An Inconvenient Truth doesn't persuade
The art of persuasion is reaching those who don’t believe
An Inconvenient Truth had the right message. But the brand of Al Gore superseded it so it failed to persuade.
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 creating brands that grow market share. We persuade customers who currently do not use or buy a given brand to choose differently. Our strategists look for examples of persuasive success everywhere in the market. And we can all learn from both the successes and failures of others.
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. Inconvenient Truth is chock full of disturbing images of global climate change, receding glaciations, and scientific documentation of the impending global catastrophe.
Ultimately, Inconvenient Truth fails in its quest to persuade. But we can all learn from the reasons for that failure.
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 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. Also, it is not lost on us that presidential debates are much more of a rite of passage than a study in persuasion. But the only voters who really debate outcome are political pundits who fill out a check sheet of point-counterpoint. They triumphantly name the winner of each debate and then tell us why.
But 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. In fact, they are willing to argue with the other camp who just as vehemently believes that it is right.
We see the same dynamic in the film An Inconvenient Truth. Much to Mr. Gore’s chagrin. His film failed to persuade.
Consider 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. But it is telling to note, that aside from our group, approximately 12 other people shared the theater with us. (Influence is related to precepts. Read more about that here)
Inconvenient Truth failed
As the late Marshall McLuhan once pontificated, “the medium is the message.” The group’s response to Inconvenient Truth was evidence of this. Two self-described Republicans walked out. But for those that stayed, the discussion was also worthy of note. The Democrats found both the movie and the science compelling and moving. After the movie, they discussed their roles and responsibilities in the quest to change the environmental juggernaut. The story was quite different for the Republicans that stayed. The discussion of the “science” hardly got off the ground.
Their sense of being attacked closed down their receptors to information. They found great fault with the medium (Al Gore). Not exactly the result Mr. Gore had in mind. From a brand perspective, 20 minutes of editing might have done the trick. Inconvenient Truth would have benefited his cause if it deleted 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 turned off viewers who might otherwise be convinced.
The science of increasing levels of CO2 has been decades long. In that time, we have had our fair share of control by both political parties. In short, no one’s opinions changed. Those who agreed with Mr. Gore’s agenda were vehement about the rightness. But those who opposed it could not get passed the politics.
What does all this have to do with branding to steal market share? Everything. Most brands market and advertise to their own current customers and ignore the precepts of those from the other camp.
Build your brands to persuade to steal share. Infuse your brand message with the precepts of the target market you wish to influence. Speak with a single-mindedness of purpose. Stop preaching to the converted. 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. An Inconvenient Truth would have persuaded more people.