As part of BrightTalk's Green Week, I tuned in yesterday to an interesting webcast by Lucy Shea, CEO of Futerra on 'Green Messaging and Marketing'.
Futerra are specialists in behaviour change communications and long-time advisers to Governments around the world on their climate change campaigns. I love their work.
In the webcast Lucy took the opportunity to remind everyone of the overwhelming importance of setting clear, measurable, strategic and tactical objectives before launching into any sort of communications campaign, before explaining again two areas of Futerra's work which I'd like to mention here.
The first is a very simple but helpful way of beginning to segment audiences.
It's no substitute for proper market research, but this sort of segmentation can help kickstart your communications planning by helping you to understand the range of potential reactions to your green messages.
Futerra has taken inspiration from the work of Cultural Dynamics (CDSM) and CDSM's concept of 'Values Modes'. The Values Modes categorise people into 12 discrete psychographic types within three general groups ('Settlers', 'Pioneers' and 'Prospectors').
Sounds a bit dry and academic I know, but bear with me - it's marketing dynamite.
Understanding these types of people and their motivations is very important to anyone who wants to sell stuff or create a communications campaign that raises awareness, changes hearts and minds and effects behavioural change. As CDSM explains:
"The Values Modes help to explain WHY people do the things and make the choices that they do."
As I heard the Futerra folk explain at Ecobuild, and as Lucy reinforced yesterday, Futerra has used this work to create its own catchy set of marketing groups:
- They start by describing what they call the 'Brick Wedge' (CDSM's 'Settlers'). These are the 'small world thinkers', people who care passionately about local community issues (parks, neighbours, dog fouling etc.) and work hard at making better environments for themselves and others. They probably don't think they have much, if any, impact on the global scene for good or ill. They want answers, not more questions. They tend to be suspect of change, think things were better in the past, and care about being good home-makers. And it's not just a middle class tendency - disadvantaged kids in inner city estates are often brick wedgers.
- At the other end of the spectrum is the 'Green Wedge' (CDSM's 'Pioneers'). These are the 'big world thinkers', people who are deeply concerned with the big global issues of environmental sustainability. They are more likely to worry about the impact of glacial retreat than the state of the local park. They were the first into recycling - they're now cutting consumption and composting. Driven by a strong moral imperative, the cost of green makes very little difference to them - they do it because it's the right thing to do. They are suspect of cool and anything too commercial (witness the Deep Greenies' grumbles about this year's Ecobuild exhibition).
- Potentially most interesting of all is the 'Gold Wedge' (CDSM's 'Prospectors'). These are the 'outer directed' folk, ultimately motivated most by what other people will think of them (although they would never admit or articulate it like that). They are optimistic, ambitious and savvy. They like change because it's cool, but it has to be visibly cool, desirable and high status (on their terms, not yours). Needless to say, they tend to be the high spenders.
The key point to remember here is that messages for one group will not cross over to another.
This explains why PR campaigns by sustainability experts (very often the green 'pioneers') don't seem to have much impact on builders (very often 'settlers' in outlook). It explains why your communications need to be targeted. Or, if you want mass market business, need to appeal to all.
Lucy also gave some good pointers for green messages that succeed better than others. To paraphrase her advice:
- Keep messages positive and high status.
- Keep language very simple, and make clear and direct requests ("walk on the path" rather than "help respect your environment").
- Balance your message - the scale of the green solution you offer has to be proportionate to the scale of the problem (that's why turning down a thermostat doesn't seem to sound credible advice when you've told people it's to help tackle global climate change).
- Use pictures and case studies to create empathy and emotion, both very powerful tools.
- Remember: seeing is believing. Make it tangible, show the evidence.
In passing, Lucy made an interesting point about why so many energy efficiency campaigns tend to fail - they breach the golden rule that we must never use messaging that attacks home or family. It's a huge turn-off. Those advertisements of unhappy houses with "my owners don't care about me or my energy use" type messages are not likely to get us on side.
Finally, Lucy took the opportunity to plug Futerra's report 'Sell the Sizzle' - and I'm doing the same now! It's a document I have sent as recommended reading to all our clients interested in sustainability communications. (Download a PDF of 'Sell the Sizzle' here).
In a nutshell, the report makes a very simple point. If you want to achieve emotional buy-in to green messages, you must first sell the sizzle - show people the exciting, positive vision of how things could be different, the benefits they could enjoy, the way life could be better. Only then can you explain the issues/problems, and the choices that people have to make on the road to achieving this vision.
But I admit this is a very simplistic overview, so I shall explain more about Sizzle in a later blog post.
For now I recommend Lucy's webcast and welcome your thoughts on the Values Modes. By the way, apparently I'm a 'Transcender' which sounds rather nice. You can check out your own personal Values Mode by taking this quick test on CDSM's website.