How the Mental Health Conversation has Affected Marketing

Just a few years ago, the topic of mental health felt a bit uncomfortable to most people. No one knew how to approach it and no one knew how to deal with it in the world of media and marketing. But, as all things change, so has the stigma surrounding mental health. The conversation has shifted and people are less hesitant to acknowledge the topic. Many brands have even brought awareness to it through campaigns. People are realizing mental health is much more common than society has let it out to be in the past.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 19.1 percent of adults in the U.S. (47.6 million people) experienced mental illness in the last year, with 7.2 percent (17.7 million people) having experienced a major depressive episode. But despite percentages like these, only 43.3 percent of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year.

With our current reality, due to Covid-19, people are experiencing even more strain on their mental health. According to Global Web Index, more internet users are concerned about COVID-19’s effect on their mental health (31%) than access to a vaccine (29%). People are also consuming much more media these days due to being stuck indoors. A poll conducted between late March and early May found that between 46% and 51% of US adults were using social media more since the outbreak began. The relationship between social media and mental health is convoluted, and marketers always have to be aware of their effect on consumers. 

Instagram has taken a few measures to reduce the negative effects of social media on mental health, including implementing new restrictions on posts related to diet products and cosmetic surgery, removing images related to self-harm, and most notably, testing the idea of removing “like” counts on pages. Facebook has been working to make its platform more about meaningful social interactions than about mindless scrolling. And, following suit, Pinterest introduced emotional wellness activities to help users cope with stress and anxiety.

Apart from social media, companies like Dove, Aerie, ASOS, and Glossier have taken steps to be a positive part of the mental health conversation. Featuring all different kinds of real, non-photoshopped women with bodies of all sizes in their traditional advertising campaigns. People want real. Brands no longer need glitz and glam to have a successful marketing campaign – they need to show that they understand the consumer. 

People are more aware of the effect brands and their messages can have on mental health. Marketers now have to consider all implications their marketing materials can have on the masses. Brands need to take a stand against the dark side of advertising, which aims to make consumers feel less so they will buy more, and shed some mindful positivity into their daily lives.