News Exchange: Brands face up to the big issues

News Exchange: Brands face up to the big issues

Mental health, technology, wellbeing and the environment – our marketing news roundup encompasses some of the biggest issues of our time

Instagram misses the mark

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week has brought a small spike in brand campaigns around its chosen topic of body image. Also launching in the last couple of weeks, the latest instalment of Instagram’s #GramFam initiative focuses on exam stress.

Supported by charities Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm) and The Mix, the social media platform has asked celebrities and influencers to share advice for young people on staying positive through exam season.

Exam stress is a serious issue, of course, but isn’t Instagram missing – or avoiding – an opportunity? Back in 2017, Instagram came last when Royal Society for Public Health ranked the impact of the big five social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram) on the wellbeing of 14- to 24-year-olds. The survey showed Instagram scoring particularly badly for its effects on sleep, FOMO and… body image.

Since then, the idea that heavily stylised Instagram content might be bad for body image has not lost any ground. “It’s a good move for Instagram to be involved and have a focus on around mental health,” says CIM marketing director Gemma Butler, “but, by focusing on exam stress, it could be accused of ignoring the body image issue with which it is more closely associated.”

And the #GramFam initiative itself is hardly revolutionary: social media platform asks celebrities and influencers to promote an issue on said social media platform. “If Instagram is serious about engaging with mental health issues, it needs to be a lot bolder,” reckons Butler. “This currently has the feel of a vanity campaign.”

Firm focus on flexibility

Digital technologies continue to advance the cause of freelancers everywhere. Nodal Labs has now launched a platform that uses blockchain to ensure freelancers are paid on time while reducing admin for HR staff.

At a time when younger workers set greater store in personal freedom than job security, technology is enabling the flexibility they crave. In response, firms need to think hard about how to retain key staff whose heads might be turned by the promise of a freelance lifestyle.

Building flexibility into full-time roles is certainly now possible, but hurdles remain. “The trust issue is still there,” says CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone. “Despite lots of evidence, it’s hard for some businesses to accept that flexible working is not the same as not working. In particular, this can make it hard for prospective employees to ask the questions they want to ask about flexibility during interviews.”

“Open dialogue is absolutely key here,” agrees CIM marketing director Gemma Butler. “At the moment, flexible working is a closed topic for many organizations.” For Butler, it’s an increasingly important conversation to have: “Given the ongoing issue around gender inequality in the workplace, flexibility can help level the playing field.”

In short, flexibility can seriously improve an employer brand. And this is exactly why O2, which already supports employees returning after a career break, has just announced it is extending paternity leave from two weeks to 14 weeks at full pay.

Heineken’s low expectations

Dutch brewing giant Heineken has set itself the ambitious goal of “exploding” the fast-growing market for ‘no and low’ alcohol drinks. To this end, it is about to launch a six-week ‘Say Yes’ campaign to persuade consumers that its Heineken 0.0, Birra Moretti Zero, and Old Mout Alcohol-free products are cool.

“People are drinking less, especially 18- to 24-year-olds,” says CIM’s Adam Pyle, “so the category has been growing without anyone really trying to push it. For that reason, the timing makes sense.”

Neither is he worried that Heineken will end up cannibalizing the sales of its own alcoholic products. “These are two quite separate markets. The ‘no and low’ drinks are for different people and different occasions from its traditional products. By keeping the campaigns around the two categories quite separate, it’s possible to avoid mixed messages and claim your slice of a new market without undermining established product lines.”

CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone also thinks it’s the right move. “Big, incumbent brands have got so used to disruption in their traditional markets that they now recognize the value of disrupting themselves. Someone’s going to disrupt you – why shouldn’t it be you?”

A waste of time?

Back in March, we looked at the many, disjointed schemes that big companies were launching to tackle plastic waste. The other great waste issue of our time is around food.

This week, environment secretary Michael Gove called food waste an “environmental, economic and moral scandal” as he urged businesses to Step Up To The Plate and help halve the UK’s food waste by 2030. But is this government-led initiative a useful template for concerted action that could significantly impact a big problem?

“No,” is the short answer from CIM marketing director Gemma Butler. “The announcement has made for some nice headlines this week, but its lasting impact is questionable. Tesco has promised annual updates on how it’s getting on with its targets, but 2030 is a long way off and, in the big picture, 300 businesses signing up for this is not a huge amount.”

As CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone says, “There’s still no incentive to act now. While consumers are being told to change their everyday behaviour to tackle food waste, businesses have been given until 2030. That does not make for a coherent solution.”  

A truly coherent solution needs buy-in from both businesses and consumers. That means businesses giving consumers the information they need to make informed decisions about where to buy their food.

For Butler, “This is another story about the need for businesses to be more transparent. In the absence of full information about the waste a business produces and how it handles that waste, headline-grabbing initiatives like this one can be misleading. Businesses can simply sign up, enjoy the reputational boost and not necessarily do much to actually tackle food waste.”


Ready to explore a new market of your own? Take a look at the latest opportunities available on CIM Marketing Jobs.

Tobias Gourlay Journalist
Gemma Butler Director of Marketing CIM
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