The WATERisLIFE campaign: An emotional route to issue awareness

The WATERisLIFE campaign: An emotional route to issue awareness

The viral video finds a balance between information and inspiration, tears and hope. It’s a hard line to walk when the issue is dire but the audience is safe.

I was skimming through Fast Company recently when the headline “Watch a 4-Year-Old Kenyan Boy Live Out a Premature Bucket List” caught my eye.

As someone who developed a bucket list around age 18 (I was a freshman in college and had that I-can-do-anything feeling), I wondered why a 4-year-old would have one.

So I proceeded to watch the video.

It starts by introducing Nkaitole, an adorable 4-year-old Kenyan boy. After getting a glimpse of his daily life, we learn a heartbreaking statistic – there’s a 1 in 5 chance that Nkaitole won’t reach the age of 5.

So rather than following with any reasons why he might not have a fifth birthday, the video heads right into Nkaitole’s bucket list. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched this little boy run down the beach, take a ride in a hot air balloon, and even get his first kiss.

At the end of the video, we learn that unsafe drinking water is one of the leading causes of death among children under the age of 5, and the campaign WATERisLIFE is mentioned.

As I swallowed the lump in my throat, a thought occurred to me. We usually recommend against doom and gloom messages to get your point across. Holes in the ozone layer, melting ice caps and overflowing landfills are too overwhelming and threatening, and make most consumers disconnect/put up barriers.

The WATERisLIFE message is decidedly gloomy – we’re talking about kids not making it to their fifth birthdays here – but the imagery is beautiful, and the things on Nkaitole’s bucket list are heartwarming. By creating warm and fuzzy feelings about a 5-year-old going on an adventure, we feel inspired rather than depressed.

Our latest Eco Pulse study found that only 6% of Americans chose “depletion or scarcity of fresh water” when asked to identify their top environmental concerns. It’s just not on the radar – yet. Do you think WATERisLIFE will help increase  awareness of the issue?

Take a look at the video and let us know what you think. I encourage you to keep a tissue handy.


Posted on

September 10, 2013

About the Author

Martha Wampler Behm

Martha is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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