Environmental Messaging — Make It More Meaningful

Gallup’s latest environment poll shows that Americans’ concern about several major environmental threats eased after increasing last year. As in the past, Americans express the greatest worry about pollution of drinking water, and the least about global warming or climate change.

If you follow the media, you may find that revelation surprising. A 2014 study found that the total coverage of climate change on major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) continued to increase for the third consecutive year — and marked a six-year high on the networks’ Sunday shows due to political influence. And politics have played a major part in making “climate change” the topic du jour among social media participants, as it tends to trend whenever anything monumental happens with weather in the world.

But what does it mean for marketers? Climate change might have more play on the Internet (despite it being of low concern to Americans), but due to its polarizing nature it’s not a wise place for brands to go — lest you alienate (or even offend) a major portion of consumers.

When it comes to environmental conversations, brands like Café Kubal are getting it right. This local coffee house chose to support a cause that’s directly tied to the nature of its business, by hosting a “Water Ball” to raise awareness and money for clean water in developing nations where their coffee is sourced.

What’s so great about that? For starters, it taps into the top American concern: polluted drinking water. Then, they smartly found a way to spin that concern on a global level by supporting the cause in other countries. Lastly, they tie the idea of clean water back to their product by reminding people that “water is a crucial element of great coffee” and top it all off by hosting an event that lets them share their environmental message with hundreds of attendees from the surrounding community.

The result? Customers get that “warm feeling inside” — not just from a hot cup of Joe, but from the message that comes with it.

You don’t have to be a local, grassroots brand to churn out a meaningful campaign that genuinely reaches out to consumers about the environment. In this era of “sustainability as a marketing tool,” focus on these three guidelines for success:

  1. Find the right message. Gallup states that the top American environmental concerns center on air and water pollution. That’s a fairly broad topic, but like Café Kubal, if you can narrow it down to a specific story and tie it to your brand, you’ll have an engaging platform to work from.
  2. Keep the message simple and sincere. The best way to ensure your audience hears you loud and clear is to be both precise and passionate. The tie between your brand and the environmental issue must be easy to understand, and indisputably relevant. Beyond that, it must be clear to consumers that the brand’s heart is in the cause — if it reads as more “promotional” than passionate, the effort will fail.
  3. Make it more than a message. Café Kubal didn’t create a campaign — they created an experience. The Water Ball wasn’t solely a black-tie affair, but an opportunity to educate guests on the obstacles some countries face to source clean water. Attendees raised additional money at the event by participating in the “water walk,” carrying heavy canisters of water across the ballroom to get a sense of the struggle people in benefiting countries endure every day.