Bell Let's Talk, cause-related marketing, branding, neoliberalism, critical theory, social media and mental health
In September 2010, Bell created the Bell Let’s Talk campaign to help lessen the stigma of mental health illnesses in Canada. The objective of this paper is to tease out the “ambivalences” (see Banet-Weiser, 2012) surrounding a massive corporation’s leadership in mental health awareness by analyzing both the importance and controversy surrounding Bell Let’s Talk.
The first component of this paper is a literature review that seeks to answer the research question: “how may components of Bell Let’s Talk Day be understood as both progressive and regressive?” Although “social media is the next step in the war against silence” (Campbell, 2017), I argue that Bell has underlying motives. Through the campaign, Bell seeks to strengthen its affective brand value by encouraging consumers to produce an ethical surplus via immaterial labour (Banet-Weiser, 2012; Arvidsson, 2006).
Second, I present the ambivalence of Bell Let’s Talk under Banet-Weiser’s theoretical framework of brand culture. My secondary research question is: “considering both the progressive and regressive aspects of the campaign, how does Bell Let’s Talk exemplify the ambivalences of twenty-first century brand culture?” The works of Sarah Banet-Weiser and Samantha King are important for situating cause-related marketing in a much larger social and political-economic context – for example, the neoliberal trend of relying upon private corporations to solve what should be collective, social problems.
Third, I implement a small-scale reaction analysis of the comments of a Bell Let’s Talk Facebook post. Although 64.5% of audience reactions are categorized as positive, there are Facebook users who are skeptical. This mini-case study seeks to make evident the ambivalence of contemporary brand culture within society.
Master of Arts
Communication and Social Justice
Major Research Paper