a deli brand. The latest from Campofrío is a sweet, humor-tinged 60-second spot that aims to boost viewers’ national pride and give them hope for themselves and their country.
The spot opens with the famous clown Fofito saying he’s read that sales of antidepressants have reached a record, and that with the joblessness and pervasive news about how badly the country is doing, “it’s only natural that you end up thinking you are useless.” He’s speaking about the country itself. So he goes on to create a “résumé” for Spain, detailing a range of achievements—everything from seven Nobel prizes and Oscars to Don Quixote, Chupa Chups, athletic prowess and infrastructure. “Don’t forget today’s youth,” two young women tell him, assuring that while younger Spaniards are leaving, “we’ll be back.” The oldest generation gets a nod too: A grandma is a “champion” for supporting her children and grandchildren with her pension. Along the way, several Spanish notables make cameos, including tennis star David Ferrer and singer Malú.
“You are smarter and stronger than you think,” says Fofito as the spot winds down. It concludes: “Let nothing and no one deprive us of our way of enjoying life.” Campofrío connects the brand with an optimistic national outlook (much like Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” at last year’s Super Bowl) that’s also grounded in facts and faces that strike a chord—and turns enjoyment of its products into a statement about not giving up on Spain or life itself.
To view with subtitles English subtitles, click here.
Anyone who’s ever lived in New York knows just how grinding-down and numbing the subway commute can be. Missed trains and hurried crowds, combined with life’s other frustrations, make for plenty of negative energy during rush hour. Recognizing this, Tropicana offered its Twitter stream for people to vent their morning frustrations as part of its “Worst Morning Ever” campaign. The outdoor component features the tweets with the best (or worst) morning mishaps, displayed around the city’s subway stations. Says one, for example: “Turns out I did check the correct weather, for California.”
The campaign isn’t all snark and gloom. Some of the billboards instruct commuters on how to reverse the negativity, encouraging passersby to help beautify the transit system by smiling. And naturally, Tropicana is positioned as the good part of New York mornings in other posters. The campaign succeeds in addressing consumer stress and anxiety by helping commuters realize they’re not the only ones grumbling on the way to work, helping the weary find some strength in solidarity.
With Spain’s unemployment rate reaching a record 26 percent (double the EU average, according to the BBC), some 6 million Spaniards are currently jobless. Aiming to brighten up the day for some of those without work, radio program Carne Cruda 2.0 on Spain’s Cadena SER radio network organized a flash mob to serenade an unemployment office in Madrid.
A woman with a clarinet stood up and began playing the opening chords of “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road hit. As onlookers took notice, a second clarinetist joined in, and before long the waiting room was filled with musicians playing the tune. An adorable young woman cheerily belted out the lyrics as a chorus came in, accompanying her. Onlookers smiled, some taking out their phones to document the event. Workers in the office emerged from their cubes to see what the commotion was about, and for a moment everyone in the room seemed to forget their troubles. This simple idea helped bring some cheer to struggling Spaniards in that office and beyond (the video has generated around 1.5 million views in three weeks).
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.
The recession revived the popularity of layaway plans, and with many consumers still struggling to make ends meet, retailers have been pushing their pay-over-time offerings again this holiday season (as we’ve posted about). Last year saw the rise of “layaway Santas,” Good Samaritans who paid off strangers’ layaway accounts, mostly at Kmart, and this year retailers have been trying to leverage the behavior.
Kmart sponsored a Big Layaway Giveaway, holding a drawing for 10 weeks from September through November to pay off the remaining balance in a layaway account. And it set up a Layaway Angels page online to track the frequency of “angel” donations (as yet, the tally is a tepid $1,521). Toys “R” Us, meanwhile, announced it would donate $200 worth of goods to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation for each layaway order that a Good Samaritan pays off. Layaway provides a novel means for new types of retail initiatives to help strained consumers, and even for consumers to help one another; it will be interesting to see how retailers continue to expand the concept.
With America’s national political conventions on the horizon, the economy remains a hot topic. A new campaign for Norfolk Southern Railway, a large freight train company, acknowledges America’s prevailing anxiety with a message centered on resilience and rebuilding. Targeted at political heavyweights, the spot positions Norfolk Southern as a catalyst for growth and recovery.
“City of Possibilities” delivers the message in a lovely dreamlike execution that harkens back to the imaginative world of childhood and kids’ fascination with trains. A boy plays with a train in his bedroom, and a toy city forms around him. The message taps into the idea that children believe in limitless possibilities, with the voiceover conveying the optimistic message, “Wherever our trains go, the economy comes to life. Norfolk Southern. One line, infinite possibilities.” The spot makes its message relevant by alluding to our economic anxieties but through a positive lens, laying the rails for other messages promising growth and commitment to the nation’s recovery.
One particularly sad truth of the recession is a sharp decline in charitable giving. From 2007, voluntary income among the U.K.’s top 1,000 charities has fallen by more than a fifth, according to The Charities Foundation. One major reason is a decrease in regular giving by direct debit as people struggle to justify the monthly expenditure. In response to these changing habits, JWT London teamed up with supermarket chain Budgens to pilot a new fundraising mechanism that aims to make charitable giving habitual again, by turning it into an impulse purchase.
Engraved wooden blocks branded HOPE sit on store shelves and can be scanned at the checkout along with the rest of a consumer’s shopping. A £1 donation is then automatically sent to the Alzheimer’s Society, the first charity to sign up for the initiative. The block is subsequently returned to the shelf. The aim is to target consumers when they are spending money but at the same time make the process continuous, as much a part of their everyday lives as the weekly grocery shop. The initiative is being trialed in two London stores with a view to expand if it proves successful. Here’s hoping HOPE catches on.
Economic recovery in the U.S. has been slow going, and some brands are responding to unsettled consumer sentiment by playing up tried-and-true American values and the country’s enduring pioneer spirit. We’ve talked about Levi’s campaign centered on the struggling town of Braddock, Pa., and spotlighted Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee work, both of which exuded optimism and empowerment during a difficult time. Chrysler is sticking with that theme in four new spots—for the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram models—that build off the “Imported from Detroit” campaign launched during the 2011 Super Bowl and the epic “It’s Halftime in America” Clint Eastwood spot that followed in this year’s Super Bowl.
The latest spots continue with the theme of battling adversity, showing everyday Americans overcoming the odds and forging a new way despite persistently difficult economic conditions—all from the seat of a car in the Chrysler family. In particular, the Ram spot has a quiet simplicity and understated resonance. The VO is a wife leaving a supportive message for her husband, who has been hard at work to keep their little family afloat, yet she could be speaking to all of America, inspiring everyone who’s struggling. The end line, “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch,” reinforces this message, but for the nation rather than the individual.
The times still seem to warrant a “Fight against adversity” strategy. Recovery is said to be on the horizon, and a message infused with American values could be just the thing to help get consumers there.