Changing behavior, culture, expectations, perceptions is selling. As a sustainability wonk, selling might not be what comes naturally, but it's still a big part of the job.
Off campus, the selling of the green that's most obvious takes place in the market for environmentally preferable products (real or imagined). Those of us who are amateurs at this game can, I hope, learn from the professionals.
Lisa Jaccoma, formerly a marketer with IBM, had an interesting post about what's wrong with green marketing, and how to fix it. As is so often the case, Jaccoma is stronger on the former than the latter, but her insights into what we're doing wrong are definitely useful.
Her major points are that
- If you sell environmental sustainability in environmental terms, you immediately lose half your audience due to politically-instilled preconceptions.
- Serious doesn't sell. Funny sells. Funny and sexy sells even better.
- So long as sustainable products and practices are seen as niche products with high cost premiums, they won't catch on.
- "Green" is dead in terms of expanded market. We need to find a way to describe a sustainable world as technically sexy and enjoyable.
- Sustainable business processes and sustainable consumer products are not the same thing.
- Excess consumption and excess energy use are forms of waste. Waste is an opponent that's easy to make fun of, and to sell against.
Whatever form we envision a sustainable world as taking, how we communicate it to students and other community members will work best if we take advantage of what successful marketers of new visions -- new paradigms of whatever ilk -- have learned.
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