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.
When a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi was gang-raped and beaten to death last December, the horrendous crime spotlighted the fact that, in India, rape has long been depressingly common. (The U.N.’s human rights chief calls rape in India a “national problem.”) To address these atrocities against women, and more generally the sheer lack of public safety they feel in India, Gillette has embarked on a unique journey with a new campaign, “Soldier for Women.”
The objective is to inspire young Indian men to awaken their “inner valor” by embracing what a case study describes as the five values an ideal man should incorporate into his daily life: courage, camaraderie, discipline, integrity and grooming. A television spot showcases men and women from different social strata coming together, and we see men stand by women, as soldiers. The supers tell the story: “Soldiers wanted. Not to guard the borders. But to support the most important battle of the nation. To stand up for women.” Some commenters on YouTube criticize that women can stand up for themselves, but the point is more the final line, about respect: “Because when you respect women, you respect your nation.”
Since the high-profile rape, thousands of Indians have been stirred to rise up and express their anger and anguish through nationwide protests. The issue has created a huge furor across the country, with people questioning India’s very system of basic rights and equalities. Gillette taps into this strong vein of feeling in its social media component: A Facebook page asks consumers to share stories about people who have stood up for women (in exchange for free razors), and on Twitter the hashtag is #SoldierforWomen. The conversations and response among the public have been great so far.
Who doesn’t want to do their part to improve the environment? Trouble is, few people are willing to change their everyday habits, and most efforts to raise environmental awareness only make us feel guilty for not doing a better job—and thus more likely to tune them out. Approaching the issue of water conservation from the flip side of the coin, the irreverent brand Axe recently launched a provocative campaign that suggests “showerpooling” (think carpooling but without the car and in a shower) as a way to cut down on water use.
An animated Web video gets straight to the point: “How can you save water without massive personal sacrifice?” The male body care brand claims its prescribed remedy for saving our planet’s most precious resource—taking a five-minute shower with a water-efficient showerhead while in the company of a “likeminded acquaintance” or an “attractive stranger”—can cut water usage by 20 percent. Axe provides more serious water-saving tips on Facebook, where people can pledge to “stop taking wasteful solo showers” and enter to attend the “Ultimate Showerpooling Party” by creating and documenting the largest showerpool.
Given our tendency to be selfish, habit-driven creatures, humor combined with simple actionable steps can go a long way in getting people both interested and involved, particularly in issues that are more abstract and large-scale. Let’s just hope invitations to a Showerpool don’t become the new bar pickup line.
Consumer anxieties are building around any chemicals whose safety has been called into question, whether found in food, household cleaners or personal care products. This has led to shoppers looking for more transparency from brands and passing over some products that contain suspect components, from phthalates to parabens. Now, in a first for a major personal care brand in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson has committed to cutting usage of several potentially harmful chemicals and reformulating its product range by 2015. Neutrogena, Aveeno, RoC and Clean & Clear are among the company’s personal care brands, along with its Johnson’s baby line (J&J already pledged to cut chemicals from baby products by 2013).
“We want people to have complete peace of mind when they use our products,” the VP of product stewardship and toxicology for J&J’s consumer health brands told the AP. As part of the initiative, Johnson & Johnson launched a website, Our Safety & Care Commitment, that details the company’s “five-level safety assurance process” and its policy on ingredients, with information on specific chemicals of consumer concern. J&J emphasizes that the company is keeping up to date with not only new regulations and scientific developments but also “consumer views and concerns.” While anxieties around ingredients sometimes exceed any proven dangers, with “natural” products proliferating, companies will need to address their customers’ fears.
“The rich talk about the crisis, but the poor don’t even mention it,” says São Paulo native Maria Irece da Silva, born and raised in the Jardim Carumbé slum district. Maria Irece, recently featured in a TIME story on how business is booming in Brazil’s shantytowns, owns a beauty products store in the slum where she lives. Despite the crisis and the conditions of her community, her small business keeps growing, bringing in about US$200 a day. And she expects things to keep getting better, as she believes beauty products are basic-need items for Brazilian women.
Where does this optimism come from? A developing nation, Brazil has been through its fair share of economic crises, most notably the disastrous hyperinflation of the late 1980s. So while the current recession is a major concern, Brazilians are able to keep the faith—especially because they’re still better off than they were not too long ago. And low-income Brazilians believe that weaker buying power is something manageable. Marketing communications should acknowledge this optimistic resilience.
For Maria Irece, as long as people can buy the basics—her products included—the global crisis for those at the base of Brazil’s social pyramid will continue to be “all in the head of the rich man.” –with the contribution of Paulo Macari.