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.
The recent start of the National Hockey League playoffs, caused a great deal of buzz around the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not on the ice—the Leafs missed the playoffs for the seventh straight year—but in the form of a full-page apology letter to the fans, taken out in all the Toronto papers on the same day. The chairman of the team’s board assures fans that their passion and loyalty are not taken for granted, acknowledges that the team’s performance was “unacceptable,” and says the organization makes no excuses for the disappointing results.
There’s great deal of anxiety around this team on all levels. It was a dreadful season, and fans are angry. But if consumer anxiety makes wallets tighten, somehow the Leafs have found a way to split the defense. Games are always sold out; TV revenue is through the rafters. High consumer anxiety = continued loyalty? A lot of businesses would love even a little bit of that Toronto Maple Leaf “magic touch.” While most businesses will never have it as good as the Leafs, there’s something to be said for adopting practices that allow for greater transparency and a sense of humility. They can bring a much-needed level of respect to customer relations—no matter what business you’re in.
False idols like fame and money compound and perpetuate anxiety: The disparity between real life and the perceived ideal can make people feel they are going in the wrong direction. The idea behind a new campaign from Vegemite is that it’s the many unheralded people living meaningful lives who are the true heroes and role models, capable of inspiring others to adopt more realistic and fulfilling aspirations and sources of happiness.
The iconic Australian spread is inviting Australians to share the stories and achievements of “everyday Australians, doing extraordinary things.” Vegemite’s “Toast of a Nation” integrated campaign includes a nationwide tour, TV, online documentaries and social media components, all encouraging every Aussie to “have a crack.” One commercial , for example, spotlights “Phiggles the flying scientist,” a retiree who learned to fly and now spends a few months each year traveling to remote communities around the country to teach science to kids.
Brands like Vegemite understand that defining a positive role in society benefits the bottom line and also helps make the world a better, less anxious place. The question for marketers is what sort of world do you want to live in—and what are you doing about it?
We all know exercise is a great way to combat stress, but interestingly we haven’t seen athletic brands get much mileage out of this. Asics, however, is turning out beautiful executions based around the idea that, in the brand’s words, “by staying active, you can shed negativity.”
The latest execution shows runners with word clouds around them seemingly shedding words such as “angst” and “worry.” A new tagline spells out the idea: “Running releases more than just sweat.” A similar, year-old commercial in the campaign shows words such as “stress” and “fear” as a runner races through sheets of water.
Making literal the connection between mental and physical well-being is logical for Asics, a Japanese company whose name is an acronym for the Latin “anima sana in corpore sano,” or “a sound mind in a sound body.” And it’s especially logical at a time when consumer anxiety is high and solutions to some of our biggest problems (unemployment and the economic crisis, terrorism, the environment) have no quick or easy solutions.
At least two marketing campaigns targeted at men, from Heineken and Eurosport France, have tapped into male anxiety about missing important sports games because of interference from wives and girlfriends who aren’t fans. During this summer’s World Cup, Cadbury in Argentina came up with an innovative way to flip the idea around, targeting women feeling neglected by football-mad men. A Facebook campaign turned Cadbury into a de facto dating service, with the page serving as a place for women to meet men who preferred to go out than to watch football. Men could create profiles that included a nickname, status update and photo, and participate in several activities and gain points that made their profiles more visible and accessible. They could also could send women virtual Cadbury’s gifts.
The effort was backed by TV spots featuring women attempting to interact with their significant others. In one commercial, a woman is slowly packing a suitcase, and her beau sits on the corner of the bed with his head hung low. Assuming he’s sad she’s going away, the woman reassures her love that it’s only a three-day trip—only to learn his despair is caused by the morning paper’s cover story on a penalty that cost his soccer team the match. “A man will never be as tempting as Cadbury, and less so during the World Cup,” the voiceover says, directing women to Cadbury’s Facebook page to find a listing of men to “write, chat, go out with or maybe something else.”
“Something else” can certainly be a great stress reliever, as is chocolate. Apparently quite a few Argentineans agreed: From June to the end of the World Cup in July, 38,244 people liked the Cadbury page, and women can still visit the platform and meet with men who don’t care about football.
Delhi will host its biggest sporting event yet, the 2010 Commonwealth Games, in October, but nothing seems to be going right. With news channels ferociously digging up every real or potential issue related to the Games—from exposes about corruption within the Indian Olympic Association to the city’s unpreparedness for the mega event—Delhi citizens are braving a series of anxiety attacks. Enter the tycoon Subrata Roy Sahara of Sahara Samay, a national news network, who wrote what he called an “Emotional Appeal,” carried on the front page of a leading daily.
Sahara, who’s synonymous with the Sahara brand, charges that while the media “has done its duty,” his fellow news networks and media owners have also “overdone it,” causing “absolute negativity” among Indians and leading to bad PR for India. He asks the media to withhold further negative coverage until after the Games, “for the pride of our beloved country.” It could be argued that his patriotic-sounding appeal is an effort to cover up his network’s inability to come up with an expose to match that of his competitors. But either way, through this well-managed PR exercise, Sahara succeeded in building his own reputation as well as that of his news channel. Sahara Samay comes off looking mature and nationalistic by choosing to allay public anxiety at a time when other brands have been fueling it.
