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 Special K’s latest “More Than a Number” campaign, the brand invited women to a jeans giveaway: The gimmick was that instead of a size number on the pants, labels bore various positive words (“fierce,” “vivacious,” etc.). A tape measure featuring those words in place of measurements helped women figure out which jeans to try. In a video, women talk about how they hate shopping for jeans, and Special K asks, “Why do we let the size of our jeans measure our worth?” The final message: “Let’s rethink what defines us.”
This effort is similar to a U.K. initiative from Special K that we wrote about last year, in which women weighed themselves and saw encouraging words rather than numbers. At the time, we noted a spate of other campaigns that aimed to make women more confident in themselves rather than inducing anxiety by promoting unattainable beauty standards. This year, Dove’s hugely popular “Real Beauty Sketches” continued that theme.
New York City is now addressing the issue of body image and self-esteem with its Girls Project, which appears to be the first such campaign sponsored by a municipality, according to The New York Times. Bus and subway ads show smiling girls with the headline “I’m a girl. I’m beautiful the way I am” and lines like, “I’m funny, playful, daring, strong, curious, smart, brave, healthy, friendly and caring.” The word “beautiful” has sparked some criticism—that the campaign should emphasize values other than beauty—although the website does better than the ads, explaining that the project aims to “help girls believe their value comes from their character, skills, and attributes—not appearance.” Watch for more marketers to get behind this type of positive messaging, and expand it to include the male gender as well.
Most Indian families are of the belief that girls are better off at home after sunset, in part because of the belief that they’re not safe out alone at night. Hero MotoCorp, a motorcycle and scooter maker, is aiming to break down these prejudices through a campaign dubbed “Why should boys have all the fun?” Its scooter brand Pleasure, targeted at women, questions the status quo and asks girls to reclaim the night.
A TV commercial opens with a free-spirited, confident girl who is about to take off on her bike at night when her young male neighbor spots her and says that “Hitler Uncle” (her father) won’t be happy seeing her step out so late. She dismisses him with a nonchalant retort, “Why put brakes on a night of fun?” while taking off on her Hero Pleasure. She is soon joined by her friends on their bikes. The spot ends with her dancing the night away at a party with her father, while the neighbor who questioned her is dragged out by his ears, by his mother. The girl tells the boy: “My dad is happy, but your mom seems to be becoming the Hitler.” The commercial signs off with the line, “Why should boys have all the fun?”
Hero MotoCorp not only manages to raise a relevant social issue that bogs women down but also does so without hurting the sentiments of the older generation. It steers clear of becoming a brand that encourages “rebellious behavior” by ensuring that the approval of the father comes out strongly.
With recent crimes against women in India echoing loudly around the nation and the globe, the everyday anxieties of Indian women are surfacing like never before. Brands across categories are taking up the cause in different ways. We’ve posted about Gillette, which is calling for men to act as “Soldiers for Women,” Vodafone’s all-women stores and a Times of India initiative. Add two more to the list: Tata Tea and Nokia.
Tata Tea takes the stance of not just putting women on par with men but ahead. In a spot for the brand, popular Bollywood icon Shahrukh Khan walks the walk by pledging to feature female co-stars ahead of his name in the title credits. Khan is seen conducting an interview with a young journalist, who asks for his opinion on women’s equality. Khan says women shouldn’t be equal to men—rather, they should be ahead in every field, mentioning education, medicine, politics, engineering and media. The journalist challenges his response, noting that male film stars are always billed before female counterparts. Khan calls for a retake of the shot and announces that from now on, he’ll get second billing to his female stars. A voiceover says, “For a big change, everyone must make a small start,” and Khan concludes, “We have more to do. Ahead.”
Meanwhile, Nokia Asha is smartly bringing to life its Nokia Nearby app, showing young women leading a harassing goon to the nearest police station with the help of the app. In a TV commercial, two young women are walking down the street when a man in a car begins catcalling and following them as they walk toward a Chinese restaurant. The clever women change course and instead head to the nearest police station. Preoccupied with trying to get their attention, the man drives into the trap, and a policeman interrogates him.
