An Inconvenient Truth – A Failure to Persuade

 Al Gore and an Inconvenient Truth

Another article we have left on the site for your consideration.

An inconvenient Truth hit movie theaters years ago. And the climate continues to change. Why are there still large segments of the population denying these changes? We think it is becuase of the Al Gore brand. This is about killing the messenger.By Tom Dougherty

By Tom Dougherty

Learn From Success

An inconvenient truth was a failure to persuade
It was about Mr. Gore and not Global Warming

Stealing Share is in the persuasion business, make no mistake about it. Our business category is brand development but our brand work must be, by definition, persuasive. Our goal for our clients is to create brands that grow market share by persuading customers who currently do not use or buy a given brand to revisit their purchase decision and to choose differently. We look for examples of persuasive success everywhere in the market. We can all learn from both the successes and failures of others.

A movie authored and starring former Vice President Al Gore called “An Inconvenient Truth” is worthy of consideration. Ostensibly, this critically acclaimed theatrical release is the culmination of a life-long personal crusade by Mr. Gore to raise international awareness of global warming. The film, for those of you who have not seen it, is an amalgam of a slide presentation Mr. Gore has been giving, by his own admission, over 1,000 times. The film is chocked full of disturbing images of global climate change, receding glaciations, and scientific documentation of the impending global catastrophe we all face if we do not become better stewards of our tiny blue planet. Ultimately, this film fails in its quest to persuade and the reasons for that failure are lessons that we all should learn.

Can Anyone Be Objective

Politics, you would think, is all about persuasion. However, if you look at it objectively, it is really all about retention. Rarely are opinions changed or altered. At Stealing Share, we see brand as more closely aligned with anthropology (the study and observation of human behavior) than it is with traditional marketing. As such, we observe changes and dynamics in the currents of popular culture and use those understandings to greatly benefit our clients. It is not lost on us that the presidential debates that we all witness each four years are much more of a right of passage than they are a study in persuasion. The only voters who really debate the “debate’s” outcome are political pundits who seem to fill out a check sheet of point-counterpoint. They triumphantly name the winner of each debate and then tell us why.

The problem is that if you talk to the voters, everyone believes that the candidate they supported before the debate won the contest. They all see it through the tinted lenses of their own brand. Each and every voter vehemently believes that their candidate won, even if it is by the slimmest margins. They are willing to argue with those of the other camp who just as vehemently believes that they are right (which is different from “their candidate is right”). We see the same dynamic in the film “An Inconvenient Truth”. Much to Mr. Gore’s chagrin, we believe his film failed in its desire to persuade. Let’s look at a rather unscientific study to better understand why. We took a diverse group of viewers to screen the film, from many political persuasions and age groups. It is telling to note, that aside from our group, approximately 12 other people shared the theater with us — meanwhile nine theaters were sold-out and showing the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, which was opening to scathing critical review. (Influence is related to precepts. Read more about that here)

It Failed

Al Gore's brand was a failure to persuade anyone but the converted
A lightning rod as a distraction

As the late Marshall McLuhan once pontificated, “the medium is the message” and this was blatantly evident in the group’s response to the film. Two self-described Republicans got up and walked out. Uncomfortable with the “attacks” on their own political party which was, in their opinion “blamed” for the deaf ear on the environmental issues conveyed. For those that stayed, the discussion that followed was also worthy of note. Those that considered themselves Democrats going into the film, found both the movie and the science compelling and moving. After the movie, they discussed their own role and responsibility in the quest to change the environmental juggernaut. For the Republicans, the story was quite different. The discussion of the “science” hardly got off the ground.

Their sense of being attacked had closed down their receptors to information and they found great fault with the medium (read Al Gore). Not exactly the result Mr. Gore had in mind. From a brand perspective, 20 minutes of editing might have done the trick. Scenes that might have benefited his cause if deleted might have included clips of former President Reagan discussing “rotting vegetation” as a major cause of greenhouse gasses. And scenes of Mr. Gore demonstrating the incompetence of the current administration and its propensity to hire big oil insiders to positions of import within the current administration.

The “science” of increasing levels of CO2 proposed by the film has been decades long and we have had our fair share of control by both political parties during that time. In short, no one’s opinions changed. Those who agreed with Mr. Gore’s agenda were vehement about the rightness and those who opposed it could not get passed the politics.

Steal Share

What does all this have to do with branding to steal market share? Just everything. Most brands market and advertise to their own current customers and ignore the precepts of those “from the other camp.” At times, it is even more of a waste of funds in that brands talk only to themselves and not even their own customers — meaning that many brands emphasize attributes that are important to the board of directors but are meaningless in the decision making of even their current customers.

If you want to steal share, build your brands to persuade. Infuse your brand message with the precepts of the target market you wish to influence and speak with a single-mindedness of purpose. Stop preaching to the converted and empathize with those you wish to influence. Understand that the medium is the message and that your biggest hurdle may be getting out of your own way. Too bad Mr. Gore was unable to do as much.

Read about the Democratic Party Brand Here