2020: The year we were forced to change

In a year when COVID-19 demanded change from all, effective behaviour change communications took on extra resonance. Icon Agency was up to the challenge, with several campaigns hitting the mark.

It’s not easy to drive genuine behaviour change, and when you do, it’s not easy to make it happen quickly, or for the change to stick.

But 2020, or more specifically COVID-19, did.

This was the year we all changed. We had to change.

Hand sanitiser. Elbow bumps instead of handshakes. Social distancing. Working from home. Zoom meetings. Masks. Lockdowns. Forced isolation.

All difficult changes, forced on us at short notice, and, for many people for many months, with seemingly no end in sight.

It was inevitable other behaviours, such as alcohol consumption, would change too.

Aussies started drinking more often as the pandemic tightened its grip, with one in eight admitting to boozing every day since the coronavirus outbreak began.

In an effort to counter the trend, Icon Agency was engaged by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to lead a multi-staged integrated communications campaign that would help encourage Australians to be mindful of their drinking at home and engage in more positive, healthy behaviours.

The “You Haven’t Been Drinking Alone” campaign wasn’t about telling people to stop drinking, but making sure alcohol wasn’t abused as a coping mechanism, and that children wouldn’t pick up bad habits.

Featuring a humorous yet worrying video of children on a Zoom call “sinking bevvies”, it was recognised for its uniqueness at the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s 2020 Golden Target Awards, with Icon winning gold for “Best Health Campaign” and “Best Thought Leadership Campaign” – an enormous achievement.

The Foundation also engaged Icon to create and execute a highly-targeted campaign aimed at encouraging female millennials (women aged 22-38) to think more about the benefits of drinking less to improve their mental and physical health.

Humour works, but so can taking a different approach. The #celebrateYOU campaign adopted a compassionate tone, and was also a success.

Alcohol abuse and mental health go hand-in-hand, and COVID-19 made it a challenging year for people’s mental health.

A key behaviour change campaign, launched by Icon last month for six Victorian Primary Health Networks, was the HeadtoHelp website and associated messaging, which helped ensure people in Victoria facing their own mental health crisis were aware of where they could turn to for help.

It followed on from the Help turn psychosis around campaign for headspace earlier in the year, which aimed to lessen the stigma of psychosis in younger people and raise awareness of the condition at the same time.

But behaviour change during a pandemic extends past what we consume and how we cope with stress. In western Sydney, the City of Penrith faced a growing problem of waste management. People weren’t putting their rubbish in the correct bins.

Icon won a highly competitive tender to persuade the 200,000-plus people in Penrith to do the right thing. The Let’s Get It Sorted campaign employs cartoon, colour-coded bin characters to get the message across to a large, diverse audience of the importance of orderly waste management. Pandemic or no pandemic.

Make what matters.
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