While brands like these are beginning to tap in to the Indian woman’s concerns about equality and safety, time will tell how far and deep they’re willing to travel. Brands will need to go beyond just taking a stance or voicing an opinion to actually finding relevant ways of tackling these societal issues if they are to truly capture trust and admiration.
Women’s safety is slowly becoming a serious issue in India. In Kolkata, at one time known as the safest metro for women in India, more than half the female population feels the need to carry an article for self-defence. And according to a survey commissioned by Times of India, two-thirds have “experienced misbehaviour” on the street, but only 11 percent filed a complaint, showing their mistrust in the police.
In light of this, leading daily newspaper The Times of India has kicked off a campaign, “Kolkata for Women,” that looks into different aspects of a woman’s life and her engagement with the city through articles, seminars, health workshops and the like. The campaign aims to address every issue faced by a woman in the city, right from safety to problems encountered during the commute, at work, at home, etc. The idea is to join hands with the women of Kolkata “in their fight to demand what is rightfully theirs and to reclaim a city that is equally theirs,” as the paper explained.
A recent seminar on health saw women flocking for free advice and tests. Hopefully, initiatives such as this will wake up citizens to the logical, the obvious and the right.
Women feel constantly under pressure to meet society’s “beauty standard.” From cosmetics to fashion, brands play a major role in how this “beauty standard” is defined and perceived. More often than not, women end up feeling like they’ve failed to meet what is generally an unattainable notion of beauty, resulting in anxiety and low self-esteem. We’ve posted about several marketers that have addressed this issue, including Under Armour (whose “What’s Beautiful” campaign urged women to take power back “from the marketers who want us to look Photoshopped”) and Thai cosmetic brand Oriental Princess, which told women, “Why be like everyone else? Why not accept the way you are?”
Dove, known for using “real” women in its “Campaign for Real Beauty,” last year created an app that replaced negative ad messages with positive messages. In its mission to take a stand against other beauty brands, Dove is trying to transform beauty into a source of confidence, proving to its audience how blind they are when it comes to self-perception—and that they are “more beautiful than you think,” as its latest campaign demonstrates. In a social experiment that quickly went viral, Dove hired an FBI-trained forensic sketch artist and had him draw portraits of women based on their own descriptions of themselves and then descriptions provided by relative strangers. The differences between the two sketches said it all: The women look more beautiful, happier and fresh in the sketch based on the stranger’s description.
Anxiety is all about uncertainty, so Dove is giving women a reaffirmation of their beauty. Sometimes all we need is a reminder.
There has been a noticeable shift in how South Africans have been addressing the country’s alarmingly high incidence of rape. It seems to have been sparked by the brutal murder in early February of a 17-year-old who was gang raped. There was a strong reaction on Twitter, and in mid-February the public reacted with a national #BlackFriday to create awareness of #StopRape. On the same day, Lead SA—an initiative from Primedia Broadcasting that encourages citizens to “stand up and lead South Africa”—partnered with four radio stations, which emitted a beep every four minutes to remind listeners of the rape crisis. DJs at the stations also used the day to talk about rape (coincidently, the conversations were heavily amplified due to the Oscar Pistorius shooting two days before).
Now, many are asking what this really achieved. Did it simply give participants the perception of making a difference, or did it actually make a difference? As columnist Chris Moerdyk put it: “I get the feeling that we are resorting to a habit that we as a nation have developed recently and that is to complain to each other about something, hear government continually ‘addressing issues,’ holding incessant talkshops, making lots of speeches, but not actually rolling their sleeves up and getting something done.” Ultimately, he says, “We all get used to it and live with it.”
Is there a role for brands to play in helping to drive change? While this is a difficult topic to wade into, marketers like Gillette in India have found ways to respond to violence against women by encouraging men to change their mindset.
When a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi was gang-raped and beaten to death last December, the horrendous crime spotlighted the fact that, in India, rape has long been depressingly common. (The U.N.’s human rights chief calls rape in India a “national problem.”) To address these atrocities against women, and more generally the sheer lack of public safety they feel in India, Gillette has embarked on a unique journey with a new campaign, “Soldier for Women.”
