Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Power of Story Telling for Sustainable Businesses

We can learn a lot from the marketing strategies employed by successful sustainable businesses. Some of these businesses have demonstrated considerable skill when it comes to communicating sustainability. This is a celebration of early adopters rather than an attempt to cajole the laggards. These narratives are positive rather than a negative as pessimism undermines effective storytelling. The message has to involve people and to do that it must be relevant, attractive and warm.

As reviewed in a Guardian article authentic and inspirational story telling techniques are essential to the health and well being of the sustainability movement. This article explains that businesses are increasingly using storytelling to, "engage their audiences with complex social and environmental issues, inspire behavior change and enhance brand reputation." They cite several examples:

Unilever uses real people to tell the story of food waste. With the help of the film Carbon for Water (2012) Vestergaard Frandsen tells the emotional story of how a carbon credit program funds safe water and improves the life of millions of Africans in addition to slowing deforestation and cutting emissions.

Rather than advertise, ethical footwear brand Veja shares its story and converses directly with consumers online. Veja uses a complimentary mix of PR, social media and events to communicate the environmental and social benefits of its products.

Other companies use online video to tell humorous and emotional stories. Renewable energy pioneer Ecotricity has generated millions of hits with its video story explaining the need to replace old energy with green technology.

Chasing Ice (2012) is an example of a film that tells a powerful story. This is due in large part to the compelling cinematography.

According to this article effective storytelling has three essential components:

1. A strong visual element (ie powerful imagery that brings the stories to life).
2. A human story that chronicles the trials and tribulations of a ‘hero’ or central character.
3. A powerful emotional element.

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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Video - It's all in our heads: The psychology of sustainability
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