TOKYO: Advertising and major brand owners are perceived to be playing a positive role in helping Japanese consumers respond to the recent natural disasters that hit the country, a study has revealed.

JWT, the agency, surveyed 502 adults, although it was forced to exclude 14 regions from the analysis due to the combined effects of the earthquake and tsunami.

Overall, 91% of participants agreed that they were anxious, including 30% at the highest end of this spectrum, figures actually only growing by 2% and 5% in turn measured against March 2009.

However, the source of common worries has changed, with further natural disasters, the budget deficit, gasoline prices and political leadership seeing upticks here.

Food safety is also an issue, given 39% of contributors expressed concern as to whether the items they buy could be affected by radioactivity and 27% lacking faith in indigenous products in case of radiation contamination.

For 17% of the panel, the return to normality was already underway, while 25% predicted such a process may start in the summer or autumn.

Exactly 14% anticipated this occurrence beginning next year, and 15% pegged the date at 2013, the same share as those not expecting a reassertion of the former climate.

Half of the sample thought other countries had reacted well to the crisis, attaining 49% for relief bodies, 32% for large corporations and 12% for the federal government.

Another 80% displayed trust in the actions big companies had pursued when responding, and 60% held similar confidence in relation to what these firms were saying about the evolving situation.

Radio, newspapers and television reports delivered 69%, 67% and 66% respectively on this metric, as magazines recorded 40% and online blogs yielded 34%, compared with 40% for the government.

In assessing their future behaviour, 81% of consumers intend to maintain prior habits when buying health products, standing at 80% for toys, and 79% for cosmetics and everyday groceries.

Alcoholic beverages posted 78%, matching electronics, while fast-food registered 76%, and the automotive sector secured 72%.

Elsewhere, 80% of interviewees will dedicate the same amount of time to emailing friends and family, reaching 79% for web usage, 76% for reading newspapers and magazines, and 73% for watching TV.

Among the wider fields likely to see an increase in interest are recycling, logging 66%, volunteering and donating money, generating 54%, and being careful with energy consumption, on 43%.

Some 69% of adults suggested the resumption of regular advertising would signal a return to normality, and 70% argued that a "little humour" in ads is welcome at present.

More than two-thirds wanted ads to acknowledge people's emotions and take a sensitive tone, alongside 58% finding advertising "makes me feel like everything will be OK" at the moment.

An additional 51% stated executions which were showing Japanese patriotism enhanced perceptions of the brand owner in question.

Just 38% asserted advertising must be more muted, and 16% took the view all ads were inappropriate.

In identifying desirable content for commercials, 66% cited safety, security and day-to-day needs, 45% mentioned visions and future hopes, product information lodged 39% and innovation scored 36%

Meanwhile, 64% thought Japanese brands should receive attention, 42% believed familiar offerings were currently appealing.

"Brands can help fill the leadership vacuum with innovative, decisive actions that make a real difference," says Jordan Price, senior strategic planning partner at JWT Tokyo.

"Brands need not hesitate to start talking to consumers again, rather be mindful about the tone and approach of the communications."

Data sourced from JWT; additional content by Warc staff