Though the recession has dominated the press over the past year, it is not the primary cause of stress for Asian consumers, especially in the two largest countries – China and India, according to JWT’s Anxiety Index.
Talking about the findings, Michael Maedel, President, JWT, said, “While the economic recession has been pervasive in the media, consumers in Asia expressed concern for a wide range of issues. Indians have some concern for the economy, but are very optimistic about the recovery and instead are more concerned about threats to their personal security. In fact, China compared to countries around the world, had little concern for the economy. Yet, they are extremely worried about other issues such as food safety.”
JWT’s Anxiety Index is intended to help brands navigate consumer anxiety. In times of heightened consumer anxiety, what brands need is real-time data that can help them navigate a rapidly changing landscape, they need answers to new questions and a point of view on the types of businesses and business practices that will emerge.
India is extremely anxious compared to other countries around the globe. Only Japan, Russia and the US describe themselves as more anxious than India. But Indian consumers are also optimistic about near-term prospects for the economy. “While many consumers reported being anxious during the survey, since the recent elections there has been a palpable feeling of hope and optimism in India,” commented Pragya Singh, Planner, JWT Delhi. “There is a strong belief that the Government will be able to shield India from the worst of the recession,” she added.
In fact, anxiety stems primarily from concerns over security and terrorism, not the recession. With the November 26 terror attacks in Mumbai, it is no surprise that Indians are concerned about local terrorism. The size of this attack and the slowness of the government to intervene have increased the fear amongst the population.
Consumer behaviour appears to be largely unchanged in regards to purchase of everyday items like rice and shampoo. But consumers do admit that to save money in these uncertain times, they have been cutting back or waiting for promotions on branded apparel and shoes. Families are trimming their entertainment and dining out budget as well.
One area of spending that remains consistent is on mobile phones. Almost one-fifth of the respondents have recently upgraded their phones and often to a more expensive model. Thirty per cent of the respondents admitted that they were trying to decrease their phone bill by talking less.
Overall, brands shouldn’t be slashing prices since consumer behaviour has not drastically changed in most categories. Brands that are in impacted categories need to be even more savvy with their communications by tapping into consumer sentiment. For instance, while Indians may be holding off on upgrading mobile phones, a recent Nokia campaign was extremely successful because it tapped into Indian’s optimism and positioned the brand as a means to economic and social progress.
Consumers are also taking a bigger interest in social issues, realising that turning a blind eye will ultimately impact their own family. Therefore, brands that are championing corporate responsibility initiatives like The Times of India, Tata Tea and Lifebuoy are commanding a new level of respect from consumers.