SOTB: Pandemics, meltdowns and other catastrophes edition ~ Brand Mix

Sunday, May 17, 2009

SOTB: Pandemics, meltdowns and other catastrophes edition

A week free of Twitter storms. Star Trek stayed at the top of its trending topics all week and there no Motrin/KFC/Domino's-like incidents to report. But there will be no rest. Let's use this quiet Twitter week to talk about real catastrophic events, the fear they generate and the consequences for marketing. First the financial crisis, now a flu pandemic.

1) The Age of Pandemics: Larry Brilliant
"In 1967, the country's surgeon general, William Stewart, famously said, 'The time has come to close the book on infectious diseases. We have basically wiped out infection in the United States.'" How wrong he turned out to be. Instead, Larry Brilliant argues, we are entering a new age of pandemics and it's only a matter of time before a flu or some other disease, natural or man-made, wipes a lot of us out. Maybe it won't be this swine flu but something's coming. So, even when we finally emerge from this recession, there's plenty more to fear around the corner.

2) Brand Building in the Face of Fear: Branding Strategy Insider
"What do guns, burglar alarms and condoms have in common? Their sales have all boomed in 2009." But why? Martin Lindstrom's explanation is that, in the atmosphere of fear started by the financial crisis and now fanned by the media, we have reverted back to our more basic needs and instincts. He believes that you can't build brands in a recession unless you are able to manage fear. That's what he thinks was so great about Hyundai's "Buy any new Hyundai, and if in the next year you lose your income, we'll let you return it" offer. Sales of Hyundai shot up while the deeply discounted U.S. cars continued to fall. Hyundai addressed people's fear for their job while American car manufacturers thought that price alone would be the answer.

3) Why Anxiety Matters: JWT Anxiety Index
JWT has created a site specifically designed to help brands navigate consumer anxiety. It includes a monthly anxiety index, a monthly report of the anxiety of different nations (Japan, the most; Brazil, the least). As they say: "Anxious consumers look for brands that can give them a sense of control over their lives, whether that means staying within their budget at the supermarket or finding cheap alternatives to going out. Navigating consumer anxieties is not about exploiting fear. It’s about finding better ways to connect with consumers looking for trust, credibility and answers."

‘What Happens Here Stays Here’ is here to stay: JWT Anxiety Index
One of JWT AI's recent posts shows that knee-jerk price cuts to deal with the recession sometimes backfire. Las Vegas' successful
"What Happens Here Stays Here” theme was dropped last year for a new message that focused on affordability. The new message bombed because, it turns out, people still like the idea of Las Vegas as a place to indulge. The old theme has now been revived with just a wink to the recession:

5) Angry Ads Seek to Channel Consumer Outrage: New York Times
How are other marketers reacting to the fear dynamic? According to the NYT: "The mad men of Madison Avenue are really mad these days, creating a spate of angry advertising campaigns that seek to channel the outrage, frustration and fear felt by consumers hit hard by what some are calling the Great Recession." From Harley-Davidson that deplores “the stink of greed and billion-dollar bankruptcies” to (even) Post Shredded Wheat cereal, which declares in new ads that “Progress is overrated,” companies are going for brutal honesty responding to the climate of fear and worry.

6) The Upside of Fear: Pamela Slim
Not everyone thinks that fear is such a bad thing. Here's Pamela Slim recorded at an Ignite Phoenix event. Rather than "power it out" or "let it wash over you," Pamela believes that we can learn a lot from fear. The storm around us gives us the chance to grow in new and different ways.

(Thanks to Tom Asaker for sharing the tip about how to resize these videos so they don't spill into my right-hand column. If you're having the same problem, let me know and I'll pass the tip along. )

Jennifer Senior provides a similar perspective in her recent Recession Culture article in New York Magazine. She find that the reduced focus on money in NYC has its plus side perhaps making the city a touch more neighborly and civic-minded.

That's it! See you here on the blog or on Twitter (@martinjbishop) for more stories from the world of brand strategy.


Thomas Stack said...

Tip about resizing videos sorely needed

Martin Bishop said...

Here is the advice about resizing videos, direct from Tom Asaker:

"Take a look at the html code for the posted videos. They'll display
video width and length size in pixels.

It looks like your maximum width for video display with no problems is around 412.

So, constrain the video sizes to that width. Here's how (my
daughter's boyfriend showed me):

For example, let's assume your embedded video size is:

width = 463
length = 376

Your new width would be = 412 (constrained to fit)

And you get the new length by cross multiplying and dividing by the old width:

New length = Old length (376) times New width (412) divided by Old width (463) or 376 x 412 / 463 = 334.58 Round to 335

So the new size is now:
Width = 412
Length = 335

That's it!"

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