“If Spain wins the World Cup, we’ll have to rethink our GDP growth forecast.” Those were the words of the minister of industry a few days before the World Cup final; going by the same rule, losing could lead to a slight decrease. The idea is simple: If I wake up happy and in a good mood, I might go out for lunch, get a fancier wine for dinner and book my vacation with a bit more enthusiasm. And if 40 million people wake up optimistic and confident, that could make a difference for the national economy.
Ironically, it was the Dutch bank ABN AMRO that researched the topic (after the 2006 World Cup) and released the study “Soccernomics,” which puts the economic effect of winning the World Cup at an additional 0.7 percent year-over-year growth for the winner; the loser is forecast to see a negative impact of 0.3 percent.
The economic effect in Spain remains to be seen, but the country certainly forgot about recession and unemployment for a few days. People focused on what they have in common rather that what differentiates them, and embraced the colors of our flag, finally getting over the bitter memories of dictatorship that it carried. What else can brands do beyond the typical endorsement or congratulatory note to ride out the wave of positive public sentiment following a win?
We’ve written about two brands (Heineken and the sports channel Eurosport France) that have created campaigns based around the anxiety felt by soccer fans when they miss important games. With the 2010 World Cup, anxiety in this part of the world centered on the fact that the games were scheduled during working hours: 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time. Starbucks saw an opportunity, presenting itself as a solution that would allow people to watch the match and work at the same time. No guilt or stress over hiding from the boss. The other idea: to position a coffee drink as a beer alternative for watching these workday games.
Starbucks gave the World Cup a business breakfast touch. It installed 71 big flat-screen TVs in select branches and boosted its Wi-Fi so that the added online traffic wouldn’t cause problems. People would be able to work as fast as in their offices, but with a richer experience. There were also some World Cup breakfast specials and socially focused promotions (e.g., buy two, get one free). The stores seemed to be buzzing with people, and, more important, many customers (mostly male) started seeing Starbucks differently, as a new place to meet up with friends.
Sports branding and sponsorships are forecast to be the fastest-growing component of global sports market spending over the period 2009-2013, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. But after the lost endorsement costs of Tiger Woods, anxious brands are looking for ways to hedge the risk of featuring star athletes. “The only safe athlete is one whose story is complete,” noted Sports Illustrated in the early days of the Woods scandal.
Accordingly, some brands are looking to athletes with nostalgic appeal. A new campaign from iXP Corp., a U.S. firm that consults on emergency-response systems, features Yogi Berra and illustrates, according to The New York Times, “the consistent demand among marketers for endorsers—particularly athletes—who have proven themselves over the long term.” Other safe bets the Times cites include Cal Ripken Jr., Joe Montana and Jack Nicklaus.
Other brands are diversifying their endorsement portfolios with “hometown heroes” who can drive timely regional campaigns. New online services like Brand Affinity Technologies are helping to disrupt the traditional endorsement model—based on national campaigns and six-figure deals—by connecting regional athletes with advertisers, enabling quick creation of lower-cost local campaigns. When the Detroit Red Wings advanced to the Stanley World Cup finals last year, for example, within days Ford was featuring team captain Nicklas Lidstrom in an online campaign for the Fusion targeted to Detroit.
With today’s big kickoff, World Cup fever is upon us. To tap into nationalist excitement, The New York Times reports, European retailers are offering money-back deals on a range of merchandise—TVs, cars, driver navigation systems, even vacations—if the relevant home team takes the trophy. The most fascinating promotion comes from Nationwide bank in the U.K., a sponsor of the England team. With the tagline “If England win, you win,” the 4 Year Football Bond offers a fixed bonus over the normal rate of 0.50 percent gross per year from May 2011 till maturity—in the event that “England lift the cup in South Africa.”
In the aftermath of the British banking crisis, it’s interesting to see a financial institution produce such a lighthearted promotion. Given that banks have been maligned as a key cause of the U.K.’s fiscal troubles, it seems like a good idea for Nationwide to be willing to take a hit—that is, pay more in interest—if those who believe in England (the team) are ultimately validated. And also to further link the brand with the team, an outlet for British anxieties—at least for as long as they stay in the tournament.
South Africa has invested several billion dollars into hosting the FIFA World Cup, in large part to boost its image on the world stage. The country is highly motivated by “reputation-anxiety,” says South African journalist Mark Gevisser. But the spotlight holds a risk. As a senior government official told him: “When the world’s cameras are trained on you, sure they pick up the feel-good stories … but they also look for trouble—which is not difficult to find in South Africa.” (Case in point: This AlJazeera English broadcast, titled “South Africa crime clouds World Cup” on YouTube.)
To keep the emphasis on the positive, South Africa’s First National Bank (FNB) has been sponsoring the Shine 2010 campaign, which consists of a website and the usual social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). The site (billed as “Home of the 2010 World Cup good news”) offers an upbeat blog, a Good News section, video clips, podcasts and guides for World Cup attendees. “We believe that confidence in South Africa only needs a home,” the About section explains. The idea is to “shape perceptions online” and inspire locals “to be active ambassadors,” FNB’s head of marketing told BizCommunity.com.
For a brand operating in a relatively new nation (the post-apartheid era began in 1994) worried about potential embarrassment, FNB seems to be doing a good job not only positioning itself as a South Africa booster but giving citizens the tools to join in.