How Intelligent Naivety Can Help the Climate Movement Part 2

A continuing series on Challenger Brand Credos and the Climate Movement

Sometimes, or I should say, for some audiences, emotion can be more powerful than facts. What intelligent naivety brings to the table is an ability to inject new emotion into a tired, or stale category. The climate movement definitely matches this description and could use a little more intelligent naivety.

In the book, Eating the Big Fish, they bring many examples of brands that brought new emotions into a category and did very well. Examples include Bratz putting an “urban sassiness” into the Barbie doll category, and Altoids putting “pain” into the breath mint category. The idea of putting new emotion into the category isn’t just about making something fun or different. As Eating the Big Fish notes, it’s about dramatically simplifying choices for consumers by creating new criteria for choice and thus giving them a new way of thinking and feeling about the category.

In the climate movement, we present consumers with far too many choices, from the fact-based scientific choices to the policy heavy legislative choices, and everything in between. Yes, we sometimes use emotion as in the times we try to use polar bear families as a way to illustrate the dramatic loss of sea ice from climate change. On the other hand, if you look at the broader “climate” category, there really seem to only be four choices at the moment – it’s happening , man is causing it and man can solve it; it’s not happening; I don’t know if it’s happening or not; or it’s happening but part of a natural cycle and we can’t do anything to stop it. In the climate movement, we of course made the first choice. What emotions does that choice evoke? I say fear is front and foremost. When we throw in the part about solutions, we put hope into the equation.

What emotions cause people to fall into one of these “choices?” Is it possible to get people to move from one choice to another (kind of like getting them to switch breath mints)? What would a marketing campaign, using intelligent naivety, look like if we were trying to eliminate some of these choices or get consumers to switch? What if we started with the premise that our campaign will not involve either trying to prove to people that climate change is happening? That would be an interesting way to restart the climate movement.

 

Loss May Be the Best Thing that Happened to You

A short break from my series on the Climate Movement and Challenger Brands.

John Lennon, as always, said it best:

Oh my love, for the first time in my life
My eyes are wide open
Oh my lover, for the first time in my life
My eyes can see
I see the wind, oh, I see the trees
Every thing is clear in my heart
I see the clouds, oh, I see the sky
Everything is clear in our world

(lyrics from “Eyes Wide Open”)

While I didn’t go through the intense pressure of a decade in the Beatles, I identify with these lyrics, written not long after the end of the Fab Four. I’m proud of the many great things we accomplished in eight years at Clean Currents, and the real difference we made in the fight against extreme climate change. But I look back now and see a robot in the place where a person should have been. I am so grateful that I’ve got my soul and my humanity back. Everything is clear in our world once again.
Remember this the next time you lose something (a business, a relationship, a job) and you think it’s the end. It may just be the first step in the return of you.

Dedicated to all my friends and loved ones who have lost, and for everyone.
To: MT, AN, TG, VM, NZ, AR, MB, HW, AS, SC
And especially to my Yoko, PP.

How Can Intelligent Naivety Help the Climate Movement?

Part 3 in my series on how adopting a challenger brand approach can help change the climate movement.

Now that we’ve got a good grasp of the climate brands, we can move on to exploring the first Challenger Credo, Intelligent Naivety.  The concept here is simple – sometimes the more you know about a subject, the less you are able to look at it with discerning eyes. This applies to messaging to non-experts, examining organizational structure, and coming up with the clichéd “outside the box” solutions that sometimes work the best.

Intelligent naivety refers to a person who lacks experience in a given category, but of course is smart and perhaps experienced in other related areas. For example, somebody who is an amazing communicator but doesn’t know anything about the energy industry could bring intelligent naivety to the industry and figure out a new way to motivate people to switch to clean energy. Some notable examples of people whose intelligent naivety revolutionized categories are Richard Branson, going from selling rock albums to starting an airline business, and Jeff Bezos, going from managing a hedge fund to starting Amazon as an on-line book seller.

In the climate movement, we could dearly benefit from some new perspectives. Many of us have been immersed in the field for more than a dozen years, with some leaders in environmental NGO’s harking back to the original Kyoto Protocol negotiations in the 90’s. Yet our “consumers,” the audience we want to reach has not had even close to the day-in, day-out exposure that we’ve had. So, yeah, how do we communicate to them in a way that makes sense?

