Companies Target a New Market: The Stressed Out

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Drivers climbing into the new Lincoln Nautilus enter “a sanctuary,” Lincoln declares in the car’s ads. Seats offer massage, vents emit refreshed air and sound-dampening materials eliminate outside ruckus.

To avoid jarring seat-belt reminders and other car alerts, Lincoln, which is owned by Ford Motor Co. , worked with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to compose soft chimes to play instead. A lighting display that activates when approaching the vehicle is called the “Lincoln Embrace,” the company says. “The door opens and it really feels like a human hug,” says Kemal Curic, Lincoln’s design director.

Long before Covid-19 hit last year, rising stress was identified as one of Americans’ major concerns. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, consumers’ stress levels have been soaring. In June, nearly one-third of Americans reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2019, only 11% of Americans reported such symptoms, according to a comparable survey from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Young adults and those with less than a high-school education reported the largest increases in symptoms, but every racial, ethnic, gender and age group said they experienced some increase, federal health researchers said earlier this year.

With so much of the population stressed out, more consumer product companies see soothing anxiety as an opportunity. Makers of everyday goods from cars and note paper to makeup, cereal and beverages are framing marketing messages and launching products to target worried consumers.

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