What’s in a name? Branding of online mental health programming for university students.

Objective: University students experience many help-seeking barriers, and thus not all students who could benefit from mental health services enroll in them. This study aimed to examine student enrollment in response to strategic marketing of an online prevention program for anxiety and depression. Method: Data were collected from students at two universities during recruitment phases for the online program. The program was branded as either “The Happiness Challenge” or “ReBoot Camp” through parallel sets of recruitment materials using language intended to address help-seeking barrier concerns (e.g., stigma, inaccessibility). The yielded samples were examined for unaddressed psychological need rates, demographic composition, and differential enrollment by student subgroups into either program brand. Results: Replicated results between Study 1 (n = 651 students; 71.2% undergraduate, 80.3% female, 27.9% White non-Hispanic) and Study 2 (n = 718 students; 60.6% undergraduate, 73.4% female, 53.2% White non-Hispanic) showed that more than a third of students qualified as having “unmet need” for services, enrollment was disproportionately self-identified as female and Asian students, Asian students were less likely to report prior service use and more likely to be categorized as having “unmet need,” and ReBoot Camp was disproportionately selected by male students. Conclusion: Findings suggest that recruitment effectively reached students with unaddressed mental health need, including high enrollment by Asian students, who historically seek services less often. Additionally, important gender differences emerged in preferences for program name. These findings could inform how to market services in university settings to reach more students, including those from underserved subgroups. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)