As May is mental health month, and this week has been mental health week, it seems appropriate to continue the conversation around brands and mental health. Moreover, does your brand have a duty of care to consider the mental health of your customers?
It may seem like a fairly loaded question, but we should consider that this also entails the platforms used to communicate with them, the media used and the way in which we inspire them to make a purchase.
Ethical lines may be blurred with some claiming that leaning too heavily on emotional triggers, or psychographics, in advertising and marketing is unethical. It is a divisive topic, with some believing that this approach shouldn’t be used and can be damaging to the mental health of customers whereas others just believe that is the nature of the business.
Supporting healthy buying decisions
Historically, a plethora of brands and retailers have been guilty of exploiting the emotional vulnerability of their customers. This can be anything from encouraging them to make a purchase by using marketing materials which infers that they or their loved ones will live less enriched lives than their peers without the purchase, to exploiting people in vulnerable situations during peak periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Brands should be conscious of the pressure they put on shoppers to spend through the language they use to inspire these behaviours. Brands should be conscious of the deals they offer, ensuring these are genuine and don’t encourage needless spending.
They should also aim to continue offers for longer periods of time, this allows people to make considered decisions, across more than a matter of hours or minutes.
Time-sensitive deals can create a fear of missing out, and although this works dramatically well for propelling sales, it could be compared to the likes of gambling with customers feeling that they must buy the ‘thing’ because it will be gone soon, or miss out on the ‘rush’.
Companies should look at offering shoppers discount codes which are unique to them or discounts which span across multiple days or weeks to ensure they aren’t leveraging too much pressure to buy, which could result in overspending or needless spending.
Removing the stigma
Around a quarter of the UK live with mental health illness and it falls on brands (in part) and those with clout, to ensure representation and remove the stigma associated with mental illness.
There are now more mental health charities than ever, offering better access to advice alongside health care professionals becoming more effective at diagnosing and supporting mental health too. However, there is still a cliche when talking about mental health and the representative and associated imagery used really doesn’t help.
Whenever you read a study online or have seen an article regarding mental health, you could almost bet that the publication opted for some stereotypical image of a person looking distressed, unhappy or with their head in their hands to accompany their words.
Instead of this age-old stereotype, we need to ensure we are using imagery, even if it is stock imagery, which does not commit people living with mental health illness into one small box. This approach almost forces those suffering to feel as if they should behave or look a certain way in order to ‘prove’ their suffering or be taken seriously.
Brands and publishers should aim to either use better representative imagery (featuring people of all backgrounds, races, sexualities, genders, etc.) as well as positioned in situations other than looking ‘sad’ or instead feature illustrations or drawings.
Alongside better visual representation, businesses need to confer and partner with charities to help support their communications and use their brand platform to amplify the voices of those who represent the cause. This also allows them to support their specific niche of customer, in a way which is unique to that demographic. This can be achieved by demonstrating an understanding of the specific issues they might face and how mental health problems might affect their lives.
We all suffer in different ways, due to different experiences and demographics and, as a result, there is no blanket solution or coping mechanism for everyone. That’s why brands have to use their unique position for good, by genuinely caring for their customers.
Backing up the talk
Even a brand with the best corporate social responsibility strategy, partnerships and responsible advertising, should ensure that they provide support internally.
Without an internal structure which supports employees, from juniors and interns to CEOs and management, the brand might experience less productivity, reduced employee happiness and high staff turnover, costing them greatly.
Brands, agencies and businesses around the world need to move ahead, ditch archaic attitudes and provide genuine safe-spaces for their employees – after all, they’re giving you a massive portion of their time and life, you should be looking out for them.
Bean bags and ping-pong tables are all well and good, but at the end of the day, a business which ensures they are offering their staff above the minimum when it comes to salary, holidays, benefits and working environments are going to see better performance and staff retention from those who don’t.
How can you do it?
No matter how big or small your brand is, you can make a difference.
Your brand could support a local, national or global charity and regularly raise money for their cause or raise their profile.
Your brand could run regular internal services for employees which could be anything from offering self-care opportunities, such as therapy or massage, to providing them with flexible working to allow them respite from interoffice stress and travel.
There’s a wealth of opportunities for brands to be more inclusive, supportive and effective in raising the profile of mental health awareness, and if your brand is struggling to do this and needs a little help, just get in touch with us today, we would love to hear from you.
Also published on Medium.