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Post-quake, Japanese anxious about their leadership

11 May, 2011


TOKYO, JAPAN — In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, Japanese are re-evaluating who to trust, with the political leadership among the key drivers of consumer anxiety today, according to AnxietyIndex research from JWT, the world’s best-known marketing communications brand.

The survey, conducted a month after the earthquake and tsunami, found that Japanese regard corporations as more reliable than the government and see the resumption of regular advertising as signaling a return to normalcy.

Only a third of our respondents said they trust what the government is telling them about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, while only 40% trust what the government is saying about the disaster generally. Not surprisingly, then, only a third are confident in the government’s ability to successfully steer the country through the crisis.

Corporations seem to be filling the trust void, with 8 in 10 Japanese saying they trust what big corporations have been doing to help during the disaster, and two-thirds saying the same of local businesses in their town.

“Brands can help fill the leadership vacuum with innovative, decisive actions that make a real difference,” says Jordan Price, Senior Strategic Planning Partner, JWT Tokyo. “For brands that step up to this challenge, the rewards to equity can be significant, given the nation’s sentiments.”

When asked what would help signal a return to normalcy, 7 in 10 Japanese say it will be when TV channels start to show regular ads again. And almost 6 in 10 agree that “Right now, ads make me feel like everything will be OK.”

“Rather than seeing advertising as somehow ‘shameful’ while people are still suffering, most Japanese see it as a sign that things are improving,” says Price. “Brands need not hesitate to start talking to consumers again, rather be mindful about the tone and approach of the communications.”

This report is the first in a series on Japan that seeks to analyze post-disaster shifts in perception, values and behavior in order to formulate insights relevant to brands in these uncertain times.

Other findings include:

Anxiety has intensified in an already anxious nation: As one might expect, nearly everyone in Japan (91% of the population we surveyed) is anxious. The aftermath of the events of March 11 have only intensified an already pervasive anxiety in Japan (in March 2009, 89% reported feeling anxious). Today 30% report feeling very anxious, a 20% increase from two years ago.

Nuclear disaster is weighing most heavily on Japan’s psyche: More than 9 in 10 Japanese report feeling anxious about the safety of the nuclear power supply, with more than 6 in 10 feeling very anxious about it. Regarding the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, 85% say they are fearful of it, with 47% very anxious. There is also great concern that the nuclear situation will lead to foreigners having a negative image of Japan (88%, with 50% very anxious).

People are finding comfort in cocooning: While not altogether surrendering to the crisis (only one-third agree that “In a crisis like this, my initial reaction is more ‘surrender’ than ‘fight’”), people are retrenching to their homes, with 8 in 10 Japanese saying, “I find my home a comforting refuge from this crisis.”

JWT’s second AnxietyIndex survey in Japan was conducted April 13-18 using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool; 502 adults aged 18-plus were polled, and the data was weighted by age. Due to the disaster, 14 regions were excluded from this research, representing 27 percent of Japan.

The report can be downloaded from the Trends and Research section of

Alyson Valpone
JWT APAC Regional Communications
t: +65 6880 5122

About JWT’s AnxietyIndex
JWT launched the AnxietyIndex in February 2003 during the run-up to the war in Iraq. It tracks the level and intensity of consumer anxiety and, importantly, the drivers of anxiety, including safety and security concerns—the threat of terrorism, potential and current military hostilities, crime, etc.—and economic worries, such as the cost of health care, the cost of living and job security. The AnxietyIndex is designed to uncover consumer insights that can help inform strategies for marketing during times of high or low anxiety.

About JWT
JWT is the world’s best-known marketing communications brand. Headquartered in New York, JWT is a true global network with more than 200 offices in over 90 countries employing nearly 10,000 marketing professionals. JWT consistently ranks among the top agency networks in the world and continues its dominant presence in the industry by staying on the leading edge—from producing the first-ever TV commercial in 1939 to developing award-winning branded content for brands such as Freixenet, Ford and HSBC. JWT’s pioneering spirit enables the agency to forge deep relationships with clients including Bayer, Bloomberg, Cadbury, Diageo, DTC, Ford, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft, Microsoft, Nestlé, Nokia, Rolex, Royal Caribbean, Schick, Shell, Unilever, Vodafone and many others. JWT’s parent company is WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY).

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