Andrew Revkin, who just started Dot Earth, the new environmental blog for the New York Times, raised an interesting question in one of his posts, ‘The ‘Porn Factor’ in the Climate Fight‘:
‘If quiet warnings are ignored, and the politics of fear is as empty as pornography, what is a message on climate risks and responses that is true to the science, but also effective? Any ideas?’
The following is a reprint of my comment back to him:
‘Great post, Andrew, on a subject very close to my heart! Here, quickly the beginning of an answer from my perspective as a Green Girl Wannabe, green psychologist, and concerned earth citizen.
A little bit of fear is good. Too much is paralyzing, and a real downer. Humans also don’t like it when things are taken away from them, especially fun toys, like cars, and boats, and doll outfits. Guilt is another bad feeling, and there is plenty of it floating around in the green circles. Too many do gooders, preaching a lifestyle that seems unattainable for the common mortal.
Now let me step back a bit, and take on my marketing hat. The message should come only last, after a good product has been developed and a clear marketing strategy is in place. What is the product we want people to ‘buy’? What kind of green lifestyle (as product) might they be interested in? Just using myself as a source of insight, I know I want convenience, ease, no additional expense, fun, something that will make me feel good about myself. Something that enhances my life, in terms of happiness and meaning. Something that won’t turn into another hassle. These are the attributes. Concretely, how does that translate? To make ‘green lifestyle’ enticing, there needs to be a number of elements in place:
1) infrastructures, e.g, initiatives like the Berkeley plan of ‘giving away’ solar installs to all their residents, incentives, public transportation, bike lanes, free light bulbs, etc
2) visual cues to help people remember wherever they go, about green; green cannot stay at an intellectual level, it needs to be facilitated using all the senses, e.g. urban design, public art, fun initiatives like Velib’ in Paris, etc
3) green communities, using the power of social networks, and also more traditional networks, such as schools, churches, cities, neighborhoods, places of work, where people can help each other become green, e.g. zerofootprint initiative with city of Toronto
4) working with mass distribution and manufacturers to influence people at their places of most likely consumption, influencing them with alternative green choices they cannot refuse, because of price, fun, convenience, look, etc
5) policy, to help with incentives, regulations, taxes, including leadership at all levels, national, state and city
Then you have an actual green product that people can buy into, and hence the possibility of a persuasive message. I guess my emphasis here, is that only so much can be expected at the individual level. People need help, and green is only one of the many things on their agenda, behind other more pressing issues such as health care, work, family, emotional issues, cultural factors, etc.
Last, one can think in terms of adoption curve, and look at a marketing strategy in terms of early adopters, etc.
All of this presupposes a master brand strategist for the ‘green lifestyle’ brand. Where is that person?’