Posts Tagged ‘communication’

I can’t quite remember what the ad was about – but I was struck by the images, and mostly what I felt watching. The outdoors, a person reaching out for a fruit, in a tree. My reaction was, sweet! . . . and boredom. It failed to grab me. I stopped to think, and wondered, is that how I feel, genuinely, with nature imbued narrative, usually? And my response was, yes . . . and maybe others are too?

Contrast this with the excitement from my friend, after he had just come from watching the Waste=Food documentary:

When I heard him talk about the Chinese story, and also Nike’s revolutionary process for making eco-friendly shoes, I wanted to learn more.

In the search for a more sustainable world, we humans may be more impressed by stories of  our own ingeniosity, than nature’s goodness. Technology, creativity, and news seem like a potent recipe for effective green communication, worth using over, and over again. Not so, bucolic scenes, and the romanticization of our natural world.

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I have been thinking, a lot, lately, about the difficulties surrounding green communication. And wondering why it has been so hard to engage citizens persuasively on critical issues such as climate change, or biodiversity loss, or deforestation, or the looming water crisis. It is a no brainer that the happy survival of our species depends on a timely resolution of those issues. Yet, we are taking action at snail pace, collectively. It occurred to me that we may be dealing with a problem of confusion of levels. Let’s take climate change for instance. 

While we are all concerned by climate change, the locus of action for that broad problem, does not lie in the individual citizen’s hands, but rather with executive entities that deal with global issues: international organizations such as the U.N., legislative and policy making agencies such as the Senate, and Congress, and the Presidential Cabinet, and environmental watchdogs such as NRDC, or the Sierra Club. 

As a citizen, I cannot control climate change, hence appeals to my conscience, and admonitions to take action, do little other than make me feel guilty, powerless, and frustrated. Instead, I want to be talked to in terms that I can relate to my normal, everyday life. Exercising my rights as a citizen and voting yes on new laws to mitigate climate change, yes. Participating in a New Deal on climate and energy, and joining the green work force, yes. Buying green products at no extra costs, why not? Reducing my energy consumption, to stretch my shrinking budget, absolutely. 

Of course, there are always exceptions. Individuals with a highly developed conscience, who are willing to take on the challenges of the world, and act as beacons of consciousness for the whole. These are a minority, however.  

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I just recently made mine the old slogan, ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.‘ These twelve simple words have had quite an effect. Now, I think twice before flushing, and the sight of yellow gets immediately translated into a ‘don’t flush’ command. I have even become a militant, having toilet conversations with whoever wants to listen. Darmok and I had a brief but funny toilet exchange yesterday.

Slogans are old tools of the advertising trade, and it struck me that I can’t recall a single green slogan, other than ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘. The problem with those two words is just that, they are inconvenient, they are party spoiler, and not what people want to hear. ‘Inconvenient Truth’ was successful in capturing people’s imaginations and instilling enough fear in them, that they had to stop and listen. It worked with me. It convinced me of the urgency of the crisis, and of the need of becoming personally involved. Now, other words must take over, to make people want to become green.

Nadine, who just discovered La Marguerite, made an inspiring comment. Nadine has been a long time greenie, and spreader of the Green Word. She brought up the importance of using sweetness and humor, when trying to inspire green changes in others’ lives. I agree with her one hundred percent that humor can be our way into a greener world. The reason the yellow mellow slogan works, is that it’s funny in a quirky kind a way. What’s needed is a green slogan, that will make people laugh so hard, that they will want to share it, and think about it during their everyday activities. Any ideas?

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The power of communicating on an emotional level

Read in the New York Times Business section today: ‘In campaigns from the longtime previous agency . . . the brand was peddled on “functional benefits”. . . “But we’d hit that point where consumers say: ‘I know that. What else?’ ” . . . “The conversation needs to happen on an emotional level because that’s where the power of a brand comes in. We found ourselves in need of strategy change and creative change.” ‘

The ‘Green’ Brand

The comments belong to an article on ‘The Pursuit of Happiness in a Grilled Cheese Sandwich’, about Kraft Foods’ efforts to revamp their Kraft Singles sliced cheese. Cost of the campaign: $40 million a year. Eighteen years ago, I was the VP at the JWT agency in charge of the advertising for Kraft Singles. . . Now if only, as much money and creative juices were spent of the peddling of the Green Earth solution! Green is the brand. Consumers say the same thing about Green as about Kraft Singles. They know what they should be doing, pretty much. So what?

Getting emotional about ‘Green’

The conversation needs to happen on an emotional level, because that’s where the power of a brand comes in.” Right on. People have lots of feelings about the Green brand. Fear, frustration, guilt, powerlessness, shame, curiosity, concern . . . They have even more feelings about life in general, which is the real context for the Green brand. Happiness, joy, courage, the need to belong and to be recognized, the need to be understood,. . . Hidden in all these feelings, is a powerful message, yet to be uncovered.

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No Impact Man and I must be on the same wavelength. Just as I was feeling dragged down by the enormity of the work to be done, I read his post today about the importance of fun. Humans respond to humor, especially in times of crisis. Look at YouTube. The most popular videos are usually the silliest, goofiest ones. People can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. What’s missing from most of the environmentalist voices out there, is a bit of lightness, and also kindness for their audience. When I wrote about ‘Forget Lecturing’ yesterday, I forgot to add one important piece. Yes, do not lecture me. Yes, do not make me feel bad for what I am not, should be doing. Yes, show me through your example, not harsh words. Yes to all three, and also please, don’t take yourself so seriously. Make me laugh!

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Quoted from article in yesterday’s New York Times: “We try to be strategic about doing the things where each unit of effort has the most impact”, said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. Mr. Pope notes that his group has stopped short of castigating people for driving S.U.V’s or building large homes, too. “We’ll encourage companies to make more efficient S.U.V’s, and we’ ll encourage consumers to buy them.,” he said, “but we do not find lecturing people about personal consumption choices to be effective.”

Yeap, lecturing, or being lectured about how to lead one’s life, does not work. We are all teenagers in that respect. I have had that conversation with Green Guru many times. It is more powerful, and a lot less irritating to others, to just lead by example. After a while, some will rub off eventually.

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In search of other blogs to comment on, I browsed through Technorati’s list of most recent posts in the Al Gore Global Warming category. Interesting, how many of the posts with the highest authority are messages from the conservative right, in support of the ‘global warming is a hoax’ theory. These guys really know how to get their message across . . . Scary!!!

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