Calming influence

Looking ahead to world mental health day and the role brands play

The number of ‘awareness days’ i.e. those dedicated to celebrating and supporting different causes, seems to be increasing with every passing year and there is no doubt some are more worthy of attention than others.

World Mental Health Day on October 10th is certainly amongst those but what role should brands play in communicating around an issue that requires a deep level of understanding. Is it enough to create awareness through a stunt on one day? Or do brands need to have a long-term commitment to change the perception of mental health issues? People are aware brands are activating in the space, but are they doing it with meaning?

Some brands just get it. A brilliant example from WMHD 2017 is Topman x CALM’s news hijack with Love Island’s Chris Hughes. It ticked all the boxes, it was authentic not superficial. It took a real situation (Chris opening up about his emotions on national TV) and turned it into an opportunity that was timely and relevant for the core Topman audience, and beyond. The partnership between the charity and high street retailer is also long-standing; the stores stock the quarterly CALMzine magazine, fashion shows raise money for the charity, and clothing collaborations create awareness over a long period of time. Not just a day.

Are brands that swoop in for a day with a photo stunt missing the point? Last year Dixons asked members of the public to go into a store and have a photo taken while holding up a sign with the name of the person that has supported them throughout their challenge. This likely raised awareness, but does it really tackle the issue around perception and discrimination?

Of course, creating awareness of complex issues such as anxiety, stress and depression can be a good thing. In today’s current climate are consumers increasingly desensitised to the issues by having their newsfeed bombarded with adapted logos and hashtags? They are aware; however, the taboos remain.  Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. To drive a real and positive change around perception a brand must have an authentic and long-term purpose – there needs to be true added value by breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health.

A brand operating in the mental health space needs to ensure they stand for something. Purposeful marketing is more important than ever before, beginning with a grassroots approach and taking action – talking to those dealing with the issues first-hand is a good place to start.

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