From GM to Powerade, Brands Pitch Mental Health

To lure consumers, hotel chains usually offer free room upgrades and free breakfast. Kimpton Hotels is trying a new incentive: mental health assistance.

In a recent social media campaign, the boutique hotel operator announced that it was offering 1,000 of its guests free access to a video therapy session from teletherapy company Talkspace inc

Kimpton is among a growing list of brands, from automakers to meal kit makers, that are putting mental wellbeing at the heart of their marketing. As the topic is increasingly destigmatized – celebrities and athletes are speaking openly about their own mental health – companies are seeing an opportunity to connect with consumers.

Laura Simpson, chief intelligence officer at advertising giant McCann Worldgroup, said the Covid-19 pandemic is playing a key role in promoting mental health awareness. “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back to finally having proper conversations about mental health,” she said.

Coke co

‘s Powerade is currently running a series of television commercials telling viewers, ‘Rest is power’.

In a spot starring gymnast Simone Biles, Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte and British jumper Tom Daley, Ms. Biles – who withdrew from some competitions during last year’s Tokyo games because she wasn’t in the right mental state – tells the story Constitution was to continue – reporters during a press conference that she is taking a break. She is then seen getting a manicure.

At CES earlier this year, GM showed off a self-driving electric concept car whose seats are fitted with biometric sensors that monitor a person’s fatigue level.


General Motors

Ms Biles has been one of the most prominent athletes – a list that includes tennis star Naomi Osaka and former swimmer Michael Phelps – to open up on the issue of mental health in recent years.

“Sometimes you have to stop being a real person,” Ms. Biles said in the ad, while a manicurist draws pictures of a goat on her fingernails.

General Motors co

plans to launch a social media campaign next month featuring influencers encouraging drivers to de-stress before getting behind the wheel. GM said it decided to take a closer look at the rise in anxiety and stress, in part after seeing an alarming spike in road deaths during the pandemic. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more people died in auto accidents in the first nine months of last year than in any comparable period since 2006.

According to GM, an online poll of nearly 3,000 American drivers found that McCann Worldgroup – a unit of the Interpublic Group of Cos – stopped because they were feeling too emotional to drive.

“High levels of stress and emotion can be a significant source of driver distraction,” said Deborah Wahl, GM’s global chief marketing officer.

Earlier this year, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, GM showed off a self-driving electric concept car whose seats are fitted with biometric sensors that monitor a person’s fatigue level. The Cadillac-branded car, which doesn’t have a steering wheel, can display soothing colors, play soothing sounds and emit relaxing scents, GM said.

Meal set pioneer Blue Apron had decided to transform its brand into a so-called wellness brand just before the pandemic hit. After the outbreak began, the company said it placed more emphasis on stress relief in its marketing and sought to turn the chore of cooking into a form of therapy and meditation. “We focused on the emotional and mental benefits of cooking,” said Dani Simpson, Blue Apron’s chief marketing officer.

In an email to his clients Athleta, Gap’s activewear brand inc,

recently sponsored a series of online discussions about mental health on AthletaWell, the company’s online community offering content on health, fitness, nutrition, and mental and emotional well-being. The series, which featured tips for coping with stress from a licensed therapist, secured the highest participation rates since the site, designed before the pandemic, launched in July, the company said.

Long before the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, increasing stress was identified as one of Americans’ top concerns. Now, two years into the pandemic, consumer stress levels have skyrocketed. According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression between March 2 and March 14. In 2019, only 11% of Americans reported these symptoms.

Companies that include mental health in their advertising campaigns risk being seen as beneficiaries of rising stress levels, but consumers seem eager for companies to provide them with health advice. A Spring 2020 study by McCann of nearly 12,000 people in 18 countries found that 51% of respondents said it was more important for a brand to understand their frustrations than to provide them with dreams, an approach 49% preferred . That’s a reversal from 2018, when a similar study found that 63% preferred brands to give them dreams, versus 37% who would prefer brands to understand their frustrations.

Burger King, a unit of Restaurant Brands International inc,

faced some backlash for a 2019 marketing campaign associated with Mental Health Awareness Month that included mood-related meals – a blue meal, a salty meal, a Yaaas meal and a DGAF (Don’t Give a F—), which were available at some selected restaurants. While some applauded the fast-food chain for raising awareness of the mental health issue, some people took to social media to slam the chain for taking the issue lightly.

Kimpton Hotels, a unit of InterContinental Hotels Group PLC, said it decided to join Talkspace after seeing how difficult it was for its staff to navigate the pandemic. It also found it difficult to attract and retain burned-out employees, in part due to stressed hotel guests. The 4,000 employees received an annual subscription to Talkspace, and the hotel chain decided to offer their guests access to a free virtual therapy session.

The guests displayed “a high level of impatience, frustration, anger and fear,” said Kathleen Reidenbach, Kimpton’s chief commercial officer. “We really tried to be sensitive to the psychological ups and downs of our guests.”

Simone Biles’ withdrawal from competition at the Tokyo Olympics has brought mental health in sport back into focus. The WSJ examines how the stigma and treatment of athlete attitudes has changed. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters

write to Suzanne Vranica at

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