Climate Curious speaks to a climate marketer who’s delivered 3 billion ads on what it takes to hit a home run with the message of climate change.

Transcript: Climate Quickie: Why climate change needs a rebrand

TEDxLondon Climate Curious

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ESG, net zero, decarbonisation – climate gibberish has got us in a chokehold! So how do we talk about climate change in tangible, relevant ways that gets more people to take action? Climate Curious speaks to a climate marketer who’s delivered 3 billion ads on the topic, the founder and CEO of Potential Energy, John Marshall.

Listen now: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS | Android


Ben Hurst 0:01
Welcome to climate quickies, bite sized nuggets of climate goodness from our TEDx London experts in under five minutes.

Maryam Pasha 0:09
So this week, we’re joined by John Marshall, a climate marketeer. And the founder and chairman of the potential energy Coalition, which is a nonprofit that uses the power of marketing, to develop new narratives, engage new audiences and build demand for a better, better, prosperous world. And John’s gonna be sharing with us not just his general kind of genius and expertise. But also the results isn’t really exciting, new research that’s come out.

John Marshall 0:41
Hi, my name is John Marshall. And I founded a new organisation called the Potential Energy Coalition. And we are climate marketers. We think of ourselves kind of as a marketing firm for planet Earth, we’re taking that skill that can be used for evil, and we’re trying to use it for good and we’re observing what people care about. And we’re testing different messages. And we’re trying to figure out how to how to get more people in the climate movement. I think a big part of like, we got to simplify this a lot in order for people to be able to get behind it. I mean, the easy part is that the usual gibberish doesn’t necessarily get people that excited. No one wakes up in the morning and says it’s a great day for decarbonisation. And then we come up with a wake up, we’ve come up with concepts, which I think in Europe are a little more prevalent, but that aren’t really very well known, like, net zero. And like, Who wants to go to zero, I don’t want to go to zero, or I don’t even know what net zero. So those things, maybe obviously, those things don’t really connect with your average person. We did a test in Florida, we tried to get a whole bunch of people to like join the client sign petitions and so forth and get to 100% or get to net zero by 2030, or whatever is about four times more expensive as you start my stop my flooding problem. And so it’s kind of obvious, but what we actually need to do is stop my flight is, you know, talking about stuff that people actually care about. Moms are one that we talked to all the time, because they care a lot, and they move a lot. And they do a lot. And they get and they typically get involved in lots of social movements, whether it’s gun violence, or drunk driving, or seatbelt laws, and so forth. So the moms are usually in the forefront. So we do a lot with moms, we found that those are fun. We did had a funny epiphany. The other day, we looked at all the data. And you know, there’s these, there’s these debates. So it should it should be about fear or no, it should be about hope. Should we that sacrifice? No, it should be about abundance, all these. And so we run all these ads? And it turns out that it’s none of it’s right. The thing that works best with moms is actually love. Wow. Like taking care of your kids is a primary motivator. And so people get may get motivated by that.

We’re trying to figure out how do you tap into things that really matter to people. And so to get the moms to really talk, you know, what can you do to take care of your kids? Because that’s the thing that they think about a lot? And how can you get involved in that tends to, that tends to really get people way more engaged in the promise of green jobs in your economic community. And, you know, climate change attracts all these amazingly smart people, right? And there’s just because it’s so hard, you have to be like fearless in the face of something that’s really hard. So a lot of people come into climate, who are very, very bright. And then they try and communicate in a way that’s very, very bright. Yeah, like global competitive advantage, and all those kinds of things. But people just want to take care of their kids or make sure they can still fish or, you know, have the vacation spots that they like. You know, I think the biggest problem of all is that if you do a pie chart of the messengers, 90% of them would be politicians. And so we picked the least we pick the least trusted humans on Earth, the most important problem if they just didn’t talk as much about it would be much better off. We need. We need moms and doctors and farmers and fishermen, regular folks to talk more about it, but it is, yeah, there’s way too much. And you know, the data basically says you an ad with a politician, and it will perform like about like a tiny fraction of like someone who can relate to. Climate is actually not an adjective. As it turns out, it’s a noun. And so we’ve got we’ve invented this really useless phrase climate change that we’re stuck with, we should have gotten should call it the pollution blanket or overheating or something that people get mad when we’re stuck with that. And if there was one thing we learned about the whole thing is just talk about pollution. Call it pollution and don’t call it emissions don’t call it climate change. It’s if you think about it, and this gets to like getting the average person head into this because if you ask the average person helped fight climate change, they’re like, Oh, no. How do I start kind of have a difference? But if you say we’re not fighting climate change, we’re finding the polluters who are causing climate change, that seems a lot easier, but And so you say you know, 70 or 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the pollution. That’s all Reading the earth, people like, oh, we can do that we can actually talk to those 100 companies, someone can call about a week but regulations on it. So it makes people feel much more relaxed. And so we do all these tests. And we so we looked recently at all they’re like, Okay, let me see the top 20 of 500 tests, and what’s and then you look at it, it’s like, oh, they all have one thing in common. They have faces, right? Not just people, but they got faces, and the faces are really close to the camera. And so and so. And you like you can see people’s eyes. So the closer you get, and then then you give the person the name, and location, and the story is just dramatically more effective than anything else. And I think, I think we started on concepts and now we got to get down to it. And the thing is, there’s so much reality to talk about now. But whenever you’re talking about climate change within five or six words, accompany it with a consequence, so that people can become reliable. So the climate change that caused the flooding in Pakistan the climate change that caused the dramatic overheating and the climate change that burned up Maui, the climate change that’s increasing your air conditioning bills, future consequences, today a consequence but stick a consequence in there because climate change is kind of a loose loosey goosey weird thing.

Ben Hurst 6:13
Thanks for listening to this quickie.

Maryam Pasha 6:15
This episode was created by our superstar podcast team at TEDx London. Until next time, stay

Ben Hurst 6:20


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