collective voice

Thanks for dropping by our blog page. Our team of over 60 full-time experts use the latest thinking in behavioural design and enablement via our people-shaped methodology to Make Better Happen for individuals, organisations and communities. Our specialisms of applied behavioural insights, design through co-creation and leading-edge social marketing and engagement are at the core of all that we do. Our mission is to be part of a society that is well, confident and resilient. If we can help you take a journey to be your best self, please call us on 0845 5193 423 - our promise to you is that we never settle for second best.

How can we get men engaging in activities that prevent poor mental health?

September 12, 2017 15:29

Key facts

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).

Research techniques

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.

Behaviour change

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

What are relationships and why are they important?

May 18, 2016 13:47

Relationships are an essential part of our lives; they are all around us in many different shapes and forms. But sometimes we forget how important they can be to our health and wellbeing.

Someone shared this video with me earlier this week, a brilliant video looking at the need to consider long-term health of our brains, which relationships pay a big part in -

When I was starting to think about this, it really took me on a journey through my life and all of the different people who have come and gone, as well as the people I will connect with in the future.

I guess the best place for me to start is: what is a relationship? Now, on the face it seems simple, and if we look at a definition we will find it as the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected. So, in its absolute essence, a relationship is all about connections.

This year's Mental Health Awareness Week is about focusing us all back to the absolute core of what a relationship is, and why they are so important for all of us.

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes and almost all of them are built on trust and respect. Before I started writing this, I began talking about relationships with my friends, colleagues and family. What this really emphasised for me was that relationships are incredibly personal to every single person. Whilst it may seem like relationships are the same to everyone, they are not. The underlying themes may be similar, but we all judge what a good relationship is on an individual level.

 Just talking to a few people brought out a whole host of what a good relationship is to them, what matters and why that is important. Below is just a sample of what is important in a relationship: 

  • Closeness - having the ability to be open and honest
  • Trust and belief in someone
  • It’s two-way
  • Being invested in someone
  • Caring about their health, happiness and wellbeing
  • Totally loving someone
  • An investment by both parties
  • Selflessness, even when you want to be selfish

Why not take a minute today to think about what a relationship is to you, why that is important and what you are doing to help build and maintain healthy relationships. Do we need to do more to invest in being present with our friends and families - really listening and absorbing?

We have recently launched our Mood and Stress space on Puffell – you can see a video of this in action here ( showing how it can help you. If you just need a friend, there is always a community on where you can talk.

Contact me on 0151 647 4700 or at to find out more.