As pointed out in Eating the Big Fish,  approaching a category with intelligent naivety allows one to step back and ask what they call the “upstream” questions that those of us immersed in the area have forgotten to keep asking. Basic questions like, ‘why does our movement have to be about this, and not about that,” and “why do we lead with this frame and not another frame?” I’m talking about the type of questions that go at the very beginning of our work, before we had all these NGO’s and other interest groups. A key approach for one with intelligent naivety is to skip over the part where we ask the public how they feel about the category (‘what’s your view on climate change?’) and go to the fundamental question – how can we change the relationship we have with the public as it currently stands?

A specific example might help clarify this vital point. A few years back, if you had done market research, including focus groups and polls with the public about what they want in dish soap, you’d probably almost only hear about more effective products, maybe at a lower cost, and maybe with less chemicals. In other words, better benefits to fit the typical “problem-solution” marketing approach. This is what I mean when I talk about asking the public about a category. In Eating the Big Fish, however, the author relates the story of method.  Eric Ryan, the company’s founder, found a way to change the public’s relationship with the category by asking more of a “why not” kind of question. His question in essence was, why couldn’t a household cleaning product attract the millions of homeowners who care deeply about their home’s appearance and style? The result, of course, was a line of products put in exquisitely designed containers that look good sitting on the counter in your re-designed kitchen. The main point is that Ryan couldn’t have poll-tested or focus grouped his product into existence because consumers wouldn’t have even articulated a need for a product like method had he done so.

What’s our equivalent in the climate movement? What questions could be right below the surface that the public can’t articulate just yet? The answers to these questions could change the very nature of the public’s relationship with the climate movement.

 

Defining our Climate Movement Brand(s)

Part two of my series on how adopting a “Challenger Brand” mentality can help the movement to stop climate change.

Before we go into the Challenger Brand credos laid out in “Eating the Big Fish,” we need to understand what exactly is the “brand” part of “Challenger Brand?”

Definition of Brand.  Brand used to simply mean the name given to a product or service, but now it has morphed into generally speaking, the consumer’s perception of your company or of a specific product. This perception can be based on values, quality, price, etc.  Seth Godin has a good definition:

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.

Considering those definitions, let’s try to figure out what our brand is in the climate movement.

Brand Description Strength Weakness Target Audience Best “Product”
Brand A Expert scientists or science-based groups Knowledge Communication Govt’, Intellectuals Reports, Statistics, Facts
Brand B Left wing activists fighting against “the man,” especially college age students. Passion Credibility Youth, deep greens Call to Action, Organizing
Brand C Serious policy wonks, politicians, and political insiders Access Vanilla Politicians, partisan elites Talking Points for Leaders
Brand D Renewable energy companies Economic Dev Financial Motives Geo targeted by jobs, business elite Economic argument
Brand E Wealthy individuals, actors, musicians, and other well-known celebrities Broad reach Credibility Youth, business elite Hipness
Brand F Other “progressive” type businesses Unique Voice Knowledge of issue Their consumers, politicians Hipness

There’s No Use Arguing

Here’s a reminder to my friends and colleagues in the saving-the-world work of fighting climate change – know your audience! Don’t bother arguing about climate change with people who think it’s a hoax or some plot to turn the world socialist. They will never be convinced to do the right thing. As a real-world lesson on this, allow me to share a recent Facebook exchange I had with my cousin’s friend. My cousin would never call himself a tea party guy, but his FB posts are filled with hatred for Obama, liberals, and environmentalists. I normally ignore most of his posts, but unfortunately took the bait this time. My cousin’s friend, apparently, is even more to the fringe. A recent post on his FB page has the headline, “New Evidence Reveals Obama and Hillary Found Conspiring to End Criticism of Islam in America.”

After reading the debate, I hope you draw the same conclusions I did:

  1. I need to ignore my cousin’s Facebook rants.
  2. We should NEVER engage the deniers in debate. It doesn’t get anywhere, unless it’s in front of an audience of persuadable people, but even then is likely not worth it.
  3. Their knowledge is only surface level. If any of us has even a small amount of actual knowledge, they are very easy to defeat.
  4. Al “Bore” is a great straw man character to create (I got dibs!).

I’m interested in hearing other conclusions we can draw from this, if any.

Out of privacy concerns, I’ve renamed my cousin and his friend, picking at random from a names dictionary I came up with Cousin Cletus and his friend Goober.

I’ll take a little Editor’s prerogative and point out that my mention of the ice melting in 100 years refers to Antarctica, not the polar ice caps. Otherwise, here’s the debate  exactly as it happened, with links to content as well.

