An Unpopular Opinion

This is probably going to get me ZERO fan mail and INFINITY hate mail, but I have a problem with Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative.

To be clear: I support the initiative in general – mental illness is a serious issue and raising awareness is great.  And if you use their #BellLetsTalk hashtag, they are donating money to the cause.  I support that.

But my problem is with that hash tag.  Maybe I’m overthinking it, but what started out as a great campaign has, in my eyes, turned into a big advertising push disguised as a charitable cause.  I have more to say on the matter, but before I do – I’m going to figure out a way to donate some money to the cause without tweeting Bell’s proprietary hash tag.

I’m not 100% clear on how to do that, because Bell only says it’s donating money “to #MentalHealth initiatives” – I’m not sure where it’s going.  At this time, I sent out a tweet asking where I can donate directly instead of going through Bell.

As to my previous point about Bell disguising an advertising campaign as a charitable effort; I found an interesting Globe & Mail article from 2013.  I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person who has an issue with the angle of this campaign.

In reading the article, it struck me as odd that the interviewer was so focused on asking ‘why mental health’ and ‘were you concerned about any negative reactions to the brand’ – which actually tells me that Bell has done a great job of supporting the cause and giving a positive spin on it.  I mean, I’ve never had any negative impressions about the brand simply because they support mental health initiatives, but that only 4 years ago these were questions that needed to be asked is telling, at least to me.

But here’s the part of the article that I focused on – even though it was a small part of it.

Why attach your name? That gives the cynics a chance to dump on the campaign and dismiss is as marketing.

I can understand that there is cynicism. But if you know about the issue of mental health, you know the single biggest barrier to people getting help is the stigma. So having an organization with the history, breadth and heft of Bell being associated with it so publicly gives a boost to the mental health community.

OK.  I will admit that is a good reason to attach the brand to the cause the way that it is.  And I totally understand that you can’t go about this using a hashtag like “#LetsTalkBell” because then it sounds like you’re trying to talk about your next phone/tv/internet package.

Still, I think I would prefer it if the hashtag was simply, “#LetsTalk”. The campaign as a whole is fine to include name branding – but in a way I feel like throwing in the brand name dilutes it a little bit.

On the other hand, this is one day in the year that I see people address mental illnesses in a frank and honest manner, when otherwise it might not have been brought up at all.

So I think I have come around on my unpopular opinion – the tweet for this blog post will include the #BellLetsTalk hashtag to raise some money.  But I still plan on finding out where I can donate money directly, as I wrote above.  I feel more comfortable doing something like that in a less vague, more open manner.

Let’s Talk.

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