So polar bears are passé, apparently. Snow scenes are soporific and interest in ice floes is melting as fast as the ice floes themselves.
That is the view of picture agency Getty Images, which this week unveiled a major new report suggesting that the conventional images used in firms' green marketing campaigns are fast becoming "visual clichés" that are resonating less and less with customers.
You have to agree it has a point.
The visual language used to communicate green marketing campaigns in general and climate change initiatives in particular have become staid and repetitive to the point of boredom. To the list of images that should be removed forthwith from the corporate marketing armoury I'd like to add melting glaciers, belching smokestacks and generic tropical rainforests. Any power these images once had has diminished in direct proportion to their ubquitous familiarity.
In many ways it is surprising they have retained an impact for as long as they have. Few people have seen a polar bear, even fewer have seen an ice flow, and as such marrying the climate change message with such exotic imagery was always a high risk strategy that would ultimately alienate much of the audience.
But if it is time to put the polar bear's out to pasture, or wherever it is aged polar bears go, then what should advertisers replace them with?
It is a tricky question and one advertisers and marketers need to answer quickly if they are to avoid further alienating an audience that is already showing some signs of green fatigue.
The answer lies in reconnecting the issue back to the customer. One of the reasons that action on climate change is still so limited is that it is too big and broad a topic for most people to get their head round, a sense only amplified by the use of alien and exotic imagery. If firms want to promote their climate change strategies they have to show what such strategies, or their absence, means for the customer.
In this context floods, famine, droughts and changes to local wildlife are all more powerful warning symbols than the polar bear. Better still, images of green jobs and green technologies provide a far more positive visual backdrop for any corporate climate change strategy.
Moreover, if climate change is too big and scary a topic for customers to comprehend then firms need to find a way to promote their environmental credentials that ties them in with other issues.
This week's survey of Co-op members found that customers are prioritising ethical trading, animal welfare and smaller scale environmental concerns such as packaging over climate change. What is interesting about the findings is that while consumers bury their heads in the sand over climate change sizeable numbers are concerned over issues that relate to global warming.
As Co-op chief executive Peter Marks pointed out fair trade and climate change are inexorably linked when you consider that climate change will disproportionately impact developing economies. Make this connection and carbon reductions become part of a company’s ethical positioning.
Equally, animal welfare can be protected as much through attempts to protect habitats as through ethical farming policies, while reducing packaging cuts carbon emissions as well as waste.
There are plenty of images out there to replace the poor old polar bear and revitalise green marketing messages. It just requires a bit of imagination and a desire to educate the customer about the real, local impacts of both climate change and greener business models.
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