Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How Bell Let's Talk Stands Out from Other Corporate Awareness Campaigns

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.


  1. I agree. Bell is also allocating a lot of funds behind their cause. It's time for the nation to wake up and address the needs and support people with mental illness.

    It's easier to criticize the mental health system than aid it it seems. By taking a positive stance and building momentum I hope we all can make a difference.

    I'm Facebooking Bell's image today to help raise awareness.

  2. Sandra - Interesting. It is a wake up call, isn't it? Credit is especially due to a company that develops public consciousness of an issue.

  3. Wow, you really broke that down! Never though about it like that, well, kinda, but it was more of a "crossed my mind" kind of thing. Unfortunately I think the majority of people are motivated by greed, "how can this benefit me/us?" so to find someone who is legitimately trying to help? Rare.

  4. Matt - Thanks! My goal is to break awareness campaigns down in my blog, to encourage people to think critically. So often, I think, people don't. Or maybe many of these people do, but their motivations are greed. I do take your skeptical view to an extent, but I think a lot of people do want to help, but avoid doing the work, or avoid thinking things through. Apathy even in cause work.

  5. Criticle thinking... I guess I am not used to seeing that anymore haha, not often that is. Well, well said! If ever I see one again I will be sure to ask your opinion. :D

  6. I cannot agree, but you state your points well.
    Until we have employers who buy into this issue, we will fail to treat one another as we should.
    We don't know where the money is coming from.
    We don't know where it is going.
    Who is dispersing this money and how?
    How much for actual intervention.
    This isn't research-based funding. It is bandwagon and short-term.
    The issue with Pink Ribbon, Inc. is that they aren't dealing with these issues well, either.
    Bell should do its job, not fund mental health. All of us should be demanding politicians deal with this in the workplace, schools, and provide respite, homes where the mentally ill can get supportive living.

  7. There SHOULD be more awareness in the political word about things like this but like everything else, it is all privatized. So without a private company trying to raise money for a cause (whether they are in it for the right reasons or not) we would never raise any money for all the causes out there because unless someone has vested interest in it, they won't do anything... Sad but, it's the way it is. Realistically, what government can afford to raise money for every cause out there and how would they determine how to "fairly" share that money? I think it would cause more problems than it would solve...

  8. Jennifer - Good points and I have raised them in this blog about other campaigns. I like your argument that we should hold society in general accountable, including government, rather than put our energy into private, company campaigns. I think CSR does have its limitations.

    I didn't suggest that Bell's campaign could, should or has filled a void in awareness, care, funds, etc. made my society/public/government. Private support certainly is not enough and Bell isn't suggesting that Let's Talk is enough. Governments and NPOs, among others need to do more, much more, to reduce this disparity.

    In a way it seems Bell's identification of mental health stigma and lack of awareness and conversation itself suggest that public apathy has gotten us into this mess. I agree we shouldn't rely on private, but we do need them. Look at who funds major wards of hospitals.

    Matt- Great point. So much of funding and awareness is politically driven. Why not work with those forces to foster public/social action and complement it? Provided it's ethical, which unfortunately it often isn't, private companies and individuals can make a huge difference.

  9. Do you know if Bell's mobile sub-companies (Solo and Virgin) are also participating in this campaign? I've been trying without success to find that information today.

    1. Hi Kiti! I wrote this post a couple of years ago and I honestly don't know if sub-companies are participating. Sorry! Thanks for visiting.