With Earth Day this week and so many social good campaigns tied to it, I’ve been thinking about environmental messages that have actually moved me to action. About 6 weeks ago I visited the Mashable house at SXSW Interactive in Austin. They always have fun stuff like temporary tattoos, free food and drinks, and a good GIF booth. After taking my photo in Beyonce’s ‘pregnancy reveal pose’ booth (very fun – I’m not sharing), I stumbled upon the Sucker Punch #stopsucking activation designed to urge everyone to help make oceans strawless in 2017. It was created by Adrian Grenier’s Lonely Whale Foundation. Yes, the Entourage guy was there, and yes he’s good-looking, but that’s not why I was into it. I waited on the 30-minute line to participate simply because it looked fun and I was intrigued. Check it out and you’ll see why.
Now you might ask, what’s fun about sucking on a plastic straw, suddenly having it knocked out of your mouth by a giant octopus’s tentacle, getting a bit drenched, and then watching the experience in super slow motion on video over and over again? Well, don’t knock it til you try it. It was fun…but it was more than that. I immediately shared the video on social, went to the website to learn more, and it stuck with me for weeks. Oh, and I’ve also stopped using straws whenever possible.
Here’s why: In the U.S. alone, we throw out 500 million plastic straws every single day. That’s enough plastic to wrap around the earth two and a half times daily. Most of these straws end up in oceans, polluting the water and harming sea life. By 2050 we’ll have more plastic in the ocean than fish. Of course, the Lonely Whale Foundation doesn’t just condemn straws – they’re looking at all plastic pollution–but they kind of think about straws like “gateway plastic” for people. The health of our ocean is directly tied to climate change, and the ocean provides us with 70% of all oxygen. If we don’t act today, we risk not just damaging the environment but also impacting the nearly one billion people who live in coastal communities throughout the world.
Back to #stopsucking. It got me to think more about what it takes to create a successful “movement” and break through in such a cluttered media environment where there are millions of social good messages. Here are some things that I’ve seen work really well:
- Make it Personal and Relatable: Successful social good movements often feature real people, real stories and things that are highly relatable. It helps create empathy. Think It Gets Better. Fun fact, 62% of millennials say they have supported a cause because it has touched their life in one way or another.
- Make it Participatory: Make the viewer or visitor feel like they’re a part of something; like they can take it and make it their own. Our Love Has No Labels’ viral video featured a live event on the Santa Monica pier where we captured genuine reactions. As an online viewer, you’re watching it, watching people watch it. Then we gave people our “Faces of Love” tool where they can include their photo with others in it and share it on social.
- Be Culturally Relevant: If your content echoes the cultural climate you have a greater chance of hitting it big. Make sure it’s the right message at the right time. It should be relevant and speak to issues that are somewhat universal or address a cultural norm, i.e. Like A Girl.
- Strike an Emotional Chord: Proctor & Gamble’s marketing team has done a ton of research on this. If you want to get people to do something, you have to get them to feel something. And it doesn’t have to be fear or sadness. #stopsucking made me laugh, a lot. Surprise is always good too.
And I would add…Be fun. Be creative. Be brave. Be original. We all want an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but there will never be another.
Visit strawlessocean.org, learn more, and take the pledge. I haven’t looked at a straw the same way again.