Doomsday doesn’t work

This is good news or bad news, depending on your point of view:  As our Eco Pulse report noted earlier this year, belief in global warming is down 10 points over last year.  Our soon-to-be-published Green Living Pulse study shows the same number (only 48.5% agree it’s happening and caused by human activity).

Here’s the interesting thing:  we asked the 52% of the population that’s undecided or disagrees that it’s happening which scenario would convince them that it’s real, and we proceeded to give them a list of potential “doomsday” scenarios, all of which have been noted as possible realities/consequences of climate change.  Our list of scenarios ranged from the existence of only 10 more polar bears to residents of New York City being relocated due to rising tides.

Bottom line:  the doomsday scenarios didn’t have much of an effect. A quarter of the non-believers said none of the scenarios would convince them and another quarter said one or more of the scenarios would convince them, but they’d be unlikely to make changes in their lifestyles.  The scenarios that had the most effect, each convincing 15% of the population to believe in global warming, were if the polar ice cap had completely melted and if kids could no longer go outside to play because of consistently dangerous ozone/air quality levels.

So, the good news is that none of us need to waste marketing dollars trying to convince the American population that The End Is Near.  That means we can all spend our money on messaging that actually works – like an appeal to our emotional needs/drivers.

The bad news is that, well, if you’re someone who really wants your neighbors and co-workers to believe the threat to our climate is real, it’s going to be really tough to convince them.  Our advice:  don’t focus on the argument of whether or not it’s real; focus on behavior change that accomplishes the same objective, but do it through appeals that will get you further.  Like Mama always said, you kill more flies with honey…

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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