Why Anxiety Matters

Anxiety is pervasive around the world. Economic anxiety still lingers from the Great Recession, especially as many markets enter a jobless recovery. It’s not the only driver of anxiety, however, nor is it necessarily the cause of the most acutely felt anxiety in every market.

Economic concerns exist in the context of other fears and insecurities—centered around terrorism, military hostilities, natural disasters, product safety, health care, epidemics and so on—that are driven in part by a 24-7 media environment in which bad news spreads fast and repeats endlessly. With tens of millions of consumers seeking guidance and assurance, marketers need to understand the total picture in each market.

When consumers are anxious—whether about their health or safety or their finances—they tend to exert more control over areas of their lives that are within their control, whether that means using more coupons at the supermarket or assuming greater management of their health care. Often, control applies to brand and product choices. This means brands must understand their consumers’ anxieties and address them proactively.

That’s why anxiety matters for marketers. Navigating consumer anxieties is not about exploiting fear—it’s about finding better ways to connect with consumers looking for trust, credibility and answers.

Following are some excerpts from experts about why anxiety matters.
As we psychologists define it, anxiety is a distressing apprehension, a chronic worry. It’s frequently accompanied by unpleasant symptoms that range from restless irritability, concentration difficulty and muscle tension to sleep problems. In milder forms, anxiety is characterized as stress or worry.

Anxiety is, quite literally, a painful response to feeling powerless against uncontrollable forces. In response, humans seek comfort, consistency and control. The 3Cs apply to work, relationships, habits and even spending.

Familiar products give some measure of comfort and consistency in an anxious world. And the brands that people choose to use, or not use, also provide some sense of control during anxious times; sometimes consumers look for new choices to assist them in maintaining control, or at least fostering an illusion of control. John C. Norcross, Ph.D., ABPP, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, University of Scranton

Anxiety has a profound impact on leaders and their ability to perceive reality accurately and make sound decisions. Unmanaged, extreme anxiety at the top can trickle down and derail an entire organization. Kerry J. Sulkowicz, M.D., psychoanalyst and founder of the Boswell Group, which advises executives on psychological aspects of business; Fast Company‘s corporate shrink