Right now, Bell Canada is holding Bell Let's Talk, a huge cause marketing campaign to raise awareness about mental illness and raise funds for mental health initiatives ... And Bell, of Course. Bell donates 5 cents for every Tweet, text and long distance call, etc. to mental health initiatives. Regular readers of my blog may anticipate that I have a problem with the business objectives of the campaign, or that I may be skeptical about the level of awareness this campaign has created.
Actually, I don't. I'm not.
There is clear information in Bell's marketing, Bell's supporters and others touched by mental illness. The goal of the campaign is to foster discourse, thereby reducing still highly prevalent stigma. It's working. People are sharing their stories, disclosing their own challenges with anxiety or depression. It's opening doors. It's helping people going through similar things connect with each other, providing a safe and supportive climate to disclose their issues and get help.
This campaign, unlike many cause marketing campaigns, makes sense. Bell is a communication company. Let's Talk participants aren't participating by buying products branded pink, to support breast cancer, as claimed by the brands. Products that infantalize women, offer no support. There is a product marketed in the Let's Talk cause: Bell services. But using Bell services can actually help. Texting a friend about about your experience with mental illness. Calling your mom long distance to disclose your illness to her.
The Bell Let's Talk website provides important information and statistics, personal stories on mental illness and makes it very easy to disseminate this information with social media sharing buttons. The website also includes a great Toolkit zip download of many informative resources about mental health you can read, share at the workplace, schools, etc.
I often get the sense from cause marketing that many or most participants don't understand or even care about the cause. Last Movember, I noted that it fostered no discourse from participants about prostate cancer, only about moustaches, and didn't further any awareness. Even companies participating barely even mentioned prostate cancer and at most, only shared redundant, controversial health advice. It seemed to me that the campaign's trivial nature and disconnection from the cause itself prevented this discourse.
Let's Talk is totally different. The campaign, by its very nature, promotes discourse. And corporate and individual participants are talking. Support will be the legacy of Let's Talk. Any campaign that successfully supports awareness AND funds is on the right track, I think. It will be interesting to see where the money goes and how it will help.