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.
After almost a year spent surveying brand and consumer response to the recession through our AnxietyIndex.com, we found that only a handful of the 350 examples we collected across 24 countries truly stood out. Creating innovative work isn’t easy in any economic climate; it’s even harder when marketing budgets are low and risk aversion is high.
Our AnxietyIndex Brand Hall of Fame salutes 10 of the most notable responses to the recession that we’ve seen. We believe these will hold up in years to come as case studies of work that transcend typical approaches to a downturn. Our third AnxietyIndex Quarterly explains why we think so.
For a long time, bigger was better. Now, we’re backing off of big. Drivers around the world are embracing small-class cars, developers are downsizing their blueprints, and big businesses are revising their game plans. We’re calling it The Small Movement.
Why is small having its big moment? A global recession that’s forcing us to live with less makes frugal seem fashionable. An environmental crisis makes smaller houses, cars and carbon footprints look more responsible. Booming population growth has turned smaller, more streamlined products into space savers—a key quality in a crowded world.
Small Movement success stories plug into one or all of these themes. Concentrated laundry detergents allow for smaller containers, taking up less space in cluttered home and giving consumers the sense that they’re helping to save the world. Smart cars are eye-catching, gas-friendly and easy to park in crowded cities. Stand-alone kiosks are now big business with big retailers, allowing them entry into new venues—like Blockbuster kiosks in malls and pharmacies.
These are tricky waters for businesses that have relied on selling bigger, shinier doodads for decades. But this new culture of restraint is far from bad news for brands. The Small Movement isn’t necessarily about living with less; it’s about getting the most out of life—your home, your budget, your electronics—without contributing to the world’s ills. Smart marketers will show consumers how to do just that.
The recession will leave its mark on most categories, but one that’s certain to undergo an evolution is the luxury apparel market. Bain & Co. forecasts a precipitous 15 percent year-over-year decline for luxury apparel in 2009, following an estimated 4 percent drop last year. This compares with a 10 percent overall shrinkage in the luxury market this year, according to Bain, which we noted in The Recession and Its Impact on Luxury.
Watch for luxe apparel brands to invade newer markets in full force. China is an obvious choice—Bain forecasts a 7 percent growth in its luxury market this year—as is India, but Latin America and Africa will also be targets. Gildo Zegna, chief of Ermenegildo Zegna, told The New York Times that the Italian menswear retailer sees potential in Egypt and Morocco and is researching Nigeria, South Africa and Angola. The brand already has 60 stores in China.
Offerings will evolve according to needs in these markets. Since the demographics skew much younger, for example, Zegna has launched a sportier line, Z Zegna.
Watch also for all but the most exclusive brands to offer wider price ranges. “Below the elevated sphere of Hermès International and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, nearly every apparel retailer is reducing the price of nonsale items,” TheWall Street Journal reports. High-end department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks are stocking up on more midpriced goods and asking some vendors and designers to add lower-priced items. Some are already doing so: Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, for example, recently said they would lower prices 10 to 20 percent for both the Dolce & Gabbana and the D&G lines. Continue reading ‘Luxury apparel: Category in crisis’
Time recently reported that high-end yoga mats are bucking today’s frugality trend. These mats—the priciest of which cost about $100—are made by a company called Manduka, whose sales rose 55 percent in the first four months of 2009. Manduka now has a distribution deal with nationwide retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The article points to several reasons why sales are soaring: the continuing popularity of yoga, the “superior traction” and “extra cushioning” of the mat, etc. But I believe the driving reason behind Manduka’s success is outlined in our recent paper “The Recession and Its Impact on Luxury,” in which we discuss the future of luxury and what it means for health and wellness: People are re-evaluating luxury altogether. In some cases, this means redefining it in non-materialistic ways—time with family, doing good, being healthy. It can also mean spending more for products that conform to the highest green standards … or for things that enhance health and well-being.
Manduka’s pricey mats fit perfectly into the new mold of luxury: They allow people to invest in their health and wellness while simultaneously flaunting their wealth to those in the know. Call it stealth consumption rather than conspicuous consumption. Bad news for the Guccis of the world, good news for Manduka.
DIY isn’t just what you do after a shopping spree at IKEA. Today, do-it-yourself is influencing a range of categories, including entertainment, food, beauty and fashion. From locals organizing and promoting their own parties and events to teens formulating at-home beauty treatments, the ethos of DIY is becoming increasingly pervasive.
A confluence of factors is shifting this movement from the fringe to the mainstream, chief among them the anxiety brought on by the Great Recession—DIY is simply cheaper than the alternatives. DIY also seems like the savvy, even chic thing to do at a time when frugality and anti-consumerist sentiment are proliferating. The Internet is also a key factor, helping DIY-ers learn from and inspire each other. And in a world where mass-produced goods dominate, DIY allows for a sense of discovery and a way to stand out from the crowd.
Our latest trend report explores how DIY ideas and attitudes are affecting consumer behavior and purchasing habits in a range of categories, and looks at what it means for brands and marketers. You can download the report from our Trends and Research page.
There has been a lot of talk lately about which categories are “recession-proof.” Are there certain goals and aspirations that trump the desire to save money? Are there priorities people will simply not skimp on?
With these questions in mind, today we release “Balancing Health, Wellness and Budgets,” a trend report that examines how the boom in health and wellness has been affected by the global financial crisis and the growing consumer desire for thrift.
Our research shows that people are adopting creative ways to pursue their healthy habits while watching their budgets. Cost-cutting might mean opting for conventional vegetables rather than organics or forgoing gym memberships and using fitness DVDs instead. Some are taking resourcefulness too far, splitting prescription pills in half, sharing prescriptions or dangerously rationing medicine.
Nearly five months after we published our “American Dream in the Balance” study, Vanity Fair’s David Kamp explores how the Dream has evolved. With the threat or reality of unemployment, foreclosed homes and dwindling investments closing in around us, Americans are recalibrating.
Consider how the Dream looked before the brunt of the recession hit: “Back in the day, the American Dream was as simple as coming to America to find a home, get a job and live out your life. Now that is not good enough,” a 20-year-old Hispanic male told us in the quantitative study JWT conducted several weeks before the U.S. presidential election. “Now you want to be famous, rich, glorious and renowned all over the world. In the past, ‘dead end job’ was a term that didn’t exist. Any job meant money to feed your family and pay your taxes. Now working at any old job is pretty much the same as being dead. The world does not know who you are, nor does it care who you are.”
Today, however, that job doesn’t seem so dead-end after all. For a while to come, most consumers and many businesses will be primarily focused on basic priorities—surviving and making it through the crisis without too much damage. Along with leaders at every level, brands can play a part in safeguarding and stewarding people’s bigger, longer-term aspirations—helping them prepare for a more secure future and inspiring them to work toward it. We make a case for this in our trendletter “Rethinking Aspirations,” which can be downloaded from our Trends and Research section, along with “American Dream in the Balance.”
Below is a video we produced just before the U.S. election as a complement to our research.
The global economic crisis is challenging the aspirations of hundreds of millions of people, especially in the developed world, forcing consumers to focus on basic needs rather than higher-level hopes and ambitions. Our latest trendletter, Rethinking Aspirations, considers how expectations are being downsized as economies transition out of a long boom period into the most serious recession in decades.