Tag Archives: Obama

The Power of Telling Sustainable Stories

With a nod to Park Howell, two news items from this week reinforced for me the power of telling the right story in order to energize sustainability initiatives.

* GE proactively started to help explain how the FCC National Broadband Plan – which on its surface would seem like a TV/Internet-centric initiative – actually had important long-term impact on the smart grid and individual energy consumption.  As Smart-Grid.TMCNet.Com’s Jon Arnold very keenly points out,

“…mainstream brands like GE are in the perfect spot to tell this story to the public, and show utilities why broadband has an important role to play in the smart grid. The stimulus funding has been welcome news for utilities, and part of the message here is to show that broadband will help them get a better return on this investment. In my view, if other major smart grid/energy players follow suit – IBM, Emerson, Cisco (NewsAlert), etc. – the message will become that much clearer, and more difficult for utilities to dismiss.”

Jon’s exactly right.  If these major brands get their marketing muscle behind this, utilities will have to take notice.

*The Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition publicly announced a call for a National Renewable Energy Standard.   They chose to focus their “story” on competition for jobs, a powerful message to rally their states and timely with Obama being called on to spur jobs instead of health care.

“The lack of a long-term renewable energy requirement in the United States is resulting in the loss of wind-manufacturing investments in our states to Europe and other areas,” the governors said in the report.”

Both of these examples boiled down diverse complex issues for different energy styles, trimming national storylines down to easy to digest messages for individuals:

1) Broadband= short and long-term benefits in all areas of your life

2) National standards can = jobs

And that’s the power of strong and clear marketing in sustainability.  Taking what can be overwhelming for average citizens and making it not only more understandable, but relevant and meaningful.

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Mr. Brooks, Mr. Jackson and the Sustainable Purchase Climate

Yesterday on the  Charlie Rose show, NYT columnist David Brooks spent an hour discussing where the country stands today.  The conversation focused largely on the nation’s emotional state, and how that is driving reactions to Obama administration policies.  You can see the piece here.

I won’t do a complete dive into the wide range of topics covered, however a few key things stood out to me.

* There is a feeling in large parts of the country that the administration is trying to do too much.

* Brooks senses this feeling is compounded by a thirst for Jacksonian government – aka Andrew Jackson’s approach to government.  At a very high level, this approach means putting decisions in the hands of the people, and at its core is driven by a deep distrust in the government’s ability to be effective.  A symptom of this feeling is the rise in the Tea Party movement.

* Brooks also feels that we are on par or ahead in most technology sectors with the world, save wind in Europe and possibly steel (as pointed out  by Rose.)

If Brooks is right, there is a significant need for sustainable marketers to tailor their approach.  There won’t be lack of innovation or choice.  Success  is going to come down to how you communicate the value prop to your prospective customers.  In this climate, marketers must:

* Balance the message mix.  Find the right inflection point between  “right thing to do/moral obligation” side (appealing more naturally to the coasts), and the “empowerment/cost savings” side (for the larger majority of the US.)

* Remember that adoption comes with customer identification.  People are chiefly motivated in this climate by a) cost and b) the feeling of “that makes sense for me.”  Green marketers mustn’t fall in love with their technology or its long-term benefits.

* Instead, hone in on the individual impact, ease of use and immediate short-term financial benefits to attract customers beyond the base.

People are in a “prove it to me ” mindset, be it with politics or purchases.  Marketers, take notice.

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The Individual and Sustainability

Inspired by sports legend Peter Gammons and his Boston Globe Diamond Notes column from the heyday of the Boston Red Sox, this is the first in a regular ongoing series of posts.  These posts will catalog quick impressions on how the individual consumer impact and influence on brand marketing and larger sustainable projects.

* Sears – Caught a new commercial from Sears this weekend during my regular Sunday Meet the Press viewing.  Focused on the RAD program responsible appliance disposal within EPA standards.  Sears uses the generation gap and “hip” language in the piece.  Interesting service, but not sure when “rad” was still part of the lexicon of youth.

* The consumer’s role in energy consumption is becoming higher profile.  Check out this short piece from the BBJ.  It’s you and I that will be more in control vs. the utilities, and they have a large enough financial interest to start really listening.

* High speed rails – Post-State of the Union President Obama was in Tampa talking about his plan.  I’ve seen an uptick in the coverage on these trains, like this piece from this month’s Wired.  I’m getting flashbacks to Singles and the lunch meeting between Campbell Scott and Tom Skerritt – “if we give them good coffee…”  Individual consumer choice will drive success or failure of these systems.  Having experienced European rail systems, I’m all for this as long as its affordable.

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Is the Supreme Court Killing Sustainability? Or Boosting it?

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling struck a very strong cord for me regarding any “progressive” mass agenda.  As I understand  it, corporations can now;

* spend whatever they want

* for/with whoever they want,

* whenever they want.

The span of influence now open to corporations is staggering.  Since corporations usually have a vested interest in the status quo, the ruling becomes a real threat to progress and change.  Obama is quoted saying as much in this NY Times piece – “the ruling would also make it “more difficult to pass common-sense laws” to promote energy independence or expand health care.”

After the shock wore off, I starting to think about how this could impact sustainability.  After all, politicians are by large extent marketers – they are sellers of ideas and platforms/agendas.  And if sustainability isn’t on the agenda for their corporate constituents, individual voices could get a lot quieter vs. the new megaphone of corporations.

At first blush, this empowers the bulk electric, oil and gas companies to keep on with their cash cow agendas and just raise the volume of their lobbyist efforts.  Exxon, Mobile, BP – they can all continue to do some light marketing towards sustainability as pure PR to cover themselves publicly.

But let’s look at the other side.  There are some significant companies that have publicly declared  roadmaps and future spending that’s significantly tied to new green ways of doing business.  GE, Intel, Cisco – they’re betting real development and marketing dollars on sustainability.  Many of the recent “I’m an IBMer” 30 second TV spots directly showcase efforts towards making smarter and more sustainable solutions possible.

Marketing and social media have the potential to play a huge role here.  Will corporations do “what’s right” because they’ve figured out the math makes it what’s right for them?  And how will individual voices calling for real change – individuals whose influence is amplified by social media to drive brand loyalty and dollars among their network – motivate corporations to continue down the sustainable path?

The unintended consequences of the Supreme Court decision could actually drive sustainability, mobilizing both concerned citizens and vested corporations alike to keep green on the national radar.

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