Forming a sustainable first impression

Forming a sustainable first impression

Every relationship starts with a first impression. Conversation, simple body language or just your appearance can create everything from a long-term love fest to a confidence crushing memory. To fully realize the importance of this moment in your personal and professional life, just look at the number of books and Web sites dedicated to the subject.

First impressions in creative communications are just as important. If you don’t send the right message in the first face-to-face meeting between your communication and your consumer you may not get a second chance. The importance of this moment is biggie-sized when you throw in the fact that you’re selling sustainability, because most consumers are already skeptical before you ever even get face-to-face.

So how do you make a good first impression with consumers while holding up a sustainability message? Here are four rules for success:

1. Keep it simple and single-minded.
Everyone in the sustainable communications world feels that they have three or four game changing messages that they just have to get out. The consumer, however, has a limited capacity to take in that message in that first moment of communication. Too much information can confuse, especially when presenting a subject they may not understand anyway. Give them something simple and singular they can latch on to in a positive way and then you can lead them down your messaging path.

2. Stir an emotion.
Sustainable messaging is ripe for an emotional play and nothing pulls a consumer into the fold like a message that touches them personally. There are major pitfalls here, however, that don’t exist in traditional advertising, and you can lose more than just your consumer if you’re not careful. (See #3 and #4)

3. Know the person you’re talking to.
Everyone has the capacity to accept and react positively to a sustainable message as long as the message is tailored to his or her interests. There are a lot of messages that fit under the sustainability umbrella, from saving energy to being a good community steward. And some of those messages work really well with some consumers…and others don’t. If you push out the message you think will have impact without really knowing the person on the receiving end, then you probably shouldn’t be shocked when you can’t get a second date.

4. Know what the heck you’re talking about.
Welcome to the world of transparency where the consumer can tell instantly if you’re full of crap. If you don’t deeply understand sustainability and what it means to products and consumers then don’t bother. You’ll be sniffed out and rejected before you know what’s happened. A deep knowledge, however, will give your message the authenticity needed to form a bond within those initial moments with your consumers that can pave the way to a long-lasting relationship.

It’s not impossible to make a comeback from a bad first impression, but you’ll spend triple the time, money and effort to get to the same place you would have gotten to if it had been love at first sight.

About the Author

Larry Washington

Larry Washington is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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