With President Obama and the rest of the leaders of the world’s biggest polluting nations kicking the ball down the field on climate change and effectively pulling the rug out from under all of us who have been targeting the Copenhagen climate talks as the moment we must seize, our response must recognize the obvious.
Despite the historic gains we’ve made building the 350 movement across the planet in the past year, we have not captured the hearts and minds of the general public or the media.
We have the science and the scientists on our side, we have built a mighty coalition of activists, businesses, churches, schools and enlightened government representatives – but in the Age of Stupid, where cats who love cheeseburgers rule the Internet, and where polling both in the United States and in the United Kingdom show declining numbers of adults believe global warming is either man-made or a real threat, the sense of urgency is far greater for learning who the next winner of American Idol is than for switching to a new clean, green, carbon free economy. Go figure.
Scientists have been telling us for a couple of years now how scared they were about the gap between what they were discovering and reporting and what the public was understanding, accepting and believing. And the worse things have gotten in terms of the discoveries and the reports, ironically the wider the gap between reality and what the average man and woman on the street is grokking.
One thing has become abundantly clear to me through the work I’ve been doing as a community organizer on behalf of 350.org here in Southern California – we need a swift and massive public education campaign that builds rapid awareness, interest, appeal and action on behalf of our brand.
And the way we need to market and sell that brand is the same way successful politicians like Barack Obama sell themselves, the same way Guitar Hero, Viagra, iPods, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Las Vegas make their brands impossible to ignore powerhouses.
Yeah, that’s right, we have a brand and it’s the only brand that can satisfy the greatest urges and needs mankind has: survival, continued propagation of our species and quality of life. That’s a damn fine “point of difference” as we call it in the marketing world.
So instead of spending so much time trying to earn political support from politicians and governments I think we need to turn our focus to recruiting the best marketing, sales and creative pros – many of whom are currently on the street, jobless, downsized due to cutbacks in consumer spending.
We need to employ these pros to use the same tools and tactics that have consumers living in fear of bad breath, body odor, dandruff, or being ridiculed for buying the wrong brand of computer, car or cell phone.
Policy takes forever, but markets, brands, trends and popular culture all turn on a dime – especially in the Internet era. New stars come out of nowhere and rocket to the top in months while legends and classics fall out of favor and off the radar screen just as quickly.
We need a worldwide, integrated marketing campaign to build sweeping awareness, interest and to drive climate change consumers to rapid action. And that campaign starts by filling that gap between what scientists know is happening right now and what the public is hearing and understanding.
We can’t wait for the media or anyone else to package and deliver this news and information for us, we need to put together our own teams of the best and brightest communicators on the scene today and we need to use the same tactics, the same language and leverage the same equity in the minds of consumers as the brands that currently fill their heads with slogans, positioning lines and reasons for believing.
Don’t get me wrong – we still need to continue all our grassroots efforts, but we need to do more than that. We need to reach and teach the masses. And the way we do that is to tell and then to sell.
And when it comes to selling the need to act and the solutions we need to act with, we all need to remember ABC –
A = Always
B = Be
But don’t take my word for it: