Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Marketing Sustainability and the Science of Storytelling

Marketing sustainability is about telling a good story and creating an emotional experience. While it may seem like an art there is a lot of science behind good storytelling. The advantages good sustainability focused storytelling benefit both the brand and the bottom line. The goal is to invoke drama that incites emotion. Well crafted branding can arouse the kinds of emotions that call for action and encourages customers to make buying decisions. This is what all marketers try to do but it is especially important when it comes to sustainability.  The buy in that is encouraged here goes beyond taking a product to the cash, it even goes beyond the forging of a loyal bond between a product and a consumer. Sustainability focused storytelling pushes us beyond our own experience and gives us potency to act on a global problem.

Despite this power, many companies have a hard time communicating their sustainability efforts in a fashion that people can relate to.  Why is it hard for corporations to leverage their environmental stewardship efforts when being a responsible corporate citizen should be a great marketing and public relations opportunity? Perhaps that is because there is nothing sexy about reams of data. 

Nancy Buzby published a piece on storytelling in a 2016 business blog post. Buzby does strategic marketing and communications for EDF, she asks why, "companies are often doing considerably more sustainability work than they publicize." Suzanne Shelton, President & CEO, Shelton Group answers that question this way:

“The problem isn’t that most companies don’t have strong, legitimate things to say about their sustainability efforts. It’s that they try to tell all of it in little bitty ways or they tell none of it — in either case, they don’t make a marketing impact. What works is boiling the story down to a tight, emotionally compelling narrative that aligns with what the market cares about, what the brand stands for and what a company’s internal culture can embrace.”

To bring this data to life it must be steeped in human experiences so that people can relate to it on an emotional level.  

To communicate sustainability we need to learn to tell the right stories. Science offers us some invaluable insights into how we can cultivate loyalty and passion from customers. There is a strong organic relationship between science and sustainability. Sustainability focused storytelling derives its veracity from science and we are seeing the ways in which science can help to make us better storytellers.

In an Op-Ed the EDF’s Fred Krupp said, "It’s time to go beyond the annual sustainability report and engage deeply on these stories."

For information on The Science of Storytelling see: Making Facts Matter in a Post-Factual World

Sustainability as Both Sexy and Spiritual
The Pearl in the Oyster - Leveraging the Climate Crisis for Human and Planetary Health
Why We Need a New Climate Change Narrative
Overcoming Obstacles in the Creation of a New Climate Narratives
Forging a New Climate Change Narrative: Addressing 5 Psychological Realities
Video - It's all in our heads: The psychology of sustainability
Video - Making People Care About Climate Change: The Psychology of Risk Perception
Video - Changing the Narrative to Change the World
The Power of Story Telling for Sustainable Businesses
The Power of Storytelling: Lessons in Consumer Engagement

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