Navigating the Environmental Media Pt 4: Carbon Messaging

by | Aug 11, 2008

Is messaging about carbon an exclusive right?

I took the picture below last April when I was visiting my mum in Liverpool. The image  caught me by surprise, mostly because one would more naturally expect this kind of global warming graffiti anyplace but in Liverpool.

You see Liverpool has seen better days. Unemployment rates are high, and its once glorious shipping and trade industries are either shuttered or suffering in changing times. Like many of America’s cities, Liverpool is in the process of reinventing itself.

liverpool.jpgIt reminds me of cities like Baltimore, New Orleans and Philadelphia—cities that are awakening to the issue of global warming. These are cities where graffiti, a community organization, a garden on the roof of City Hall, or a severe weather event reflect a growing awareness brewing just beneath the surface.

Making this connection between severe weather and global warming constitutes one of Lippincott Mercer’s four factors for gauging tipping point for consumer behavior on global warming.

In addition to severe weather, the seminal 2005 Lippincott Mercer market research study stated that the issue will become increasingly visible to the consumer as three other key indicators gain higher visibility: the regulatory impact of global warming; political and current affairs; and commercial anticipation.

Interestingly, previous environmental issues like unleaded-petrol, and dolphin-friendly tuna also impacted on consumer markets when all indicators became highly visible.

As we come closer to deciding the next U.S president, I encourage you to “take the temperature” on global warming in your city or region now and again for two key global warming milestones in 2009: March – the end of the new President’s first hundred days; and Dec – the key inter-governmental, post-Kyoto discussion at COP15, Copenhagen.

This should give you a rough indication on how far away the new climate change conscious consumer market is.

Here are the questions. Now try to weight the answers (1= little or no visibility: 5= high visibility):

Severe Weather:

•    Does your local or regional press coverage of severe weather events, such as forest fires and flash floods, make the explicit link to global warming?
•    Do your family and peers acknowledge the link?

Regulatory impact

•    What range of regulatory measures, such as taxes or caps, exist in your region which encourage the development towards a low carbon economy?
•    Which measures are anticipated to come and when?
•    How widely are they talked about in the media and among your peers?

Political and current affairs

•    How evident is the political debate on global warming, for example, the presidential campaign, G8 meetings, local and regional channels etc?
•    How extensive is media coverage of this debate?
•    Are your family and peers passively aware or actively engaged in discussion on this debate?

Commercial anticipation

•    What realistic consumer choices are currently available for the climate change conscious consumer?
•    Which markets are showing concern and bringing in new products?\
•    Does your market show concern?
•    How rapidly are new products being made available in your market?

Obviously, there is a great deal of disparity between ratings for each indicator at the moment. But the closer they approach the straight 5s, the closer we get to a tipping point.

So, how about your region? How do the indicators read? Is your firm proactively driving consumer anticipation in your region? And most importantly who is doing the carbon messaging in your market?

As the graffiti in Liverpool shows, no one has an exclusive right to messaging on carbon. The corporate winners in this race will be the ones that challenge the ‘old school’ thinking that credible environmental messaging is the exclusive right of  NGOs and government.

It isn’t the “green noise” that is negatively impacting on the consumer today– which some top-tiers will have us believe – but knowledge gaps on carbon and global warming, such as 2050 milestone and the climate change science itself. The fact the issue has become so polarized and highly-personified isn’t helping the mainstream consumer either. Can you believe in climate change and not like Al Gore or vice versa?

The smart businesses are making sure that their offerings do not finish with the products alone, but they are complemented by fact-based carbon messaging.

What are your carbon messages?

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