Cletus shared a link via The Daily Caller.

June 13

SHHHHHH ! ! ! ! !

 

Study: West Antarctic Glacier Melt Due To Volcanoes, Not Global Warming

dailycaller.com

A new study by researchers at the University of Texas, Austin found that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is collapsing due to geothermal heat, not man-made global warming….

Top of Form

Goober:  AL effing Gore SAID the ice sheet would be melted by 2014 DUE TO carbon emissions. All you ever here from people who support this hoax when antithetical science is published that totally skewers the idea is “yeah well that doesn’t matter”. Its still……..fart.

June 13 at 9:13am ·

Gary Skulnik Amazing how the media can distort science. If you check out the press release from the actual scientists who did the study (and published it in the Proceedings of the Natl Academy of Science), you’d see that they don’t come anywhere near to the conclusion that a) global warming isn’t happening bc of man-made emissions, and b) global warming has nothing to do with the glacier’s ice melt.

June 13 at 10:27am ·

Gary Skulnik Check it out here: http://www.utexas.edu/…/06/10/antarctic-glacier-melting/

Researchers Find Major West Antarctic Glacier Melting from Geothermal Sources | News

www.utexas.edu

Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it?s

June 13 at 10:27am ·

Gary Skulnik In fact, from their press release: “Knowledge of the heat distribution beneath Thwaites Glacier is crucial information that enables ice sheet modelers to more accurately predict the response of the glacier to the presence of a warming ocean.”

June 13 at 10:28am ·

Gary Skulnik Anyway, this paper’s publishing should dispel one myth at least – that anybody who “contradicts” the global warming conspiracy scientists and their illuminati allies will get “silenced.” These guys got published in one of the journals that is the engine, which runs the global warming “myth” machine. Hmmm… I guess the chief censor was asleep at the wheel the day they submitted the paper, or maybe he took a bribe of some really good sprouts, tofu and wheat germ.

June 13 at 10:31am ·

Goober: Amazing how MSNBC (the media) can distort science. Agreed.

June 13 at 11:01am ·

Goober:  weather patterns and hurricanes have been sited. I cited (due to what? Empirical research) there hasn’t been a major hurricane in the Atlantic in 8 years. Al Bore, via his information, cited the ice sheets would be GONE in 2014 and sea levels could increase as hight as 3 feet. The Northeast and Midwest just had one of the coldest winters on record. Then evidence comes out that a big chunk of the cap melting is due to geothermal volcanism. Then the other ice cap has seen to expand at a huge rate. Yet, the opposing view is dismissed.

June 13 at 12:04pm ·

Gary Skulnik wow, Goober, this Al Bore guy sounds like a whack job. Somebody should lock him up before he causes more harm. Strange, but his name sounds a lot like the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. Maybe they are connected like the way Superman is connected with Bizzaro Superman. You know, where everything is the opposite of our world? Al Gore – “global warming will cause the ice sheets to melt by the end of the century (ie. 2100).” Al Bore -“the ice sheets will melt by 2014!” Al Gore – “climate change due to ghg emissions will cause extreme weather patterns, but generally there will be a significant warming trend over the planet.” Al Bore – “you’ll never see a cold winter again!!” Al Gore – “the extreme weather conditions that will result from global warming may cause hurricanes to grow in intensity and frequency over time.” Al Bore – “we’ll be hit by 100 hurricanes a year on the eastern seaboard of the United States!”

June 13 at 12:32pm ·

Goober:  Al Gore Warns Polar Ice May Be Gone in Five Years:http://youtu.be/MsioIw4bvzI Very clever. But NO

Al Gore Warns Polar Ice May Be Gone in Five Years

Complete video at: http://fora.tv/2009/12/14/COP15_Gore_and_Store_Report_on_Arct… See More

June 13 at 1:02pm · Like

Goober:  https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/…/florida…/ And that should say ATLANTIC hurricanes. Very clever. But NO

Florida Hurricane Strikes In Sharp Decline

stevengoddard.wordpress.com

NOAA records going back to the 1850s show that Florida used to average about one…

June 13 at 1:04pm ·

Gooberhttp://m.accuweather.com/…/record-breaking…/24831365 Yeah we know. Its DUE TO warming. Got it.

One of the Coldest Winters in 20 Years Shatters Snow Records

www.accuweather.com

Record-breaking temperature lows and snowfall totals mount as parts of the country remain in the stranglehold of winter’s icy grasp.

