People understand new knowledge primarily through stories. There is probably no better way to communicate the benefits of clean technology than through effective storytelling. To date, however, clean tech firms have made little use of stories in their marketing strategies.
A new book, Re-Imagining Change: An Introduction to Story-Based Strategy, by Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough, can help solve this problem. The book provides step-by-step instructions on how to craft compelling stories that motivate consumers and citizens to action (an article version is found here). While the text is directed primarily at social movement organizations, the information provided can also play a critical role in helping clean tech firms cross the chasm between early adopters and mainstream consumers.
What is your clean tech story?
Most clean tech marketing strategies lack a potent emotional or narrative component. Conventional green marketing appeals primarily to consumer logic by stating facts or statistics about the value of a product. For example, you might see a label that says, “This product is made from __% of recycled materials,” or, “This product is not made with any ___.” While this information is important, it is not necessarily the most effective way of communicating the value of a green product to consumers.
It is more advantageous to develop a compelling frame, or overarching perspective, that has the potential to tap into consumer emotions. This frame can then be developed into a story that carries the overall marketing strategy.
A “story-based strategy framework,” as described by Canning and Reinsborough, starts first by crafting a frame that resonates strongly with your target consumers. What do they care about? What problems are most pressing to them? How can your product solve those problems? Be careful here: if your frame only resonates with LOHAS consumers, then know that you may be limiting your potential market base. The more appealing your frame, the more likely you will be able to cross over into the mainstream buying public.
Nissan, for example, may be limiting its consumer market by promoting the Leaf on its ecological benefits alone. The latest Nissan Leaf video shows a polar bear traveling across the globe to hug a Leaf driver. While polar bears may capture the “hearts and minds” of some Americans, the video may actually alienate many others who do not hold strong ecological values. Should they be excluded from being a potential Leaf driver? Absolutely not. There are many other attributes of driving a Leaf that can be capitalized on by creating a frame with wider resonance. I’ve discussed these reasons on MissElectric.com.
Once you have identified potent frames with potential with wide appeal, consider how this frame can be weaved into a storyline. Like conventional stories, marketing stories have engaging characters, strong imagery, enticing foreshadowing, conflict, and a heroic intervention.
These stories can then be strategically shared (both by your firm and by enthusiastic consumers) through a variety of communication channels. In this way, you can increase meaningful exposure and build deeper relationships with potential consumers by focusing on what matters to them.
So, I ask again, what is your clean tech story? What narrative will help your company move beyond the green consumer market for mainstream acceptance?
Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean-tech educator, researcher, and spokesperson. Find out more at MissElectric.com.