How can brands tackle sensitive subjects?

Avoiding sensitive subjects is something that we’re all guilty of. Sometimes it’s easier to look past our problems or put them to one side while we concentrate on the more pressing and less stressful issues we face in everyday life. Although we may know that this is not the right way to deal with things, we hope that if we ignore it for long enough it will eventually go away, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, it does.

When it comes to business, if you’re marketing a brand for a service that is based on a sensitive subject then there’s no avoiding the elephant in the room – brands will have to tackle the subject in hand head on. Often, it is the way a brand deals with a subject that sets them apart from others. Afterall, venturing down avenues and adopting approaches that have never been seen before is what marketing is all about, right?

So how can brands tackle sensitive subjects? When leading campaigns with clients that deal with vulnerable customers or personal issues how do we know what to avoid? Here we take a look.

Don’t be patronising

Sensitive subjects often centre around personal issues. If your brand provides a service that helps those in a tricky or vulnerable situation, then the best way to appeal to them is to provide them with helpful information that will make things easier. However, it’s crucial that brands steer clear of adopting a patronising tone, as the last thing any brand wants to do is to offend their customers.

For example, The Law Society provides advice that helps those creating a will or dealing with the estate of a loved one who has just passed away. Of course, dealing with the death of someone close to you is always going to be difficult and a lot of the time very complex. Instead of overwhelming their audience and potential customers with a mass of legal information, the society provides helpful information that is straight to the point and answers all their questions. At such a sensitive time, the audience wants their queries resolving, so the quicker they can get answers the better – excess text will just encourage them to look elsewhere.

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[Image credit: Instagram/@cr_uk]


If you’re dealing with an issue that is personal – a person’s health for example – then relating to the audience will help gain trust. In most walks of life, no one likes to feel as though they are the first and only one to go through a particular situation. Knowing that someone has been there before will reassure your audience.

A great example of a charity that gets straight to the point and relates well to those suffering from the illness is Cancer Research UK. Its slogan ‘Cancer Is Happening Right Now’ confronts the issue head on, along with the hashtag #CancerRightNow, which encourages survivors to share their stories. On its YouTube channel, the charity shares videos of real life cases and stories from those suffering from the illness, which humanises the cause and allows those donating to see the direct impact of their funds.

Be honest

As cliché as it sounds, honesty really is the best policy, especially when it comes to marketing. In every walk of life, people appreciate honesty and this is no different when you’re selling a product or service. Sugar-coating a particular issue can have a negative impact on the customer if things don’t play out they way your company suggested it would, and in turn your brand could lose credibility. Always under promise and over deliver.

Drinks brand Oasis uses their honesty in a tongue-in-cheek way in their ‘O Refreshing Stuff’ campaign, which features posters and adverts with statements like ‘Please don’t stand in front of this poster. It cost a lot of money’ and ‘It’s summer. You’re thirsty. We’ve got sales targets.’

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[Image credit: Instagram/@oasisdrinks]

Of course, this type of flippant approach doesn’t work for every brand but honesty in the sense of cold hard facts can also have a positive approach. For example YoungMinds highlights key statistics upfront to stress the scale of mental health affecting people in the UK.

There’s no right, textbook way to tackle a sensitive subject and it’s important to remember that each campaign as subject is bespoke. But putting yourself in the shoes of whoever is reading or coming into contact with your campaign is certainly a good place to start.


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