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Ellis Taylor

Published on

May 29, 2019


brand, campaigns, creative campaigns, mental health, polarisation

Polarization in brands isn’t anything new, and in 2018 more and more companies chose to take a stance and make a statement.

As 2019 trundles on, it’s clear that the trend is set to continue – but does it always work?

Discussion around socio-political issues is broadening, so it makes sense for some brands to enter these discussions in order to build relevance and awareness. In fact, the public are starting to expect brands to stand up and say something.

One of the biggest talking points in the world today is mental health, particularly as one in five people in the U.S. will experience a mental health problem in a given year. The increase in conversation and awareness surrounding mental health has led many brands to speak up and chime in on the conversation, but is that always a good thing?

Where some brands succeed in connecting with a cause and utilizing it, many others fail in ways that make every marketer across the world shudder. Brands can leave a legacy and a positive impact, or they can be remembered forever as an example of what not to do and appear self-serving or inauthentic. Here are two campaigns which demonstrate what works and what really doesn’t…

Lloyds Bank #GetTheInsideOut

Last year, Lloyds Bank launched a campaign focused on building awareness around mental health. At first glance that seems like an unlikely pairing, but Lloyds were smart and decided to highlight how mental health can lead to money troubles.

Working with UK charity, Mental Health UK, the bank launched #GetTheInsideOut whilst raising £6.5 million for the charity. The ad featured employees, members of the public, and celebrities who were ‘stickered’ with different mental health conditions.

Not only is the ad memorable, it’s executed with integrity and a human approach. The campaign doesn’t come across as self-serving, instead keeping the focus on mental health. Whilst words are great, it’s action that helped Lloyds take the campaign to the next level and win viewers over. By raising millions of pounds, the brands demonstrated a clear action to help the cause.

Burger King #FeelYourWay

Burger King loves nothing more than a jab at its rival McDonalds, and this time the fast food chain has tried to do it whilst raising awareness of mental health.

Their approach is simple – partner with Mental Health America, release a range of ‘unhappy meals’ and create a short video demonstrating different emotions and scenarios. Meals include Blue, Yaaas, Pissed, Salty, and DGAF, whilst the video shares characters such as a girl being bullied, a guy being ghosted, and a young mum facing judgement.

Unfortunately for Burger King, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Reducing mental health to a burger meal called ‘DGAF’ or ‘Salty’ isn’t going to start any informed conversations about mental health. This contributes to an overall feeling of inauthenticity, particularly when this reduction is coupled with Burger King’s use of zero hour contracts.

The obvious jibe at McDonald’s also destroys any scrap of genuine sentiment that the campaign had, suggesting that Burger King ‘DGAF’ about mental health – they just want to win the fast food battle.

The Authenticity Problem

What it all boils down to is authenticity. Does the brand in question have the authority to comment on a particular social topic? Does it relate to their core values?

Lloyds’ campaign worked because they were seen to take action (through fundraising), they’ve put people first in previous campaigns, and it fits with their purpose statement: Help Britain Prosper.

Another great example of authenticity is Nike, who have spent years building inclusivity and bold statements into their campaigns and brand activity. Local-community investment, development of hijabs for sport, campaigns promoting gender equality – it all adds up to a brand that has the authority to create campaigns that address the big topics.

Throughout their socio-political campaigns, neither Nike nor Lloyds are giving a hard sell. The message comes first, the product comes second. Brands can succeed in polarization if they simply put their egos behind them, and look to contribute something positive.

However, when a brand puts themselves first and doesn’t take notable action alongside a campaign, things can go wrong. Authenticity is crucial, as well as sensitivity and a genuine desire to do good.

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