Creative Ways to Talk about Serious Subjects

In my last blog post, I talked about coming up with a creative ad campaign to tackle taboo topics in marketing. Today’s blog post is all about developing a marketing campaign to sell an unpopular cure to one of society’s most depressing problems.

The Problem with Depression

Depression is a serious issue for 350 million people all over the world, or 5% of the population of Planet Earth. It can lead to suicide, drug or alcohol abuse, poverty, and the collapse of the family. It is a serious, and a seriously depressing, problem.

A Spreading Epidemic

The worst part is that it is contagious. Being around someone who is depressed all the time is depressing. The brain’s natural tendency to empathize means that when you’re around someone who is depressed, your brain begins to emulate what it perceives in order to help you develop social bonding. The more people in society that are depressed, the more depressed society becomes.

The Inadequacy of Existing Solutions

Pills do not solve depression. At best, they numb the person to the point where they can’t feel anything anymore. At worst, the side effects can induce the person to give in to suicidal thoughts. It’s no solution at all.


Last week, I met a man named Chris Palmore. We were introduced through a mutual friend. Chris runs Chris talked to me about gratitude’s role in helping him through his depression. I knew what gratitude had done to help me break through my own and my husband’s depression. I was definitely on board with helping him promote this free and positive solution to a growing problem.

Crowdfunding the Message

Chris wanted to take GratitudeSpace to bigger places, but doing that requires funds he doesn’t have to use. He was launching a #GratitudeNYC campaign as the first stop on what he envisioned to be a three city tour – NYC, Vegas, and then LA. Bobby, our mutual friend, suggested putting a crowdfunding campaign to help defray expenses, spread the message, and generate enthusiasm for the campaign. I agreed to help.

The Unpopular Cure

Let’s face it. Gratitude is a tough sell for people who are going through depression. It’s hard to see what is good in your life. You love the people who stick it out with you but the guilt you feel over what your depression puts them through can make having them in your life seem like more of a burden than a blessing. Gratitude requires you to see reasons to be thankful when the hurricane is blowing through your life and everything is coming apart at the seams. That’s not easy to do.

The Trap of Depression

Gratitude is an unpopular cure for another, very important, reason. Gratitude requires accepting responsibility for your attitude and the choices you make about how you see things in your life. The problem is that when you are suffering depression, you don’t realize that you have choices about how to see things. You feel trapped, helpless, and hopeless over your situation. And getting someone to see how it is their choice on what they see in the picture they are viewing is a tough challenge.

The Depression Perspective

Two people work in a barn. Every day they are confronted with piles of manure that they must clean up. One of them sees nothing but the mess. They see the work that they’re going to have to do to clean it up. They smell the stink of it. They can’t see anything good about what is in front of them. They see endless days of manure being dropped and needing to be cleaned up and they see no way out of it. This person becomes depressed.

The Opportunity Perspective

The other person is confronted with that same exact situation. However, they see the potential in the mess. They see that the manure can be used as fertilizer. They see that if they shovel it into bags, they can sell the manure the ranch owner doesn’t want to farmers that need it. And because they can see the opportunity for the benefit to come from the manure, they grateful for the fact that it comes every day because it represents a reliable fountain of potential profit. The very same thing that depresses their co-worker is a cause for celebration in their eyes.

Life Depressed

Understanding that depression is actually a choice made in how someone views a situation is one thing. Getting that person to the point where they are ready to make the change in perspective is another. And taking them to the point of conversion requires marketers to first enter into their world and see things through their eyes first. You have to answer the question: What does it feel like to be depressed?

Depression Symptoms

People talk about the symptoms of depression being losing interest in things you used to enjoy, or losing the energy you need to do anything, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, but those don’t really paint the picture. If you want a campaign that will grab people and help them see themselves in those symptoms, you need to capture their imagination and make them say to themselves, “Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like for me right now.” Because only when they are sure you understand their pain will they be ready to listen to the cure you’re offering.

The Right Myth

As I stated earlier, my husband and I have both struggled with depression. As I began cataloging what the world looked like and felt like to me when I was depressed, I noticed that the “symptoms” of depression could very much fit what is described in the zombie mythology. The walking dead. Going through the motions of living without actually feeling like you’re alive.

Zombies are huge in pop culture right now, so using that mythology to strike up a discussion about depression seemed both appropriate and likely to be effective at getting them listening and thinking about depression. And, if they were willing to listen, it might resonate with them enough to get them to the point where they were willing to participate in helping stop it.

Running with the Theme

Calling it the “Zombie Cure Tour” makes the crowdfunding campaign easier to remember, easier to share with others, and gets people more likely to be at least interested in hearing what the campaign involves. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will support it, only time can tell, but it does mean they are more likely to listen. Which also means that even if the crowdfunding goal isn’t reached, we may be able to get people thinking about the link between cultivating gratitude and curing depression.

Encouraging Action

Although we are asking for donations, the request of the depressed person isn’t even that they express gratitude. They aren’t necessarily ready for that stage yet. As I mentioned earlier, they may not find anything in their lives that inspires gratitude. It may all look like one giant mess to them. We only ask that they visit and watch the videos. See what other people have to be grateful for and why. If they aren’t feeling grateful, borrowing someone else’s gratitude may help them find some of their own.

Measuring Success

If the marketing campaign is effective in getting them to take just that one step forward, that might be enough to help them find the courage to take the next step. Exposure to other people’s stories of gratitude may then inspire gratitude of their own, which could help them start down a more positive path. So, our ultimate goal with the campaign is not the donations. It’s to generate more traffic on and to, hopefully, get feedback from those who suffer from depression a chance to break free.

Stay Tuned

I’ll keep you posted on how things turn out. The campaign has 35 more days to run and $0 in donations received right now.

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