Let’s Talk about Bell and Cause-Related Marketing

If your Facebook newsfeed was anything like mine was yesterday, it showcased an ongoing list of conflicting opinions over Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign.

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The main argument:

Side A:
Believes that the capitalist nature of Bell as a conglomerate outweighs the benefits of their pseudo-do-good-campaign (that Bell itself is profiting more than the charities that receive the donations).

 

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Bell’s Tweet this morning, the morning after the #Bellletstalk 2017 campaign.

Side B:
Believes that the money donated and the encouraged discussion of mental health issues outweigh the branding benefits that Bell receives from the campaign.

 

This actually takes me back to many ethical discussions had in university over Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Cause-Related Marketing.

Definitions:

Corporate Social Responsibility: “A company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates. Companies express this citizenship (1) through their waste and pollution reduction processes, (2) by contributing educational and social programs, and (3) by earning adequate returns on the employed resources” – Business Dictionary

Cause-Related Marketing: “Joint funding and promotional strategy in which a firm’s sales are linked (and a percentage of the sales revenue is donated) to a charity or other public cause. However, unlike philanthropy, money spent in cause-related marketing is considered an expense and is expected to show a return.” – Business Dictionary

Essentially, corporations are facing more criticism on their bad-guy-reputations, public relation teams then work to combat that negative image by associating themselves with a good cause. The bad guys aren’t going anywhere, they’re just wearing the mask of their non-profit partners. Does this really hurt anyone though? Some argue that Cause-Related Marketing is good thing, yes, the rich continue to get richer, but a charity benefits at the same time.

 

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A screenshot of the Let’s Talk home page today.

Since it’s creation in 2006, Bell Let’s Talk has donated 79 million dollars to Canadian mental health initiatives, this year alone they raised over 6.5 million dollars. On Bell’s Results/Impact page, they list which programs they are donating to each year and how much is allotted to each organization. The benefiting partners of 2017 are: CISSS de Lanaudière ($300,000); Embrace Life Council ($250,000); McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital ($250,000); Queen’s University ($1,000,000); St. John Ambulance ($150,000); and Strongest Families Institute ($2,000,000). I’m not a math whiz, but those numbers don’t add up to 6.5 million dollars. Apparently, the rest is divided into smaller grants that you can apply for (if eligible) through their Community Fund.

 

typingThose are the monetary benefits of this Cause-Related Marketing campaign, but there are also social benefits like the efforts taken to minimize the existing stigma around mental health. #BellLetsTalk encouraged many people on my social media feeds to share personal anecdotes about their own struggles that I would never have known otherwise. However, I am sure that many people continue to hold back personal truths online so that future employers cannot discover that they have a mental illness. For those who are brave enough to disclose their mental health histories online, I applaud you. You are taking a risk at exposing your true self and letting others no that they are not alone.

While perusing Twitter, I came across another trending hashtag: #BellLetsActuallyTalk. The following examples highlight a common issue that many tweeters had with Bell’s campaign.

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My argument is similar to that of last week’s Blue Monday blog post; just because we are focusing on a good cause for a day, doesn’t mean that people cannot continue the practise for the rest of the year. Isn’t bringing attention to a worthy topic a good thing?

Let’s look at #BellLetsTalk as a conversation starter for the rest of the year and recognize that help from a conglomerate is better than no help at all.

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