June 13 at 1:06pm ·

Goober:  http://www.wunderground.com/education/webster.asp This is the best one where there is actual debate and no hysterical lies. It refutes a renound hurricane meteorologist with some others. Instead of silly diatribe

Are Category 4 and 5 hurricanes increasing in number? | Weather Underground

www.wunderground.com

In September 2005, a paper published in Science magazine reported that worldwide… See More

June 13 at 1:29pm · Edited ·

Goober:  And one more since this is so much fun. Huge I’ve blocks were found floating in lake superior this week That may last well into the summer. But hey….Bizzaro

June 13 at 1:32pm · Like

Gary Skulnik Goober, indeed this has been fun and a good learning experience for me. Thanks for that. Out of respect for you, I clicked on all the links you sent and read them. After getting past the “ignorance of Barrack Obama” link and something about fighting the Borg on Steven Goddard’s “scientific” web site, I found nothing I didnt already know. The accuweather link also told me something I know, it was a cold winter. Finally, your last link looked like it might actually be a real scientific debate and I welcome that. The question of recent hurricane activity and global warming is unsettled, clearly, but there’s a lot less doubt about future activity. Of course, in the end, we are lighting a match to an infinitely complex system and hoping the results are ok. I’d rather not take that gamble.

June 13 at 1:44pm ·

Gary Skulnik Oh, but one last thing before I go (i will be out of pocket for a few hours, so have at it!)… the “Al Gore warns polar ice may be gone in five years” – did you listen to the clip or just read the headline? First, he’s talking about polar ice, as in the north pole, which indeed is heading towards being completely ice free within the next few years. There’s no debate on that. But secondly, he cites one scientist who based on his observations says the ice MAY be gone by 2014, but then in the next sentence he cites another scientist who says the ice may be gone by 2030. I know, it’s more fun to talk about Al Bore saying stupid shit, but that doesnt make it actually true in the real world.

June 13 at 1:49pm ·

Goober:  After that whopper of tale about the south pole (Editor’s Note – what whopper is he talking about? Al Gore’s comments were on the North pole), why should he or his sources be taken seriously. The North Pole had a massive loss in 2005, and then it stopped. It has not really shrunk since then, except for brief period in 2007 i think it said. Goddard? He cited the NOAA, which directly disputes your claim and Gore’s claim about storms. So what is it that you “dont already know”. (you didnt address the points, but contradicted yourself a tad) Then you said he said something about the year 2100, which contradicts both of his claims. (as the Southern ice cap area increases, though they dont know if that will be a quick melt yet). And to beclear I do believe there is something going on, because science has indeed shown temp increases. It the degree of man made input i hav an issue with.

 

Three Things You Won’t Hear Today but Should Pay Attention To

There will be much of the predictable back-and-forth today about the EPA’s new proposed rules to cut carbon emissions from power plants. The media analysis will of course use the crutch of the “he-said/she-said” meme to cover the issue. There will be the mentions of the studies that say these new rules will kill the economy, countered with the studies that say the rules will help the economy. There will be the look at coal-state Democrats running for election and how they react to the new rules. And given that President Obama is heading off to Europe, there will be a look at how the world is reacting to the news that the U.S. is actually doing something about climate change. Once the sound and fury subsides a bit, and the media goes on to the next story, what should we be looking for?

  1. What happens with Keystone?

The cynic will say that now that President Obama has done this great thing to fight climate change, he’ll tack back the other way in the run-up to this year’s election by approving the Keystone Pipeline. Conservative Democrats will use that as a victory to push them over the top on election day. I may be naïve, but I’m hopeful that President Obama will stay consistent and block Keystone once and for all. The question is whether he’ll do it before the elections or afterwards. If he does it soon, he’d be creating a narrative that he’s taking multiple steps to fight climate change, which will be cheered by green-minded voters and the groups that represent us. I believe it would do more to rally the base than anything else. The effects of this on the positive side would more than outweigh any potential drawbacks, politically. And of course it’s the right thing to do. If you believe, as the President has stated, that climate change is a mortal threat to our children and future generations, it’s tough to defend approval for a pipeline that will bring the dirtiest fossil fuels to our country.

