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’ve previously noted, over the past few years some brands have been playing up their domestic provenance to appeal to American and British consumers anxious about jobs disappearing and their nations losing ground as emerging markets rise. Now, at a time of swelling nationalist pride around the royal baby’s birth, John Lewis is promoting British manufacturing by emphasizing products made in the U.K.
Although two-thirds of the retailer’s goods are manufactured outside Britain, John Lewis is highlighting domestically made products by marking them with the Union Jack. On its website, the company explains that it’s working with around 130 British manufacturers “in celebration of the nation’s skills and craftsmanship.” Buying a British-made carpet, for instance, “means you support British farming,” since carpet makers are the country’s biggest users of local wool.
While John Lewis’s managing director acknowledges that locally manufactured products will never be the cheapest, he believes there is a sweet spot “in terms of design, quality and value.” With anxieties stemming from the economic crisis likely to linger even as consumer spending starts rising in the U.K., it’s a good time to appeal to national pride.
While people are gradually realizing that their planet is in danger, that some species will completely disappear, they don’t necessarily accept that they may have to renounce some of their comfort if they want to do something about it. That helps explain why some continue to wear real fur. (Although the demand for faux fur is now so high that some real fur has been marketed as fake.) In France, the love of women for fur and their love of animals creates a form of tension. The wildlife protection organization WWF plays with this tension in a creative new campaign.
WWF France created a line of clothing and accessories made from the “fur” of imaginary animals, called Wonder World Fur, showcased in beautifully shot photographs by Mark Seliger. The collection is actually on sale. This campaign and service prove that doing something good need not feel like a sacrifice, that we can awaken consciences with poetry and that we can find new and inspiring ways to address anxiety regarding environmental issues.
With many Americans saying the American Dream is slipping out of their grasp, there’s a role for businesses to play in helping consumers achieve their Dream, one of the findings in our recent report “American Dream in the Balance.” More than a third of the respondents in a survey we conducted said corporations should help people achieve the Dream. And since fewer Americans now see the U.S. as a land of opportunity, brands should showcase the opportunities they’re creating. Walmart provides the latest example of a marketer doing this with its announcement last week that it plans to source more goods domestically, hire more veterans and help part-time workers transition to full-timers.
The company pledged that both Walmart and Sam’s Club stores will purchase an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next decade, both by buying more American-made goods and by onshoring U.S. production in several categories. Walmart said a new team within the company will drive the effort and that the company will work with state governors in its bid to create more jobs. Walmart also promised to provide jobs for any honorably discharged veterans in their first year off active duty, projecting that it will hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years. See our “American Dream” report for more examples of how marketers are tapping into consumer sentiment around the American Dream.
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.
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.
With local economies across the globe still in the gutter, civic-minded citizens are coming up with creative ways to inject some cash into small retailers. Back in 2009, the 3/50 project started asking Americans to pick three locally owned stores that they wanted to see survive the recession and spend $50 a month at them. Cash Mobs, the latest iteration of this idea, involves well-intentioned shoppers “mobbing” local retailers.
Consumers can nominate a small business in their town for a Cash Mob by contacting the owner. From there, Cash Mob organizers encourage their Facebook, Twitter and other networks to patronize the store en masse at the appointed date and time. Mobsters commit to spending at least $20, “to give the business owner a little bit of economic stimulus,” as the Cash Mob website puts it. Retailers report that the mobs can boost a day’s sales by two or three times, according to theInternational Business Times. After starting in the U.S., the movement is spreading—last Saturday was International Cash Mob Day, and nearly 200 mobs were reported around the world.
“There is no science to it, and there are also no hard and fast rules,” Cash Mob’s organizer told Reuters. Consumers are increasingly taking an improvised, DIY approach to improving the economy—frustrated by slow progress and losing faith in big institutions—and using the organizing power of social media to bring about community change on their own. Brands can help drive these efforts, as American Express is doing with Small Business Saturday, for example. Indeed, our research found that 79 percent of respondents in a survey we conducted wish a brand or company would make a substantial investment to improve their local community. At a time when CSR and more traditional marketing efforts are meshing, such projects present ways for big brands and corporations to show that they care and are tapped into the needs of the local communities in which the operate.
U.K. retailer Argos is running a whimsical ad that suggests online shopping as an antidote to the year-end stress of navigating frenzied retail environments. The ad’s stars are a family of long-necked blue aliens on a visit to a mall. “It all feels a bit alien, doesn’t it, running around panicked?” says the father. “I thought ’twas the season to be jolly, but maybe not.” The daughter, sporting a stylish wool hat, points out that “The big man in red seems happy enough,” but Mom counters that “Everyone seems terribly stressy though. I don’t understand why they don’t just reserve their purchases online with Argos.” The ad pushes the idea of ordering on the Web—with alien mom using her mobile to do so—and picking up in store on the same day.
