Brand Innovation: TOPMAN + CALM

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With suicide being the biggest killer of men under 45, the Director of Corporate partnerships at CALM, Andrew Brown, discusses the importance of raising awareness about male suicide. The talk unveils how brands and non-profits can work together to help reach a wider audience, allowing the organisation challenge the status regarding male masculinity.

One of the charities main objectives is to tackle the lack of awareness regarding male suicide statistics. “Men are three times more likely to take their own life than women”, CALM in the last two years have managed to increase male suicide awareness from 19% to 40%. The organisation’s partnership with brands such as Topman, has been fundamental to this increase in awareness, allowing CALM to reach a wider audience.

Why is male suicide such a big killer? Andrew admits that such a question is difficult to answer, due to the complexity of the issue. However, he identifies some of the key factors behind such shocking statistics. Older individuals were brought up with traditional stereotypes that taught males to behave in a way that didn’t encourage a great deal of emotional expression. This then shifted and modern expectations took over, encouraging men to share their emotions and talk about their feelings. This has created confusion as haven’t men haven’t “been trained” to cope with the current social environment. The same can be seen for younger men, which are faced with the issues of the growing pressures of social media. Social media has led to an increase in body shaming and created growing pressures for men to achieve unrealistic body types.

CALM positions itself as a “mental health charity for people that don’t like mental health charities”. CALM focuses around creating ‘positive cultural change’ and combining this with ‘practical support’ to combat the issue of male suicide. Andrew discusses the charities idea of creating ‘positive masculinity’. Males should be able to behave in a normal masculine way, however, also be able to talk about their feelings and provide support to one another. CALM aims to create a way in which these two components can co-exist for males, providing a driving force for social change. An example of CALM’s unique way of tackling the issue is the ‘Best Man Project’. The idea worked from the insight that society normalises the behaviour that men can be therefore for one another, only weddings. CALM wanted to challenge this and create a campaign that encouraged this behaviour continue beyond this formal environment. The campaign was particularly effective and gained interest from extremely influential figures such as Prince William and Rio Ferdinand.

Andrew goes on to talk about CALM’s photography movement, in partnerships with brands such as Topman and Lynx. The involvement of such influential brands enabled CALM to access exhibitions and opened doors that Andrew describes as ‘not possible without the brand’s engagement’. The movement worked with photographers to promote a national competition encouraging people to send in images that define what it is to be a man. The movement Andrew describes provided a ‘subtle’ way for brands and CALM to get involved with raising awareness about the issue and creating a conversation with the public.

CALM also worked on a campaign partnered with Lynx, which Andrew describes as a turning point for the organisation, creating a 40% shift in awareness. The partnership provided benefits not only for CALM but also allowed Lynx, to position itself as a progressive brand that is “in tune with contemporary male thinking’. The was extremely successful in that it prompted political engagement, showcasing the true power of the brand and non-profit partnership in creating a catalyst for social change.

Jason Griffiths, the Marketing and Communications Director for Topman, goes on to discuss the success of the well-known ‘L’eau De Chris’ campaign, by the partnership of CALM and Topman. Chris Hughes, a well known ‘Love Island’ reality TV star was recognised as a perfect candidate for the campaign. Chris was already a well established public figure, that wasn’t shy in expressing his feelings on national TV. The campaign, created by BMB, worked by initially creating hype around the release of a fake product, ‘tear infused mineral water’. The campaign was then flipped on World Mental Health day when its link with CALM was revealed, encouraging men to not ‘bottle up their feelings’. The campaign saw huge success increasing traffic to CALM’s website by 485%, highlighting the real impact brand and non-profits partnerships can have on provoking positive change.

The future for CALM and its partnership with brands appears limitless, with Andrew disclosing details on the upcoming release of ‘Project Eighty-Four’. The project aims to raise awareness of the statistic that ’84 males take their own life every week in the UK’. The project is in partnership with two major brands, ITV and Harry’s Grooming. He describes it as a ‘game changer’ that will hit the public by storm, showcasing the true impact of brands and non-profit partnerships.

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