Is climate change a marketing fail?
The term global warming originated in a 1975 Science article by geochemist Wallace Broecker. To the scientific community, it describes the average surface temperature increase from greenhouse gases emissions.
Earlier studies had called it inadvertent climate modification, as during most of the 70’s it was unknown whether temperatures would increase or cool down.
This nomenclature evolved into climate change as we know it now. It refers to a broader set of consequences that include not only global warming but also everything else that greenhouse gas emissions will affect, such as sea-level rise, desertification, etc.
But what do these names mean to the general public?
Not much. We all know what climate change is and its potential consequences, but such a name means that there will be a meteorological change. Not positive nor negative. Is it possible that we are underestimating it due to it?
Over the years there have been many attempts to create awareness around the issue; non-profits, activists, businesses, governments have all created at some point in time ads and marketing propaganda, some of them brought to life by the world’s best advertising agencies.
Yet, when compared with other awareness campaigns, such as animal rights, created by the same organizations and agencies, it’s my belief that there’s something lacking; we haven’t hit the right spot just yet.
Below we have a campaign on animal rights for WWF; Impactful, makes people stop and think about the issue.
On the other hand, here we have a climate change campaign, also produced for WWF. Despite having climate change related to the unfortunate 9/11 events, it doesn’t quite help to understand the issue, relating to it and if it makes you think about anything at all, it’d probably be terrorism.
When compared, it seems like certain product campaigns are even more impactful than climate change campaigns.
The Moldy Whopper by INGO STHLM for Burger King doesn’t only make you stop scrolling but also helps you understand that this product is made with natural ingredients, without preservatives and, overall, that Burger King cares about what ingredients they use and what you put in your body.
What is the fate of our planet doing at the bottom of marketing priorities?
Marketing departments and agencies have spent years and millions of dollars trying to get consumers to buy their products, on many occasions, not very sustainable ones. Marketers know that the key to success is relatability.
If you can relate to a product, if your values and the brand are aligned, you will buy it.
How can people not relate to climate change?
Firstly, we haven’t managed to educate people on its consequences; someone who doesn’t live by the sea won’t be particularly bothered about sea rise level. Someone in Europe won’t be particularly troubled about hurricanes, so concerns are everywhere yet nowhere.
Secondly, we’ve never talked about the benefits of climate change. At this point, there’s no way back. Climate is changing, and it’s happening already, so rather than focusing on its catastrophic effects, why don’t we focus on what can be done to contain those and the benefits that this would have for society?
Benefits aren’t just reducing its effects, global warming, or even deforestation. We need to find a way to speak closer to home; we need to talk about creating jobs in green industries, raising children with cleaner air, and access to a variety of food.
That’s how society starts caring. Do marketing agencies have a responsibility to create awareness? I believe so.