Stop trying to save the planet.
As an experienced, highly trained marketing professional—I am especially sensitive to what is and isn’t good messaging. I’m sure you’re sensitive to what is and isn’t good messaging too. But not as sensitive as a marketing professional who is as highly trained and experienced as myself. I apologize if this comes off as boastful. But I’m confident that other experienced, highly trained marketing professionals will back me up on this.
Messaging is what I do for a living. A lot of people who do what I do for a living like to call themselves storytellers and sometimes they live up to the name. But I prefer to think of myself as being in the business of messaging. And It just kills me when people fuck it up.
Masks are a really good example. The messaging around masks was horrible, caused further division and most likely cost thousands of people their lives. Basically, here’s what it was:
“Wear a mask. They don’t protect you. They protect everyone else.”
Whoever sold that line doesn’t know shit about Americans. And I’m not talking about weirdo, pansy-ass, liberal Jew Americans like me. I’m talking about real Americans. The vast majority that make us who we truly are.
We’re not big on protecting others. Unless, of course, there’s some kind of defense contract involved. That’s completely different. You pay us money or put us next to an oil field that no one’s watching too closely and we’ll protect the living shit out of you.
But other than that, we stay pretty committed to the every-man-for-himself policy.
Americans receive a great amount of satisfaction from protecting themselves. You could say it’s a national obsession. It’s why each and every one of us is armed to the teeth at all times. It would be impolite not to be. And after all, the messaging is crystal fucking clear:
“Guns are awesome. They protect you. Everyone else can lick balls.”
And that’s how masks should have been sold. At least to Americans. As a weapon. An AR-15 for your mouth. Your own, personal ballistic missile against the dreaded (and likely Communist) Corona virus.
That would have gotten masks onto faces. We could have nipped this thing in the bud. Game over. Mission accomplished.
But no. We fucked up the messaging and now hundreds of thousands of people are dead and I’m a giant pussy because I still wear my mask everywhere I go.
Thanks for that.
I was listening to a guy give a talk about messaging a few weeks ago and he was all about simplification. Which I can get behind. I like to keep things simple. That’s a damn good way to live in general not to mention express any sort of idea.
On the other hand, I also like to fuck around with things. I’m awfully fond of taking simple stuff and complexing the shit out of it by breaking it down and trying to piece it back together in a different way. It’s kind of a hobby.
However, the speaker I was listening to did have a pretty good example that he threw out. The 2016 presidential election. You might remember it. It was fairly cuckoo.
Painful though it may be, think back to some of the candidates and what their messaging was. One of the early front-runners on the Republican ticket was Jeb Bush. He seemed to be almost a shoo-in at one point. Americans have a fondness for people named Bush. At least the republican ones do.
However, try as I might, I can’t remember much about what Jeb Bush stood for. I just remember the exclamation point: Jeb! To tell you the truth, I kind of liked it in a look-at-what-a-big-boy-he-is kind of way.
But I’ll let you in on a little trade secret. Something only, we experienced, highly trained marketing professionals can reliably attest to. Exclamation points are for lazy hacks. Unless you’re texting with a sixteen year-old girl or writing dialogue and want to indicate that a character has raised their voice, then you should pretty much never use an exclamation point.
I guess no one told, Jeb!
Here’s an easier one. Hillary Clinton. There were a whole heck of a lot of people, Hillary included, who thought she was going to win that election. We won’t linger on that. However, what did Hillary Clinton want to do if she became president?
She didn’t have an exclamation point but we know Hillary Clinton pretty well because she’s been in the political arena for quite a while. She’s a fairly moderate democrat, so, I can’t remember exactly but I think it was…something, something… social welfare policies… something, something… sensible gun legislation… something, something… healthcare reform.
The whole thing is kind of a blur because of the PTSD, but that’s pretty much what I recall in terms of Hillary’s messaging. Other than her own horrible tagline: I’m with her. Which is another way of saying: don’t forget Hillary is female, and remember, your job is to be a follower.
That might have benefited from another round of testing.
Now, don’t say it out loud because every time you do an angel in Heaven gets food poisoning—but what did Donald Trump want to do if he became president?
Most people don’t have too much trouble remembering that simple butthole of a message. But damn, if it didn’t stick. Who would have thought that a tagline could ruin an entire country’s reputation?
Which brings us to Save the Planet.
In my opinion, this is another example of bad messaging. Which really sucks because there simply couldn’t be a bigger issue as we finally wake up to the consequences of climate change. But here’s the reality.
Most likely, in about 7.5 billion years, our sun is going to do something that millions of other suns before it have done. It’s going to turn into a red giant. Which sounds extremely cool and from an astrophysics standpoint, actually is. However, be that as it may, when our sun turns into a red giant—approximately 7.5 billion years from now—it will expand and unfortunately that expansion will cause the sun to (accidentally) swallow the earth.
So, if you want to save the planet, that’s what you need to worry about. It’s not going to be easy. However, the timeline is fairly generous.
Other than that, you really needn’t worry about saving the planet. It’s going to be absolutely fine. It might very well turn into a giant, frozen snowball planet. But lots of planets are giant, frozen snowball planets. There’s nothing wrong with that. Unless you’re a life form. Or some kind of giant, frozen snowball planet bigot.
So, just to be clear, all the global warming, rising sea levels and increased CO2 in the world aren’t going to bother this bitch one bit. Planets are just like people. They go through phases. And just like I used to tight roll my jeans and wear penny loafers with no socks, planets have the ability to change, evolve and move past unfortunate fashion trends.
People, however, are fucked.
And that’s who we need to save, but nobody seems to be saying it.
Crop failures will lead to food shortages. Rising sea levels will turn millions of people into climate refugees. And once our industrial society inevitably collapses, nation states will lose their power and we’ll get to experience some fairly chaotic shit—and that's before things get really bad.
Because when you see billionaires building rockets and talking about space colonies, you really know we’re fucked. Those are the rats jumping off the ship. They’re not even going to wait around to see what happens. Bezos and Musk are going to peace-out on this joint long before the first climate refugees even show up.
So why aren’t we saying what really needs to be said?
Save the humans.
Save your ass.
I get it. Save the planet sounds nice. It’s a familiar rallying cry and probably tested well. I’m sure it scored above the benchmarks in emotional resonance with millennials and young Boomers.
But, as an experienced, highly trained marketing professional I say, the messaging misses the mark. The planet does not need to be saved. I do. You do. We do.
Or, if you’re like me and want to shout it from the rooftops, “Save us!”
Thanks for reading.