American Anxiety: The Role of Marketers

Scrolling through Instagram, we’re served ads for meditation apps, at-home yoga practice and brands offering dozens of ways to “escape the clutter.” Yet when it comes to the ebbs and flows of the general sentiment of our nation, things are “not great.”

A combination of our political, social, and environmental climate; the overwhelming influence of tech; and the constant ups and downs of society have made us an anxious nation.

Growing Anxiety

According to a recent APA study, in 2018 39% of us are more anxious than we were this time in 2017. And another 39% are equally anxious as they were in 2017.

More than two-thirds of respondents cite safety, health and paying bills as making them somewhat or extremely anxious. 56% cite politics, too.

“Ambient apprehension” is a perfect descriptor of what many people who may not have previously been concerned about anxiety now feel. And anxiety disorders are now the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million Americans. (Iconoculture 2018)

Anxiety has become our baseline, affecting the decisions we make, even down to the restaurant we choose. We’ve seen less interest in adventure and discovery, replaced with a desire for simplicity and comfort. Delivery is growing exponentially, reflecting the cocooning behavior that gives us comfort during these low points in our society. (Iconoculture 2018)

The Role of Marketers

With a country full of anxious consumers, what’s our role as marketers? In previous troubled times in our nation, we were serenaded on the hilltop by hippies about buying the world a Coke. Roger Greenaway, a musician who helped write the jingle for Coca-Cola in 1971 explained, “The lyrics, although not overtly anti-war, delivered a message of peace and camaraderie.” Coca-Cola sought to give comfort to the nation, creating an emotional connection with its customers.

As marketers in this age of American anxiety, do we take on a therapeutic and comforting role with the content we create as Coca Cola did?

Today, progressive brands get involved in the conversation, while others stay out of it, fearful of dividing their customers. Whether your brand is ready to take a stand and have an opinion, or lay low and wait this one out, marketers need to consider their role as anxiety-inducers.

At its core, the role of marketing is to create relationships between brands and customers. As marketers in tense times, we need to focus on our customers. Here are a few solutions we keep top of mind when creating content during this age of anxiety:

  • Solve one of your customers’ problems. You can’t solve all their problems, but can your product solve one? Consider how your product can remove anxiety from your consumer’s life.
  • Don’t tell your customers how busy and stressed they are. They already know. Approach it from a place of problem-solving.
  • Don’t add to the anxiety. It’s easy to prey on fear as a marketing tactic. Ask yourself, “Will this induce fear or anxiety? Or will this take away fear and anxiety?” Consider replacing fear with hope.
  • Provide calm and peace. Think about how your product can directly remove anxiety and stress. Focus messaging on those benefits.

As American anxiety persists, we will focus on doing what we can to relieve it.

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