According to a recent government report, suicide is the biggest killer in men under 50 years old. Promoting mental wellbeing and preventing mental ill health in this population is, therefore, vital.
A public health team in the North of England recently asked ICE to create an insight-led campaign that encourages men aged 30-49 years old to engage in behaviours that are known to have positive impacts on wellbeing and mental health, such as those recommended by the New Economic Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing. This includes: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give (see here).
ICE conducted insight groups (experientials) and one-to-one vox pop interviews, using techniques like ‘in their shoes’, journey mapping, and ICE clean language to bypass rational thought processes and get to the root causes of behaviour. The insights we gathered not only gave us the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, but also the ‘why’ that helps us to design an experience that truly engages with what is important to the men who will be targeted by this campaign.
Key behavioural insights
- The word ‘mental’ had negative connotations for men and was associated with illness rather than health. To men, being asked to do something to improve mental health indicated there was a problem that needed to be fixed in the first place.
- Men who took part in our research believed that being a man means being strong. Admitting to having problems can be like admitting there is a ‘chink in the armour’, which can be seen as being weak. As a result, needing to improve mental health is an idea that not all men will want to engage with, because it goes against what they think it means to be a man.
- Men were already engaging in many of the activities associated with the Five Ways to Wellbeing and did not respond well to being told to ‘do more’, because it made them feel like there was a perception they were not already doing enough.
- Men liked imagery that clearly showed that they were the intended target audience of a campaign, but could not always relate to photos of men-like-them because, ultimately, they were not them.
The insight revealed that focusing a campaign on improving mental health, particularly one that is in a preventative space, risks men not wanting to self-identify that the message is aimed at them - ‘well I don’t have a problem with my mental health, so why would I want to improve it?’. Improving mental health is our desired outcome, but communicating this to men may actually put them off.
To change someone’s behaviour we need to focus on what matters to them, not to us.
Framing activities around valued aspects of the male identity that came out during the groups, such as wanting to protect and look after others, and men’s desire to achieve (the ‘why’) is more likely to drive behaviour than raising awareness that they are important for mental health.
Furthermore, to overcome the dislike of being told to do more of an activity, ICE will frame messages as questions, which encourages men to consider how the campaign message applies to their lives and experiences - without making them feel judged. Using questions is especially effective because they work with our brain’s natural use of attentional functions and can be used to subconsciously prime behaviours.
Neuroscience fact– The power of the unconscious mind: Many of the decisions we make are not rational and are made without us consciously thinking about them. The unconscious mind can be primed to nudge individuals to engage in desired behaviours – with the individual themselves making the choice to change behaviour.
Based on the findings of this study, our in-house creative team at ICE is currently developing a campaign that will use the ‘why’ that drives behaviour to help our client improve mental health outcomes in their area. The concepts being tested also use themes that are generationally relevant to men aged 30-49 years old to help them to identify as the target audience and to start conversations.
These are only a few of our findings from this study. To find out how ICE can help you find out the ‘why’ that drives your citizens’ behaviours and how to encourage citizens to engage in the Five Ways to Wellbeing, please contact Dr Emma Mackley on 0151 647 4700 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.