Let’s face it; sustainability sounds like a boring subject, where related campaigns summoned people about their doings and wrong doings. So how can organizations and brands communicate better in their sustainability-oriented campaigns and make them be sexy rather than annoying? Sadly, writing the message “save the planet” on Kim Kardashian’s, Jennifer Lopez’s, Nicky Minaj’s or Iggy Azalea’s bottoms may be the best solutions nowadays. More seriously, do environmental and social issues need to be sexy to be looking at?
Sustainability is actually the new sexy, since more and more organizations and brands are appealed by it; turning their products, services and messages towards it. But what is sexy to brands and organizations may not be that enticing to people. The basics in marketing communications are using means and messages that reach the mass. To do so, the audience needs to whether identify itself to the message or find it so crazy that it creates a buzz – Kim’s butt versus Philae. And the easiest rule of basic campaigns is: the sexier, the better. But how can we turn sustainability as a sexy subject? Maybe “sexy” should be understood as “attractive”. Create campaigns on sustainability that attract people, and raise their interest in the subject.
However, most of the messages so far are still the same; alarming us about the impacts of environmental pollution and other social disasters. Does it mean that there is a lack of originality in this new sexiness or a lack of creativity in conveying messages? Besides, being just drowning under campaigns, telling you how bad the situation is and how bad your actions are may probably have only the opposite effect. Being summoned may only lead to having people switch off their TV, their radio or just turn the page of their magazine. Living in rich countries put us far away from what the poorest people are living daily – war, environmental disasters, hunger, disease – so raising our awareness about what is currently and actually happening is necessary. But should we keep on showing just alarming aspects? This does not sound really sexy to promote a brand or an organization…
Art is a great communication means to attract people’s attention on major problems. End October, in Copenhagen the UN IPCC has presented its 5th Assessment report. For this occasion, the artist Olafur Eliasson and the geologist Minik Rosing placed the installation “Ice Watch” in front of Copenhagen’s City Hall Square. This was both a perfect illustration and a physical experience of the climate change effect for the audience. Alarming? Yes. But it worked: people’s curiosity was tickled.
Tell it to attract
Personification of nature in movies has now become quite common to convey alarming messages. Nature was animated with a desire for revenge against humans in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, The Happening. More recently, the Nolan brothers showed us in Interstellar that Nature takes its own path, becoming unlivable for humans. Quite fatalist right? Well, TBWA used the idea of movie production to create Conservation International’s (CI) last campaign: “Nature is speaking”. Because celebrities are probably the best ambassadors to promote brands, NGOs and the UN have also used them to promote key messages related to sustainable matters. And because celebrities’ voices can also be sexy – remember Scarlett Johansson in Spike Jonze’s movie, Her – but above all attract people’s attention thanks to their fame, TBWA used them in the CI campaign. Nature is giving a voice, and not any voice. Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford, Kevin Spacey, Edward Norton, Penélope Cruz, Robert Redford and Ian Somerhalder have all lead roles: they are Nature and they tell us “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature”. Alarming? Yes. But, the message is based on facts and is delivered with irony, which makes us stand back, reconsider ourselves, and think.
Alarming are the facts. But, using them as an attractive way to convey a message to people is probably today’s challenge for creative professionals, to make sustainable the actual new sexy.