Addressing Sensitive Topics Through Behaviour Change Marketing

We specialise in creating campaigns that break down barriers brought on by sensitive topics and work to drive meaningful changes in behaviour.

At MacMartin, we specialise in creating compelling campaigns that break down the communicative barriers often brought on by sensitive topics and work to drive meaningful changes in behaviour.

Powerful, successful behaviour change campaigns require strong messaging and visuals that capture attention, resonate deeply with the target audience, and trigger an emotional response. However, we understand that this can be a daunting prospect for your organisation.

In this blog, we’ll outline how we craft impactful behaviour change campaigns around sensitive topics, as well as discussing why we don’t shy away from powerful messaging when we’re working with such important issues.

Sensitive Topics

Sensitive topics are any subjects which could make people feel uncomfortable or evoke particularly strong emotions, often they have personal, cultural, health, social or environmental components. For example – mental health, gender and sexuality, trauma and violence, grief and personal loss, are all examples of sensitive topics that could be triggering for individuals who have experienced them. Although they may be subjects that people find difficult to discuss, they are incredibly important to talk about and address.

Before we begin to construct a campaign, we first work to understand the precise nature of the sensitivity surrounding the topic in question. This also involves conducting thorough research and engaging in conversations with affected communities to gain valuable insights to inform our approach.

Empathy and Respect: We approach the topic with genuine empathy and respect for the experiences and perspectives of those affected. We avoid sensationalism or exploitation and prioritise the well-being of the target audience.

Inclusivity and Equality: We create messaging that is inclusive, respectful, and acknowledges diverse viewpoints. We ensure representation and diversity in campaign imagery and narratives to avoid inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes. Any information or resources we are making available as part of a campaign are accessible to all. For example, by utilising both digital and non-digital channels, and working with communities to distribute communications effectively.

Education and Awareness: Our campaigns always create opportunities for education and awareness among the target audience, fostering a deeper understanding of the issue at hand and enhancing their capability to change. We provide plenty of resources and information to empower individuals to take positive actions, providing lots of opportunities for engagement.

Collaboration with Experts: We frequently partner with subject matter experts, advocates, and community leaders who can provide valuable insights and specialist. We always ensure that our campaigns align with the priorities and values of the communities we’re aiming to support.


Crafting Impactful Campaigns With Sensitivity

For a behaviour change campaign to be successful, it must be powerful enough to move individuals to rethink and ultimately change their behaviour for good. However, when we are working with sensitive issues, we calibrate our campaigns accordingly. The seriousness of the subject matter demands a high-impact approach that can really work to make a difference, a result that can’t be achieved if the message becomes overly watered down.

Communicating sensitive topics is different to how we work with any other topics because people care so much more about them, so we need to be incredibly careful  and considerate when we’re marketing them. We utilise the below strategies when we’re constructing any behaviour change campaign, however when we are working with a particularly sensitive subject matter, they become all the more important.

Language Precision: Using our research findings as guidance, we choose words with meticulous care, ensuring they resonate with the target audience without causing unnecessary distress. Legal requirements may come into play here, as guidelines may exist to discern whether specific language is acceptable or whether it could be deemed offensive.

Storytelling: We frame narratives that reflect authentic experiences, fostering a genuine connection with our audience. Real-life stories and testimonials are more likely to resonate with people and cause an emotional response, maximising the impact of our message.

Visual Power: We leverage the visual elements of a campaign to evoke emotion and convey a powerful message without relying solely on explicit language, remaining mindful of intentions, context and meaning, for example: how is this likely to be read and understood by the target audience based on the context and not the written word alone?


Addressing Concerns

If your organisation is working with us on a behaviour change campaign, stakeholders and team members may understandably feel nervous about approaching such sensitive topics head on. Below, we’ve outlined some information that you can use to put their minds at ease and demonstrate that decisions are always made for the good of the campaign, with behaviour change success in mind.

Behavioural Science: All of our campaigns are underpinned by behavioural science and consumer research. For example, the COM-B model informs all our work when we’re looking to understand and change behaviour.

Reputation Management: We always consider the reputation of the organisation we are representing to ensure we never over step the mark or cause offence.

Risk Assessment: We conduct thorough risk analysis to identify any potential challenges that we may encounter, particularly unintended consequences, and develop strategies to mitigate them. For example, by continuously mapping out the user journey and the steps they need to take to change their behaviour, helping us to identify any potential barriers and work to remove them.

Research: The more research we do, and the more people we speak to, the less likely a campaign is to have negative consequences. We always work to really get under the skin of our target audiences to understand what motivates them and drives their behaviour.

Data-Driven Insights: We will provide you with the research and case studies that have informed our approach to your campaign and that showcase the success of similar campaigns.


Creating behaviour change campaigns for sensitive topics requires a delicate balance of empathy, research, respect and creativity. Although it can be easy to become bogged down in red-tape and bureaucracy, it’s vital to remember that to make a difference, we must first make a statement. By pushing boundaries, being bold with our messaging and being brave with our strategy, we can work with you to craft powerful behaviour change campaigns that not only evoke positive responses but also contribute to meaningful, lasting societal change.


If you have a mission, get in touch with us today to discuss how a behaviour change campaign could spark the change that your organisation wants to see in your community.

To read about our recent behaviour change campaigns, visit our case studies page.