When it comes to inspiring change, it’s all about the sizzle
We know that sport and brand partnerships have a hugely powerful voice to inspire behaviour change, but how can we ensure that our message is heard? With between 4,000-10,000 digital marketing messages aimed at us each day (DAY!), how can we ensure cut through, particularly on a topic as important as sustainability.
All through Veganuary, we heard how we should be eating a more plant-based diet to help slow down climate change, but we need to be talking about steak when we communicate about climate change. Let me explain ….
1950s salesman Elmer Wheeler came up with the phrase don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle, but what does that actually mean?
“It’s the sizzle that sells the steak, and not the cow. Hidden in everything you sell in life is a sizzle. The sizzle is the tang in the cheese, the crunch in the cracker, the whiff in the coffee and the pucker in the pickle. Your first ten words are more important than your next ten thousand. In fact if your first ten words aren’t the right words, you won’t have a chance to use the next ten thousand because your customer will walk away from you physically if he doesn’t float away from you mentally.” Elmer Wheeler
So when we have the opportunity to be talking about climate change we shouldn’t be advertising the disaster that is coming, or the demands on what we should be doing – advertise the sizzle. It’s about selling the benefits of an alternative way of life, how changing our behaviour and adopting new habits each day will contribute towards stopping climate change.
On to psychology next
Psychologists know that if you focus on a positive and tangible mental picture of your goal, then you’re more likely to achieve it. Dr Wayne Dyer, author of The Power of Intention says, “It is a truly scientific phenomenon that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Futerra, in their brilliant doc Sizzle: the new climate message, put it: “By highlighting (through criticism) the very wasteful actions that cause climate change, we risk inadvertently painting them into the mental picture. All of the problems, danger and threat messages may be unintentionally building a self-fulfilling prophecy of climate chaos. We all assumed that picture would compel people to avoid it, not program them to create it.”
Reframe the argument
So what can we as marketers (or brands, rights holders or athletes) do to make this narrative change?
Firstly, sell the vision, make it as local as possible so your audience can understand the impact it will have on them personally, make it sizzle, make it desirable and tell them what the world will be like if all the targets are met and even exceeded.
Give them a choice: make a compelling story on what their world will look like without your vision, linking the problem with the solution. Share your plan – make it easy to follow and, more importantly, easy to remember – and then divulge what action is required is. Give everyone something to do, tied back in to your overall vision.
The Game Changers documentary on Netflix is an excellent example of this – demonstrating the benefits that veganism can have on a sports person’s performance, alongside the benefits to the environment.
Make it resonate
Make sure your messaging is going to have maximum impact.
The purpose of engaging your fans with a sustainability message is not only to raise awareness of the issue, but also to drive action that results in positive outcomes.
Pushing your audience the ‘Stop Climate Change’ message will not resonate for two reasons. Firstly, there is no vision and the question of ‘What’s in it for me?’ isn’t answered. And secondly, it leaves the viewer powerless: I can’t personally stop climate change myself, so I’m going to move on to the next message I’m being bombarded with and the next until I find something that resonates with me.
There are many brands, rights holders and athletes with great intentions who are prepared to use their powerful and impactful voices to inspire and initiate change and this should be applauded and encouraged. What they must do before they set out is to create a plan to ensure their messages are going only going to be heard, but are also going to initiate positive change.
It’s a great opportunity for everyone (and our world), and one that mustn’t be missed.
Emily Caroe recently completed the University of Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership course in Business Sustainability Management
Photo © Emerson Vieira / Unsplash
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