I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director for Greenpeace International. I almost didn’t go, because while I believe in sustainability. Greenpeace is extreme in its actions to me. However, as he outlined the three obstacles for climate change activism, it became clear to me that a strategic marketing approach could go a long way toward bringing together polarized parties.
First the issues. Dr. Naidoo outlined three specifically:
- Climate change isn’t visible. You can’t show a starving child and play on human emotions to cause action. While this may be an effect of climate change, it isn’t climate change itself.
- Science. Not the science itself. But the communication of the science to the general population. Brilliant scientists are working both sides of for and against climate change, but neither side effectively communicates. They talk above people instead of making connections to peoples’ reality.
- A very well organized, well-funded opponent. Oil.
Sounds like a marketing issue to me. First of all, marketers deliver intangibles daily. From the actual services provided to the benefits of products and services. Second, in the cleantech industry it is common to find a brilliant scientist who is unclear how to communicate their processes to an investor, partner and oftentimes, employees. Finally, going up a good competitor brings out the laser-focused, creative strategy in every marketer.
So, I say to climate change advocates. Break this down into a marketing communications issue. First, define what makes climate change issues relevant and unique now and offer supporting proof points. If climate change was a brand, what would its unique ‘selling’ propositions be? And how would you prove it. Using science, but also beyond science. Spell out how you back-up your brand. It can be the people, companies and organizations that are partners in addition to the scientific facts.
Second. Communicate the USPs clearly. Scientific and otherwise. Yes, there are times when scientist to scientist conversations happen at the much higher level, but to gain activism from the public, from corporations, from policymakers you must connect with them where it matters. So while it’s your message, understanding your audience, how they communicate and how they want information delivered is imperative to any brand’s success.
Finally, competition. There is no leading brand in the world without competition. And Davids have been taking down Goliaths since…well…David and Goliath. Competition should make you better. It insists that you hone your messages, connect to your audience, build your brand for market share or slip into decline.