We’re living in a Super Stress Era (one of JWT’s 10 Trends for 2013), and news headlines filled with what seems like more doom and gloom than normal are only driving more stress and anxiety among consumers. Brands can help lift spirits by offering consumers some unexpected moments of cheer. Earlier this summer, TD Bank scored a viral hit after it created a few special ATMs that dispensed gifts to loyal patrons in Canada, part of its “TD Thanks You” campaign; these customers got anything from extra cash to a ticket to visit a faraway daughter with cancer. The smile-inducing video has garnered 10 million-plus views.
To illustrate its tagline “Awakens a smile in you,” Brazilian bread brand Nutrella also jumped on the joy bandwagon with its “Friendly Mirror”: a mirror placed around public places that gave random compliments to people walking by. (An idea similar to Avon’s 2011 “Miraculous Mirror” campaign in Slovakia.) Meanwhile, in early August, Honda promoted its annual summer clearance event with a “Summer Cheerance” campaign, which included a “Cheerance” playlist in tandem with Pandora, piñatas for passersby to swing at, a “Stand Here for Cheer” box (which released surprises like saxophone serenades and a bouquet-toting bear) and silly fun in partnership YouTube celebrity Andrew Hales.
For consumers weighed down by anxieties, marketers have the opportunity to be a bright spot, building a brand narrative based in joy.
During the 16-day shutdown of the U.S. government, around 800,000 federal employees were furloughed without pay. While some brands referenced the shutdown via social media—expressing shared frustration with citizens or jokingly ensuring consumers that they wouldn’t be shutting down—others made efforts to ease the burden of those out-of-work employees, even if it was little more than a free cup of coffee. For example, AMC offered a free small popcorn to anyone with a valid government or military ID, while Starbucks—which also petitioned Congress to reopen the government—instituted a “pay it forward” offering, giving a free coffee to any customer who bought someone else their favorite drink, as part of its “Come Together” campaign.
When it came to the larger financial difficulties that furloughed employees faced, several companies offered some relief. TD Bank launched TD Cares, which allowed customers to incur checking overdrafts at no cost, request late-fee refunds on Visa card payments and receive mortgage assistance. Citizens Bank made a similar offer to affected customers. Hyundai added a payment deferral plan for federal employees to its Assurance program, and Toyota announced “payment relief options” to those affected, including businesses hurt by the shutdown.
From local retailers to multinationals, a range of companies were flexible enough to recognize that some customers needed a boost—and whether it was a small token or a crucial payment deferral, the effort signaled that the brand could relate to those going through a difficult time through no fault of their own. During such a financially stressful and uncertain event, even the little things can be reassuring.
Photo Credit: Starbucks