This is not a conversation about mental health either. Brands have been opening up the dialogue about this for some time now. We’ve seen heartfelt campaigns, touching customer initiatives, and a number of engagement drives aimed at getting people to reflect and reach out to each other. This is not an analysis either. What this is, then, is the next question. The next action plan. Can we, and how do we, create content that respects the mental well-being of our customers?
First things first - consider all aspects of mental health for all audiences
Being mindful of mental health means addressing the concerns of people with and without clinical mental health issues. The kind of content we create (whether text or video, online or offline) needs to be both accessible and pleasant to engage with. This is important for younger audiences who are attracted to brands that are visibly in sync with their values. Millennials and Gen Z customers identify with content that offers a sense of empowerment and belonging in a community. Gen Z particularly appreciate brands that are able to give experiences that offer support for their holistic well-being, according to a 2019 survey conducted by WGSN. Then there’s Gen Alpha, born after 2010, who are exposed to digital spaces so early in life that they will need special support through navigating them.
Creating and designing content that looks out for everyone
Content is experienced differently by people with mental health issues. Folks with attention issues, for example, find ads that have a lot of movement in them to be distracting. Ranging from covering the moving content with their hands to be able to actually read, to going all the way to developer tools to turn moving elements off, people have done it all to avoid distracting content. GIFs themselves, as popular as they are, are another point of contention.
Taking care of these issues helps design content that is more streamlined for someone who might not otherwise face these issues too. To start with, content being sent out should contain only as much motion as absolutely necessary. This can make all the difference for users who face issues with attention. Consider the motions featured within your website and content as well. While motion initiated by the user, such a hover and click, would not be so distracting, things like spinning banners might prove to be counterproductive. Another possible route to take is to allow users the kind of content they would like to see, or provide an easily visible toggle button to turn on and off animated portions.
Legendary rules like keeping content clear, crisp and multi-faceted still hold true. For example, audiences with anxiety go through an extra worrisome experience when they’re navigating cluttered websites. Demarcating where different information can be accessed is therefore a must, and not just on the homepage either. Confirmation messages can also help reduce anxiety when customers have given input of a certain kind and worry about it not being registered. For folks with depression, reading long blocks of stand-alone text and watching videos without accompanying text can be particularly frustrating, and is another reason to make sure content is presented in different formats.
Creating in app tools and special tech features
People are increasingly aware of how their feelings and time are impacted by their online activity, with the phrase ‘going on a digital detox’ becoming more commonly used. A number of companies (KFC and its Phone Stack campaign for example) have started promoting healthier phone usage times in both campaigns and specially built apps. If your brand has an app, consider adding features that allow users to take control of how they use the app. Facebook’s known for its feature of being able to set a limit of the time spent on the app, for instance. Allow flexibility in seeing the number and kind of push notifications being sent out too! It might seem detrimental to advocate for a detox, or limit the amount of communication going out. However giving customers that space can engage them consciously, and hold more attention than one social ad.
Chat tools for a business are a useful feature for people who face depression and may not be comfortable talking to someone directly about the difficulties they’re facing. In-app mental health support resources (such as SnapChat's) are another option to be considered whenever there is high user engagement involved, especially for brands dealing with fashion, beauty and other areas that might directly deal with body image and self-perception.
The question of creating content that respects mental health is not an exhaustive question, of course, nor is this the definitive answer – it’s only the beginning. There’s also the tone, frequency and matter of content going out that could positively influence customer wellbeing. While brands like Upwest (a clothing brand in USA) embrace well-being directly in their brand identity, companies can still create communication keeping mental health in mind without directly marrying the idea. And that is not just a World Mental Health Day post.