Why brands are under the microscope when it comes to mental health

Why brands are under the microscope when it comes to mental health

1 in 4 people in the UK experience some form of mental health problem every year

As attitudes towards mental health shift, more brands than ever have been looking for ways to address this change through their campaigns.

1 in 4 people in the UK experience some form of mental health problem every year so it is about time the issue is being discussed and recognised more widely. 

But where is the line between meaningful intervention and tokenistic gesture? 

We’ve all grimaced at examples of ‘Greenwashing’ and ‘Riding the Rainbow’. So how do brands make sure their interaction with mental health is authentic engagement and not just a marketing tactic?

When big name brands choose to shine a light on mental health, they bring mass awareness, but often lack true expertise and educated understanding.

By positioning themselves as an ally, partnering with organisations, trained experts or charities, much like the UKTV Channel Dave has done with Mind, brands can build campaigns that go beyond scratching the surface of an issue.

Another vital ingredient for success is time.

It's about showing sustained support for a cause. With Pride, for example, brands cannot simply slap a rainbow onto their branding for a month, donate a tiny percentage of their profits, then go radio silent for the rest of the year and not expect to face any backlash – the same is true for mental health. 

Dove has been behind some of the most respected campaigns from brands engaging with the movement. Why? Because it has owned the space of self-esteem and women’s mental health since 2004, demonstrating its deep-rooted commitment to the issue.

You can talk about mental health all you like, but your words are meaningless if your own house isn’t in order.

For example, when Burger King launched its #FeelYourWay campaign to mark mental health awareness week in 2019, the company was praised - until its employees spoke up. Many of them used Twitter to highlight the irony of their employer promoting the importance of opening up the conversation around mental health, while simultaneously failing to provide support or provisions to its own staff. What could have been a hugely positive campaign left a nasty after taste.

Ultimately, we should welcome and encourage brands to use their platforms to play a role in de-stigmatising and breaking taboos around mental health. However, it needs to be done with a genuine commitment, over a sustained period of time, in partnership with organisations who have true expertise on the topic, otherwise there’s a real danger of inflicting damage on the cause and the brand itself.

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