A climate leadership call-to-arms for marketing professionals
More than 11,000 scientists from all over the world came together at the end of 2019 with 25 years of data, showing us the world is heading towards catastrophic outcomes for all life on planet earth, and for humans “untold suffering.”
Here is a link to the article — World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice . This should be a priority read.
However, before looking at that, every day I speak with so many people scratching their heads, asking the question: well what can I do? Here are 10 suggestions for businesses and professionals I’ve been putting together this year, but I want to get specific for my own industry.
Time for big bold crazy ideas
I am calling on a complete transformation of the marketing profession, asking these mighty professionals to step up and take the opportunity to lead in this critical time. Half measures are not enough. We need radical action and we need courage of a scale we haven’t seen before.
If we all take up this call, the impact will be massive. But we have no time to wait. Of course, depending on which industry you are in, there are many other areas your business must tackle to drive change — like getting to zero-carbon emissions today — but let’s start with marketing and advertising.
I’ve been monitoring the conversation around this sector for years now. The rise of digital continues to shake everyone up, with many struggling to understand how to succeed, especially with advertising today. When we do see success, it is typically when brands are more meaningful with their audiences. Think Nike and Kaepernick.
Marketing industry events and conferences appear to be full of professionals gnashing their teeth, as they discuss how to be relevant, where to change, what to focus on and more.
Marketing as it currently stands, is at risk. This article Forget ‘developing’ poor countries, it’s time to ‘de-develop’ rich countries suggest advertising should be banned. With China’s Singles Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, this article states: Mass consumerism is destroying our planet. This Black Friday, let’s take a stand.
And then we have the new Netflix series, Broken, which looks into how “negligence and deceit in the production and marketing of popular consumer items can result in dire outcomes.” An eye-opener, and marketing doesn’t look good. Just the first episode, looking at the rise of fakes in the beauty industry, ties back to the power of scarcity marketing. I’d suggest scarcity marketing’s time has come!
So what’s the answer?
Now I know this is an industry that can be prickly when it comes to suggestions on how to be relevant. But really, how can we not do all that is within our power to ensure the future of all living things on this planet? And wouldn’t it feel great if we succeeded? Wouldn’t it feel great if we led this?
The marketing industry becomes the driver of change our world needs right now, in the most powerful way possible — by dedicating 100% of advertising budget to global, regional, and local information/education campaigns on the climate crisis and what we need to do to turn this around. Yes 100%. That’s the sort of big action we need to succeed.
Because the world is burning — Countries from Siberia to Australia are burning: the age of fire is the bleakest warning yet.
And Australia is really burning: Australia’s Wildfire Catastrophe Isn’t the “New Normal.” It’s Much Worse Than That.
If you read the science, and really pay attention to the warnings — like this one: Our Planet May Be Barrelling Toward a Tipping Point — we are so beyond business as normal and we are so beyond avoiding a climate crisis. For example, just based on the current infrastructure we have in place, committed emissions will already ensure we exceed any international treaties in place today.
“The very concerning reality is that these things that exist today are already going to emit all of the carbon we have [left in the budget] in that 10- or 11-year period, by virtue of the fact that there’s already a billion cars in the world with internal combustion engines and people aren’t going to stop driving tomorrow,” says Saul Griffith, an inventor and serial entrepreneur. For more, read: It’s too late for a carbon tax — it’s time for a world war against climate change.
Can you imagine 100% of us upgrading to an electric car the next time we buy one? No, we can’t, but if that is what we must do to ensure we don’t face “untold misery”, shouldn’t we at least try to make? Then again, not all information on electric cars is good when it comes to sustainability, so it might not be the right answer anyway.
However, if we are going to achieve a massive global turn-around — and consumer education is a massive part of succeeding here — who has the power to drive the education needed around the world, all the way to the local level, in local language and in an appropriate way culturally? Yes, marketing professionals, and getting 100% commitment there is surely easier than 100% commitment from every car owner on the planet, right?
