What not to do in marketing: a true story

The other day I came across a new “youth-led” climate advocacy group on Twitter, called Climate Defiance. They organize protests and “direct action”.

They posted scary looking charts about climate change and complained about Barbenheimer memes and people ignoring their protests. They used the same “doomer” language I’ve complained about in the past and appeared to use most of their content to a) berate people for not being as committed to protesting as them and b) berate people for ignoring them.

Well, guess what? The audience is always right. If people are ignoring your advocacy, or aren’t buying your product, that’s your brand or organization’s problem. Insulting your audience not only fails to understand your problem, it will turn people who might be sympathetic against you.

What would I do differently? Lots. Judging by their website and Twitter, their content is all about them. They brag about disrupting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and protesting at a Congressional softball game. It’s not only egotistical, it comes off as incredibly self-righteous.

They don’t have any calls to action, they don’t have any pending bills they support. According to their website, they want politicians to act — but they don’t say what they want them to do. So the first thing to do is pick something to support.

One of the few things they do demand is an immediate end to fossil fuels, but they don’t say what this means. Anyone with any knowledge whatsoever of renewable energy and electrification knows that it’s not as easy as flipping a switch, even if President Biden had the will and the votes to enact such a change. Renewable generating capacity needs to be built out, the electrical grid needs to be able to meet capacity, buildings and factories need to be retrofitted. That’s not even counting the big thing: transportation. Leaving aside aircraft, which, if we’re honest, we could live without, virtually all transportation is done in this country with fossil fuels and 100 percent of moving goods is. Trucks and trains cannot be electrified instantly. The world also doesn’t produce enough lithium to meet the projected demand for electric vehicles, much less all vehicles just in the United States. Unrealistic demands do not help solve climate change.

But adding a clear call to action would help with their protests. Instead of their current “Me me me” style of posting, they could have one that was like “X number of people turned out in support of initiative y” kind of deal. That would be change number two.

Third would be to target protests more. Protests are a dime a dozen in DC, but going to the districts of key members of Congress can bring a lot of publicity not only to your cause but to that representative’s voters, who are key. Many of Climate Defiance’s actions haven’t been covered in the media because it’s old hat in DC.

Fourth, I would change the tone of the rhetoric. Not only is doom and gloom messaging clearly ineffective, it’s exhausting. It’s also unreasonable to expect people to have no leisure, so it’s just offputting. One of the best ways to get people to adopt climate-friendly policies is in fact to ignore climate change and focus on immediate benefits. Texas builds more renewable capacity than California because renewables are cheap and California’s own environmental policies prevent people from building them there! Electric cars existed for over a hundred years before Tesla made them sexy. People respond to hope, not the umpteenth updating of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

Do you want your climate change messaging to make a real difference, or do you just want to talk about how much better you are than everyone else? Contact me today.

This piece was first published on my LinkedIn. It has been modified to serve as a blog post.