Yes, I know it’s February. Which is really not the time to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. That said, considering the state of the planet, maybe every month is a good time to talk about the actions we can take to reverse global warming.
Sorry, let me rephrase that: To manage the inevitable effects of global warming and prevent the upcoming crisis from turning into an unmitigated catastrophe.
Let’s revisit 2013, a year dominated by governmental intrigues, healthcare and a steadily rising stock market. Unnoticed among all of this: the slow awakening of the “sleeping giant.” I’m quoting a NASA report – “Is A Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?” In sum ( cue the scary music): a killer lurks underneath the Arctic permafrost. According to NASA estimates, more than half of the total carbon stored in the earth’s soil may be trapped in place by the ice. This is approximately five times the carbon emitted by we humans since 1850. And now, thanks to global warming, it is about to be unleashed.
In other words, Armageddon. In other words, a total downer.
I’ve said it before in this column: while our individual actions are useful, to address a problem of this magnitude, we need to think at scale. Which really means that marketers need to rethink the way they do business. There are only two reasons marketers change the way they do business: because it makes more money or because consumers want it ( and therefore, competitors will soon offer it). So here are some Resolutions ( with a capital R, because this is way, way more important than your losing five pounds) that do exactly that, and therefore, might get them started.
1. Embrace LoHAS: What’s marketing without a good buzzword? LoHAS refers to a real emerging segment: lifestyles of health and sustainability. There are some who claim that this is a privilege afforded only to the wealthy bi-coastal set. That’s not true, because there are cheaper options available to other segments as well. But even if it were so, what of it? Innovation trickles down. So if the initial development of sustainable products is subsidized by the latte-sippers among us, well, that funds the drive to lower costs, improve performance and offer those products at scale.
2. Tip the parity scale: Studies conducted by organizations as varied as Goldman Sachs and the Rocky Mountain Institute have repeatedly shown that consumers at all income levels tend to favor brands that make good choices on their behalf. Think of it as extending the scope of your product or service. By reducing packaging, or using recycled materials, or encouraging local raw materials or reducing your carbon footprint, you give consumers a victory by proxy. That value goes straight to your brand’s bottom line when your customer is walking down the aisle looking at two identical bottles of shampoo.
3. Think long-term: Unilever abolished quarterly reports a while ago, to signal their focus on achieving real, lasting change over time, without distractions. That message plays particularly well since they are based in Europe. If more companies started thinking this way, not only would we have healthier businesses: stock markets would be less neurotic as well.
4. The Year of eCycling: We are all participants in the torrential on-rush of technology. Every week, there’s a new shiny object we must possess. Marketers are adept at talking up the exciting possibilities of the new technology. But there’s one more way to get them to buy new stuff – pay them to take away the old stuff. Many marketers tend to not think of this as marketing, and file it away in the “social conscience” folder. They’re making a mistake. In a battle for market share, this could be the spark that incites the new purchase.
5. Enlist the army of the young: Marketers are overlooking a huge ally in the drive to make and sell better products. Kids. Every kid hears the green message in school. What if marketers reached out to them and used them as ambassadors for their sustainably-manufactured products? What if we used pester power for good?
So that’s my list. Use it, spread the word, keep fighting. Not just for the polar bears but for ourselves.