  1. How does the next Democratic Presidential nominee campaign on these rules?

Unfortunately, the President had to take action on climate outside of the legislative process, which means that future Presidents will have a lot to say about whether these rules stick or not. The immediate next President is the most important in this equation. It’s like dieting in a way. It’s one thing to lose the pounds, but it’s quite another to keep them off. Putting the rules in place is great, but keeping them in place will sit squarely on the shoulders of the next Administration. Assuming the Republicans won’t nominate anybody who supports these rules, our only hope is that the Democrat nominee does. To that end, it’s vital that we watch what Ms. Clinton, VP Biden, Mr. O’Malley, or any other potential nominees say now, and in the near future about the EPA rules. We have got to put a lot of effort into ensuring that the next Democratic Presidential nominee is an iron-clad supporter of the rules to cut carbon emissions from power plants.

  1. What actions do forward thinking businesses take to take advantage of new business opportunities from the rules?

This may take a few years to play out. Initially there will be uncertainty in the business world about whether these rules will stick or not. Once it becomes clear, hopefully, that they will stick, you’ll see businesses look for how the rules create new lucrative opportunities. The usual suspects are in the wind, solar and renewable world. But in order for these rules to be around for the long term, and to even get strengthened, we will need to see other industries and verticals step in. The rules could act as a spur for energy efficiency, new smart grid applications, energy storage, apps that change consumer behavior, and things we cannot even think of right now. The fact that the Maryland Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) brought in so many new solar companies and their offshoots has done much to solidify the law and fend off attacks. The same needs to happen for these rules. Let’s see some innovation spring forth from the business world. 

Bogus Ad Against Modest Climate Proposal

To Win the Fight Against Climate Change, We Need to Change the Game

Sometimes watching the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people over climate is like watching a tennis match, with each side blasting a powerful ground stroke across the net only to see their opponent do the exact same thing. The problem for those of us in the reality world (ie. the world where we listen to the overwhelming consensus of scientists), is that our opponent isn’t the only one smashing the ball our way. He has about a dozen tennis machines shooting balls at our side of the court as well. The climate deniers have an arsenal of money, media, think tanks, and lobbyists on their side so that they can take any argument, no matter how false, and turn it into a “valid” counterpoint.

ImageThe latest example of this is a radio and print ad sponsored by the National Mining Association (NMA), attacking forthcoming EPA carbon regulations on new coal fired power plants. The NMA ad takes a quote from a government official completely out of context in an attempt to scare people into thinking that reducing carbon from new coal plants will cause electricity prices to spike as much as 80%. The Washington Post Fact Checker says the ad doesn’t “pass the laugh test” and it’s clearly false. Not surprisingly, the 80% claim found its way into conservative media outlets such as the Washington Examiner and others in the right wing blogosphere. How long until conservative officials running for election start using it in their political ads this year? This completely bogus claim will become reality for a good part of the nation simply because it was repeated often enough by sources that are trusted by people of a certain worldview.

The fact that polluting energy industry groups will say anything to protect their interests isn’t new. I remember vividly sitting in the audience for a committee hearing on the Maryland Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) bill that I championed, when the lobbyist for the state’s largest polluters said that if the bill passed, half the companies in the state would go out of business and the other half would leave the state. He was actually serious. He claimed that the bill would send electricity prices in Maryland up by 2 cents/kwh, which was about 20% of the total back in those days. Unfortunately, some legislators believed him, but luckily enough didn’t and we passed the bill. Needless to say, the RPS didn’t push rates up by anywhere close to his doom and gloom figure, and in fact may not have had any effect on rates.

For years, we in the environmental world thought the best way to counter such preposterous claims was to educate the public with the real facts, and then surely they would ignore the lies (ie. hit the ball back over the net). the Chamber of Commerce, seemingly in sync with the NMA, just put out a report saying these carbon regulations will kill jobs and the economy. I’m sure some on our side will put out a report to counter that bogus claim.  It’s important to put out the true facts. But with the tons and tons of cash behind these disinformation campaigns, combined with the echo chamber in the media, it’s really impossible to get our message across.  So, what’s the answer?

Some, like Tom Steyer, think the answer is to spend oodles of money on our own ad campaigns to counter the other side’s. Getting our own tennis machines may work.  But the campaigns the green side run have to be more than a recitation of the facts behind climate change and other environmental issues. The other side screams bumper sticker ads and we recite fact sheets. We have to adopt the challenger brand mentality, so aptly described in “Eating the Big Fish,” where brands with less resources and reach are able to compete with and beat larger, more established and wealthier brands. There are eight credos to the challenger narrative, some of which may apply more than others to our case here. I will be taking a look at the applicable credos and how they can help those of us in the real world think better about winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people when it comes to action to fight climate change. The first thing we need to do is stop playing Tennis.