Bell Let’s Talk Marketing Gimmick

Apparently this #BellLetsTalk (can I use a hashtag like that? I’m still new…) has been around for a year already. I didn’t see it last year but couldn’t miss it this year. I’m having trouble accepting this campaign as a positive thing when its motives are so deceptive.

This happens quite frequently, but I take note when the issue is important to me – one I’ve considered, debated, have a personal experience with. The last marketing gimmick that really got to me was the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. I never did and expect I never will approve of this campaign. Some might say that it had positive effects by raising women’s self-esteem and making women more comfortable with their body image. I disagree. A corporation that sells products to “fix” women’s imperfections should not be telling women to also be happy with their natural bodies. This is especially true for a corporation that also owns Axe, whose ads I’m sure you’re all familiar with. It’s a contradiction and it’s unfair to those who believe the deception (you might argue that it’s the consumer’s responsibility to be aware of deception in marketing, but marketing shouldn’t be aimed to affect women’s self-esteem and how they feel about themselves – that’s more than just marketing).

Back to the Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign. I struggle a little more with this one because I think there is some good being done, namely the large amounts of money going towards “mental health initiatives”.  I wonder: is this campaign even helping to destigmatize mental illness? Are people actually talking about it more, changing their perspectives? A friend commented on Facebook that she thinks “the whole thing is an insult”. I’m inclined to agree. But I’m not sure why.

I think it really comes down to the deception. While this campaign may be doing good, I am not sure if true good can really come out of such a deception. A money-seeking corporation tells people to talk about mental illness. Does that make people think that mental illness is important to talk about? Bell is not a reliable source on this topic. They’ve partnered with some reliable sources, which gives the campaign some credit, but Bell is still leading this shenanigan, with their brand strategically placed at the front. I teach my students to be honest, caring citizens of a complicated world. What does it teach the next generation if our biggest corporations are running such huge deceptions (that touch on some of the “big” issues) for everyone to see? And people see it, whether they realize it or not. They saw the lack of sincerity in the Dove campaign, and they know that Bell doesn’t truly care about mental health. What subconscious effects does this have? Is this really what we want our world to become?

My other concern is that this campaign doesn’t ask people to talk about mental health 365 days a year – only 1. It doesn’t promote long-lasting change; it encourages short-lived discussion, without change. (Thanks to my Facebook friend, again, for helping me sort those ideas out.)

Then again, do these negatives matter if they’re helping at least a few people? More than 10 years ago, some close friends of mine forced me to talk. Some years after, another stood by my side and helped me through the worst of times. I’m not sure I ever truly thanked them, but they made a huge difference in my life. I have no idea if I’d be where I am today without those friends and I’ll never forget the effects of their support. Is the Bell campaign the equivalent, for some people, to the friends I was lucky to have? If this campaign is helping even a few people who suffer from mental illness, is it worthwhile? I should think so…

but why do I still feel so uncomfortable about it?

Do you have any thoughts on corporations using big issues as marketing gimmicks and/or this campaign, specifically? Please do share.


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