Britons are expected to spend £13.4 billion in online purchases this holiday season, according to one estimate—a good deal of it today, which is Cyber Monday in the U.K.; big numbers are expected. But a perfect storm of inflation, unemployment and the eurozone crisis are likely to dampen overall spending, and The Telegraphreports that retailers are carving into profit margins with price cuts and promotions in a grab for limited budgets. More retailers will need to avoid a race to the bottom by appeasing anxieties unrelated to price, as Argos does by suggesting a way for shoppers to preserve some sanity.
For many, the most anxiety-provoking aspect of earthquakes is the fact that they can strike anywhere at any time, leaving no opportunity to prepare. Japanese lifestyle brand Muji is helping shoppers plan for the worst with its “Itsumo, Moshimo” (Whenever, Whatever) campaign. Shortly after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the retailer created a website illustrating how a number of its products could be assembled into emergency preparedness kits, preserved-food storage bins and furniture fasteners. Muji says the kits allow owners to “live daily lives comfortably, but … also prepare for the event.”
The suggested kits for work and school resemble a translucent briefcase, while the children’s kit is an easy-to-carry cotton backpack. Designed with various evacuation locales in mind, they’re packed with an array of emergency products (rope, LED flashlights, batteries, bandages, etc.), as well as a compressed T-shirt and towel to help disaster victims freshen up and coloring materials for children—taking a holistic approach to emergency preparedness. Recently these products, alongside instructions on how to use them in disaster situations, were featured in Muji’s six-week-long “Jishin, Itsumo” (Earthquake, Whenever) exhibit, the second time the retailer has held the event (the first was in 2009).
With seemingly daily reports of devastating natural disasters and terrorist strikes across the globe, many of us are on edge. While we’re powerless to do much, Muji’s efforts smartly provide some peace of mind by arming citizens with useful and nicely designed tools, without pinning a fatalist cloud above their heads.
Back in late 2009, we spotlighted Sprize, a program Gap was testing in the Vancouver market that added credit to a shopper’s Sprize card if the price of a purchase dropped in the following 45 days. (Sprize was ultimately discontinued, in early 2011.) Now, Walmart is trotting out an initiative that similarly addresses anxiety over spending by offering store credit on price differentials post-purchase. In Walmart’s case, the Christmas Price Guarantee will refund holiday shoppers the difference—via a gift card—if they see a product they’ve bought at Walmart advertised for less by a brick-and-mortar retailer in the same local market, as long as it’s before Christmas.
The guarantee helps allay concern that the items in question may be on sale elsewhere either now or closer to Christmas, causing consumers to hold off when they spot potential gifts. “Walmart’s Christmas Price Guarantee, combined with our additional holiday offerings, is aimed at helping our customers beat the holiday’s economic Grinch and ensure no Christmas is stolen,” reads a press release. These offerings include a Christmas Layaway plan that went into effect last week for purchases over $50; the retailer had previously held off bringing back layaway when others, including Kmart and Toys R Us, revived the idea as a recession tactic in 2009.
As we pointed out with Sprize, refunding the price difference as a gift card is smart, since it either gets shoppers perusing the goods again—and quite a few will spend more than what’s on the card—or, like many a gift card, gets forgotten about altogether. Meanwhile, diligent budget-conscious shoppers will appreciate the reward for their consumer-savviness.
Michael Pollan has been urging “If You Can’t Say It, Don’t Eat It” for a while now, and slowly consumers have become more wary of ingredients pronounceable only by chemists and more inclined to question, What is my food? This anxiety is having an impact not only on brands that sell chemical-packed products but on any packaged-food marketer—in Argentina, rumors began circulating that Lay’s chips aren’t made with real potatoes, according to a PepsiCo ConoSur exec quoted in Ad Age. So Lay’s embraced Maximum Disclosure (one of our 10 Trends for 2010) to set the record straight in a unique way.
Set to start traveling around to Buenos Aires supermarkets, the Lay’s Machine looks like a vending machine but requires a shopper to deposit a potato (provided as part of the promotion) instead of coins. What follows is a “hyper-realistic” video of the chip-making process with the illusion that “your” potato is being turned into chips. At the video’s end, a bag of chips drops into the slot, heated to give the sensation that it really was your potato being transformed.
As customers see that the product is just made from real potatoes, vegetable oil and salt, they can feel assured that the “natural” claim is authentic. More engaging than an online video or classic promotion, the Lay’s Machine is a fun, interactive way to assuage people’s fears that they’re consuming something strange and unnatural by showing that neither is the case.