How Mental Health Brands Market Amid COVID Burnout

Alma, three, who provides tools and support to her growing network of 2,000 therapists, says employer interest in finding new mental health programs and education is growing.

“Before the pandemic you started to see some momentum, whether in the media or with your employer, but it really increased overnight,” said Claire Spangenberg, vice president responsible for branding and marketing at Alma, which was founded by Harry Ritter. , former executive of the insurer Oscar Health. Spangenberg notes that brands were looking for more mental health resources for employees before COVID. Employers went from “It would be nice to have programming,” then all of a sudden they needed programming for their employees today about anxiety and burnout and they couldn’t. wait another day. “

More than two in five people report being anxious or depressed almost every day, according to a survey released in late 2020 by Healthline. It showed that 38% of those polled cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a source of stress, while 47% said loneliness, including due to coronavirus lockdowns, as the source. Experts also cite stressful global crises, including climate change and the acute need for social justice following the murder of George Floyd.

“We all felt the world was going out of whack,” said Alex von Plato, CEO of Publicis Health. “The healthcare system is already strained on a good day, and COVID strained it to the point of breaking down – it exposed inequalities in a way that had never really been broadcast and also revealed that the mental health system is almost nonexistent for many people. “

She noted that it is difficult for many brands to establish wide awareness in the mental health landscape – and that there are enough newcomers that there could be a possible disruption in the industry. . “One of the things that all of these providers will face is the difference between mental health and mental illness,” she said, adding that one-stop virtual care might not always be the best solution for all. patients. “Yes, there is an unmet need in the market, but what is the best medically appropriate way to meet that need and that will depend on person to person?

Such challenges make it crucial for every brand to get their messages across well as they devote more resources to marketing.

LifeStance, which offers virtual and in-person appointments with psychiatrists, advanced practice nurses, psychologists and therapists, hired a senior vice president of marketing in December, bringing in Ashley Anderson of Equinox Health Club , and launched its first marketing campaign earlier this year. The brand, which went public in June, spent $ 85.5 million on general and administrative expenses, including marketing, for the three-month period ended June 30, a ten-fold increase from the previous year. last year.

Its recent campaign, “No Face”, has worked to de-stigmatize mental illnesses such as depression and anorexia, while communicating to people that LifeStance can connect them with help. The ads ran on smart TV and organic and pay social channels, and generated 500,000 impressions, Anderson said. “For us, it’s about making people aware of our brand and that we’re a bit of a humanized brand and we’re here to help you,” she said.

Celebrities help increase awareness

Likewise, Alma, who plans to be national by the end of next year, has quadrupled its marketing staff to 16 this year, a number that Spangenberg says will double by the end of 2022. The company now has 2,000 therapists in its network. in March 2020, that figure was 200.

Three-year-old competitor Octave aims to make mental health care more accessible through therapy and coaching services. Two Chairs also offers a promise of accessibility to those who need it.

Much of the focus on mental health comes from younger generations more willing to share their experiences on social media platforms, experts said.

“Already before COVID, we were starting to see that there was some awareness of mental health issues because social platforms are essentially open newspapers,” von Plato said, noting that now young people have found a supportive community online and this opens the door for older generations to follow suit. “We exhibit a lot of our inner thoughts and emotions in general and that creates an atmosphere that allows for sharing. “

Additionally, many celebrities have spoken publicly about mental health issues, which helps increase acceptance among those seeking help. Statements earlier this year from Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles regarding their mental well-being issues, given the strain on them from athletic expectations, helped normalize the issue. Many brands that work with the two women, including Athleta and Sweetgreen, have raised awareness of their support for mental wellness.

“When you see brands scale up, they do it because it’s the right thing to do, but also because you have a higher level of interest and responsiveness than ever before,” Dewan said.

Most brands prioritize education in their marketing to communicate the different ways that provider brands can help patients and solve more difficult payment issues. At Alma, potential patients can “self-serve” through a directory to find a provider who takes their insurance. But the company also offers a “client matchmaking experience” where an employee will help guide a person to a therapist. The brand primarily advertises on Instagram, although it also hosted a series of mental health podcasts in May. Still, Spangenberg warned that everything Alma posts on social media has been verified by a clinician.

“We don’t hover over the surface, we don’t underestimate how difficult navigation in mental health can be,” she said. “We speak with a certain level of authority through the clinicians and give them a platform to show their experience. Alma takes care to set limits on how often it is posted on social media. For example, the brand does not publish on weekends. It also measures success by saves and shares rather than likes and comments.

“We want to see that this content was useful and addictive enough that you take the time to record it – this signals us that this content is useful,” said Spangenberg.

New providers need to provide consumers with the correct language to use when seeking help and expressing symptoms, Dewan says. She suggested using an interactive quiz on a website to guide patients. Earlier this year, Healthline released a Conscious Language Guide to help brands use the right terms and not stigmatize customers. For example, the guide encourages people to say that someone has “a mental health problem” instead of someone “is mentally ill” in order to show more empathy.

“While people are generally more open to therapy than they’ve ever been, they really don’t have the language, they don’t understand their symptoms,” Dewan said. “It’s a scary and vulnerable time and these organizations need to be clear about the solutions they are offering and also be very empathetic. “

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