Your sustainability campaign needs a sweater, eh? (Or, what you can learn from a bunch of Canadian grannies.)

Your sustainability campaign needs a sweater, eh? (Or, what you can learn from a bunch of Canadian grannies.)

More proof that sustainability messaging doesn’t have to be boring: In late January, the World Wildlife Fund launched a website ( for National Sweater Day (February 9). The premise? Canadians were encouraged to lower their thermostats a few degrees and put on a sweater to stay warm – thereby making grandmothers happier all over the country.

We spend a lot of time in the Shelton creative department discussing creative strategy and the best way to make things “stick” with customers – what makes a campaign memorable and what makes people act sustainably. Some of you might recall former President Jimmy Carter’s famous “sweater speech,” in which he encouraged everyone to minimize their energy consumption and break out the cardigans. Thirty-two years later, the same request was made of Canadians through a completely different approach – and without political agenda. Let’s take a look at what this new sweater campaign did right.

First, “The Granny Call Centre” took a request for sacrificing one’s personal comfort (which we know is a huge motivator for consumers) and put a fun, positive spin on it. Its approach was human and universal  – most of us have a beloved grandmother, and most of us have received an overdone/overblown/oversized sweater from her at least once. It even made the sacrifice seem downright cozy, if not a bit tongue-in-cheek: as one Scottish granny says, “Don’t be ornery – just put on your sweater!” By taking an age-old, grandmotherly adage and marrying it with an accepted societal joke, the campaign became a prescriptive instrument of engagement and awareness.

Secondly, the campaign has the potential to create change by going viral. This fun, buzz-worthy campaign can be passed along to friends and family to create change through subtle peer pressure – people wearing sweaters and lowering the thermostat not because of kind, rosy-cheeked grannies, but because their hipster Canuck friend Dan found a fun, slightly loopy campaign online and decided to play along.

Regardless of how folks get there, the end result is positive. Wonder if any of those grannies are familiar with the term ‘win-win’?

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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