Global brands already have global networks of teams that are advertising in all countries. They’re in place, have some of the best and most creative minds in the world working for them, and they run like clockwork. Therefore, let’s turn this mighty machine into a force for good and get the brands (who are a huge part of the problem, but we, the consumers are too), to finance education and use this network to save our future? We sure would trust brands again.
The finger cannot be pointed in one direction
We have all stood by, as polluting industries (which cover every market segment) continue to grow and flourish, returning shareholder value year on year. That has been the driving force of business to this day. It’s capitalism and we’ve all been happy with it. Better quality of lives for all, including nearly two billion new middle class coming into the market in the last decade.
Better quality of lives is awesome, until it’s not. Until we have no access to fresh drinking water. Or our homes are washed away. Or storms or wildfires devastate our homes year after year…. No part of the world is immune to this impact. None of us can stand by and do nothing, say nothing. We must do everything we can right now to ensure it doesn’t get worse. Not just for future generations, but for us too, right now!! Look around. The evidence is everywhere.
All brands in all industries must completely transform their business right now. Yes, RIGHT NOW!! Put profits on the back burner for now and do all that is necessary to help solve the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. A crisis we all face together. Governments cannot do this. We need global brands and country-brand powerhouses (Alibaba, Tata, etc..) leading the charge. We need a global mindset to fix this. Borders are irrelevant. Politics is irrelevant.
The greatest businesses of the world must change their business models to be in alignment with Mother Nature and they have no time to stall! And a massive part of what got us here in the first place was: the marketing of better lifestyles, which created greater demand, leading to where we are right now — and that marketing is still happening. One can definitely say, the advertising industry has done a remarkable job in the last 70 years, no? We bought it all the way!
But here we are facing the consequences of not paying attention to the science. We are destroying the foundation of all life on the planet. And we are continuing with business as usual, creating products that are contributing to this climate crisis. WE CAN NOT CONTINUE!!!! It is madness, and it’s only going to get worse!!!!
Action plan with marketing as a force for good
- All brands advertising anywhere in the world (consumer and business to business), must immediately make the goal of all future advertising: awareness building; education; and actions required; to tackle the biggest issues of humanity, according to the priorities the scientists have listed in this article. There are enough areas we need to tackle to ensure brands can be aligned with their brand values
- Adverts no longer feature “actors” or “influencers”, but instead activists and community organizers making a positive impact at the local, country, regional and global level, who can help achieve these goals. These are typically people who have not been supported, often struggle to keep going because of financial burdens, and many are facing threats to their livelihoods (and lives) for speaking up. Every country has powerful activists and community organisers, working to save their local environments, let’s make them the centrepiece of a consumer world, Indigenous communities too
- Brands can have relevant products featured, if they are sustainable and part of the circular economy. We must get to the point where operating a business out of alignment with Mother Earth is deemed a crime against humanity. In fact, Avaaz is pushing for ecocide, the fifth international law against peace. And if you’re a Catholic, the Pope is updating the catechisms to include ecological sins. We, the consumer, must stop our excesses, but businesses must stop making anything harmful to earth
- And finally, CMOs can move into the CEO role, by taking the companies they work for, urgently through the transformation needed to deliver a business in line with a Mother Earth Economy #MX. The leaders in this area will transform entire industries through their courage, decisive actions, and world-class communication skills
This is one idea that could have a massive impact globally, and quickly. We need big actions, resulting in big impacts, if we have any chance at minimizing impact and creating an unliveable world for ourselves and future generations.
The time to act is now. The time for courage is now. And I know the marketing professionals I’ve had the opportunity to work with around the world are in the best position to take this massive step and effect global change. They won’t do this for their business, they’ll do it for all living things. Because if we do not do it for all living things, there will be no shareholder value, no quarterly earning calls to prepare for, no products sold, no nothing. There will just be misery for all.
The world needs big, bold crazy ideas right now. Here’s one. Let me know what you think. If you disagree that’s fine but tell me a better one. And to my marketing friends, what do you think? Shall we all go for it?
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