The objective is to inspire young Indian men to awaken their “inner valor” by embracing what a case study describes as the five values an ideal man should incorporate into his daily life: courage, camaraderie, discipline, integrity and grooming. A television spot showcases men and women from different social strata coming together, and we see men stand by women, as soldiers. The supers tell the story: “Soldiers wanted. Not to guard the borders. But to support the most important battle of the nation. To stand up for women.” Some commenters on YouTube criticize that women can stand up for themselves, but the point is more the final line, about respect: “Because when you respect women, you respect your nation.”
Since the high-profile rape, thousands of Indians have been stirred to rise up and express their anger and anguish through nationwide protests. The issue has created a huge furor across the country, with people questioning India’s very system of basic rights and equalities. Gillette taps into this strong vein of feeling in its social media component: A Facebook page asks consumers to share stories about people who have stood up for women (in exchange for free razors), and on Twitter the hashtag is #SoldierforWomen. The conversations and response among the public have been great so far.
We’re all well aware of how demoralizing unrealistic depictions of beauty can be for women, since we’ll never be as flawless as the airbrushed and Photoshopped images we see everywhere. This is one reason behind some of the startling statistics about women and self-image—for example, one study (cited by Dove) found that only 4 percent of women feel they’re beautiful. Two new campaigns are encouraging women to take an active role in shifting the status quo.
Dove has been a longstanding opponent of unrealistic imagery, with its “Campaign for Real Beauty.” In the campaign’s latest iteration, the personal care brand undertakes an “Ad Makeover” on Facebook, aimed at eliminating negative marketing messages that play on women’s insecurities. A Dove app allows women to replace these taunting ads with feel-good messages such as “The perfect bum is the one you’re sitting on.” Dove is also offering the opportunity to be featured on a living billboard as part of its Show Us Your Skin promotion; women can upload photos that will be projected in bustling Times Square and on Dove’s websites.
Athletic brand Under Armour is also on a mission to showcase more positive images of womanhood, with its “What’s Beautiful” campaign. As an Under Armour marketing exec told Marketing Daily, “What we get really frustrated with is advertisers who talk about beauty in terms of how you look, not what you are made of.” In a manifesto spot that shows women athletes working hard, the voiceover proclaims that it’s time to take power back “from the marketers who want us to look Photoshopped, from the magazines who want us topless, from the people who think we should be happy just the way we are.”
These marketers, along with some others such as Thailand’s Oriental Princess, stand out in a category that has historically relied on generating anxiety in women. Taking the opposite approach, these messages give power back to women, helping them to feel more comfortable in their own skin and begin redefining what it means to feel beautiful and sexy.
“If you don’t look beautiful, you won’t get anywhere in life.” Often women underestimate themselves and live by others’ judgment, and many cosmetics brands reinforce this, creating anxiety. Oriental Princess, the largest cosmetics brand here in Thailand, aims to alleviate this by telling women that they’re not alone, that they have a voice and should not live their lives by the labels that others give them.
The brand created the Oriental Princess Society, reachable both online and offline, which now has 1 million-plus members throughout Thailand. Its message to these women: Take pride in yourself rather than worry about how others see you. A recent commercial illustrates this, asking empowering questions like, “Why be like everyone else? Why not accept the way you are?” and “Why not listen to yourself?”
Online, the society acts like a social and discussion network. Women set up an account with filters that let them choose issues of interest. Content is generated by members or invited guests. When relevant issues are posted, the women who have expressed interest are tagged and involved in the discussion. These discussions then become themes that come to life offline at the Oriental Princess stores, where members can be more actively involved with the society. Through the society, Oriental Princess illustrates that it’s not just another cosmetics brand selling a promise.
Elena Salgado has headed Spain’s Ministry of the Economy since April, serving as the prime minister’s right hand in managing the financial crisis and navigating the downturn. Wanting to celebrate the idea that all woman are playing the same role within their families, the turkey ham brand Pavofrio found 15 real women—who work outside the home and play a housewife role—who all share the name Elena Salgado. Their everyday struggle to defend their family economy is celebrated in a new commercial.
There’s a sparkle inside the idea, but the brand didn’t develop any rewarding 2.0 platform or social responsibility plan to support the idea. Unfortunately, its only message to reward these everyday heroes is … “Buy my ham.”