The Invisible Strategy

How Mental Health is Influencing Brand Creative

In a recent survey for marketing and media professionals conducted last year by mental health charity Mind and Nabs, the support organisation for the UK ad and media industry, 26 per cent of respondents said they had a long-term mental health condition. Six in 10 said their work had had a negative impact on their well-being in the past year.

But work life has been this way for some time, so why question it? It is what it is, right? Wrong. Now is the time to talk. Celebrities are skyping about it. Governments are changing polices. And more and more of our favourite brands are putting mental health at the heart of their campaigns. But are they doing it right? Should they be doing it at all?

Well yes. Despite the stigma around mental health, despite it being an invisible illness, those 25 per cent are informing some of the most compelling strategies and creative around. From working with the right agencies who have wellbeing policies, to partners who have the infrastructure to make a difference. Brands are having the conversation and getting it right.

In one UK example, United Biscuits’ brand McVitie’s partnered with charity Mind in the Let’s Talk campaign; encouraging emotion-dodging Brits to engage in conversation and social connection over the most British of rituals, a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Another mental health-focused organisation leading the way is male suicide charity CALM; whose CEO, Simon Gunning is a former media exec taking a business approach to doing good. Partnerships with brands such as Unilever’s Lynx and Arcadia’s Topman, have brought unprecedented funding and awareness of CALM’s cause, while providing positive and relevant associations for its brand partners.

And many of these activations are just one channel for the brand’s mission to do good. Plenty of brands are putting their money where their mouth is to protect the wellbeing of their own staff. Unilever and Virgin are two of many early adopters to introduce policies such as company-wide mental health education programmes, ongoing coaching support and digital apps or platforms for staff to track their mental and physical health.

But sometimes they get it wrong.

Luxury label Gucci caused some controversy online  for its use of straitjackets in a series of opening looks meant as a social commentary. The backlash came visibly from the catwalk models themselves who displayed messages on their hands “Mental Health is not a fashion”.

It’s true. Mental Health is not a trend nor a fad. It is here to stay. Drive the conversation but approach with caution. If your brand creative is going to take that path then ensure it is for the right reasons, has longevity far beyond this season’s catwalks and is informed by those affected by the invisible illness.


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