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.
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.
Action America, a nonprofit launched just before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is “dedicated to turning the events of 9/11 into positive action.” Sponsored by a coalition of nonprofits and corporations, the effort is spearheaded by Marquis Jet founder Kenny Dichter along with AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong. It directs “Actionists”—those who are “purveyors of positivity”—to ActionAmerica.com, where they can find local volunteer opportunities as well as donate to the 9/11 Memorial or the Wounded Warriors Project. A sharing component encourages visitors to spread the word about the campaign and share memories or photos related to the World Trade Center. And New York Says Thank You, a documentary sponsored by individuals and Action America corporate patrons that looks at four New Yorkers who helped other communities recover from disaster, aired on Fox-owned MyNetwork stations on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary.
“None of us will ever forget 9/11, but we must not let it scar the national psyche or have us live in fear,” said Dichter in a press release. “We can all subvert the intention of terror and take 9/11 back by using it to unite the nation in positive action. This is exactly what happened immediately following the attack and it needs to happen again.”
Providing an outlet to address ongoing anxiety about terrorism and act on the patriotic feeling generated after 9/11 is a good way to rally Americans, many of whom have been left feeling helpless by the recession and the country’s waning influence on the world stage. People are seeking ways to do their part to get the nation back on track, and this effort can help participants feel they’re a part of a bigger movement that can make an impact—an ongoing trend we termed Collective Consciousness. This effort is likely to ring well with today’s consumers. Let’s get America back on track, one action at time.
Recently I noticed more policemen than usual on my weekend visit to the popular local market and got a little worried. The next day I read that many parts of Delhi were under police surveillance, as a terror attack was expected from the Pakistan-based group LeT. I walked with more uneasiness that day into another crowded market. The next morning, the media implied that with the bombing attempt in Times Square, the incident had been deflected from Delhi. Whether true or not, this episode brought to light our complete lack of faith in India’s law enforcers—a case of a ruptured brand.
The perception of Indian police has been hardened by the media’s focus on their incompetence—they’re shown to mostly arrive once the damage is done, and they’re ill-equipped to prevent it even if they are tipped off, since the assailants have more sophisticated tools and technology. It’s ironic but true that a heightened police presence creates uneasiness and anxiety more than comfort and security. It’s a muted sign that a terror attack might be expected.
We urgently need a return of faith, a turnaround in the Indian police brand—more positive PR, even a TV series or movie inspired by real life. Watching or reading about law enforcers averting deadly attacks and acting heroically or being publicly honored would help to alleviate some of Indians’ security-related anxiety.
In a post-recession environment, it’s not just the usual car, home and holiday that is worrying the upwardly mobile, urban Indian. It’s also the latest buzz word: terrorism. After the mid-February blast in Pune—a comparatively smaller city with a large student population—terrorism is suddenly back and very close to home. The bombing was a reminder that terrorism could happen on the flight my husband takes, the hotel I stay on a business trip and the bakery where my daughter hangs out. Violence, fear and terror have caught up with a social stratum that until now believed it was untouchable, and the general feeling is that no place is too safe—yet one cannot stop living life.
Reflecting this new unease are the status lines of many Facebookers after the blast:
“I can’t believe it, really … considering we used to travel down that road pretty much all the time.”
“I can’t believe anything like this could happen … not in Pune … I guess I was wrong …”
At a time when consumers are coping with the idea that they have little control over their safety, do brands have a role to play? It seems that brands can help by doing what they do best—helping to buoy spirits by offering optimism and empowering consumers to feel they are back in charge of their destiny. Financial products and health care brands especially have an opportunity to create an environment of security, concern and care that will resonate in today’s anxious times.
Le Meridien, India - Metal detectors outside major hotels, restaurants and malls are now common.