Caroline Fiennes, Executive Director of the Global Cool Foundation
Campaign Hero: Caroline Fiennes of Global Cool
11th January, 2011
Global Cool is the green lifestyle organisation that uses celebrities and mainstream culture to market low-carbon living. Its director Caroline Fiennes talks to the Ecologist
What has been your most successful campaign to date?
Global Cool aims to get people living greener lives. We believe that great campaigning is about achieving the goal and having the flexibility to ‘sell' that goal to different people in different ways. We ‘sell' green lifestyles by making them attractive and desirable.
Last winter, our Turn Up The Style, Turn Down The Heat campaign encouraged people to wrap themselves up in fabulous knitwear, and go easy on the heating. We promoted the fashion, financial and health benefits of this, rather than leading with the environmental benefits. The proportion of people who said they wear warm clothes at home rose by 50 per cent during the campaign. Turn Up The Style, Turn Down The Heat has returned this winter and is running currently. The feedback so far is really positive, so we're optimistic about similar results this time too.
What has been your least successful campaign to date?
We measure our campaigns on the change that they create, which obviously depends on the number of people we reach. Clearly the first campaign was the smallest, but it started the ball rolling and enabled us to start reaching people and engaging them -which we've built on ever since.
With each campaign, we grow our database and build valuable relationships with press and with brands. For example, as a result of Turn Up The Style, Turn Down The Heat last year, we became the official charity partner of Britain's Next Top Model Live, an event with 33,000 people, which we used to launch this winter's campaign.
Corporations: work with them or against them?
With them. They have enormous reach and influence, and we need to harness that to encourage people towards greener lifestyles.
For example, in our Traincation campaign to promote flight-free holidays, we worked with Eurostar and Rail Europe because we share their interest in getting people to take trains rather than planes.
But environmentalists don't have to confine ourselves to working with companies who are immediately relevant to climate and low-carbon solutions. There are lots of brands who can play an important role in making green living more fun. For example, in Global Cool's Do It In Public campaign, we promote car-free travel by highlighting the ‘me time' you get on trains and buses - time to read, listen to music - so we work with book publishers and music distributors.
What is the best way to motivate people?
People's motivations vary hugely, so we (ie, people promoting low-carbon living) need to appeal to a range of motivations. One person might buy solar panels out of concern for the climate; another might do the exact same thing solely to improve financial security; another might do it because it's cool.
If we're to 'market' low-carbon living to everybody - which we obviously need to - we need to segment the market and create communications which work for each segment. That is, we will need to design comms for people whose motivations are very different to our own. Philip Green probably doesn't wear clothes from TopShop, but it doesn't stop him selling them very successfully.
The segment which Global Cool targets is the mainstream. They are interested in looking great, having fun, being on-trend etc. So Global Cool shows how greener lifestyles can help with that. We talk about how using less heating at home is better for your skin, which is credible, very relevant to this group and has a very immediate benefit. Similarly, because this group is very social, when we promote train travel, we talk about the potential to meet new people: we ran events to encourage and equip people to talk with strangers on trains and buses, and then share their stories.
What is the best way of reaching politicians?
As a German guy I met recently said, 'politicians put their flag where the wind is'. It's notoriously difficult for politicians to really lead, ie to do things ahead of public opinion, so the best way of getting political change is to change public opinion. And the best way to change public opinion is to change people's behaviour. There's loads of evidence that people's opinions follow their behaviour, not vice versa - so the first step to political change is behaviour change. That means it's worth doing pretty much anything which changes behaviour - if that's the ‘carrot' of meeting some new, fun person by getting on a train, then fine.
What is the most important thing to avoid when campaigning?
Assuming that everybody is like you. I think environmental people do this a lot. We often tell people there's an eco problem: and when they don't listen or don't change their behaviour, we tell them again and again, increasingly shrilly. Einstein wasn't stupid: he said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
Most important thing government could do this year?
Firstly, develop a decent brand to sit across all its pro-environmental activities - eg, insulating homes, building new railways, improving bus-stops, replacing water pipes to reduce leakage. If the public see more activities which are visibly labelled as being ‘to prevent damage to the environment', they'd be more likely to think that the environmental problem is taken seriously and that it's addressable, and that would make them more likely to believe that there really is a problem. Perhaps that would also make them more likely to act themselves, and to accept other green changes, eg, installation of wind turbines.
Secondly, stop making charities pay VAT! It's absurd to have a ‘Big Society', ie, give the charity sector responsibility for lots of things which are integral to our culture, and then making those same charities pay 20 per cent of their donated revenue to the state every time they buy anything in order to deliver that Big Society.
Most important thing individuals could do this year?
Become examples of positive change by making changes in our own lives and telling others - including friends, family, colleagues and MPs - that we're making those changes, and why. There's no need to preach about it, but as Nike says, just do it. Give it a go - ride a bike a couple of days a week, or turn your heating down a degree or two. When you start to see the benefits, you'll wonder why you didn't start doing it ages ago, and then it will make doing the other stuff not so difficult after all.
What (other) campaign has caught your attention recently?
We really like the Fun Theory, which uses fun as a way of getting people to do pro-environmental things. For example, they got people to take the stairs rather than the escalator by installing a piano keyboard on the staircase, and to put rubbish in a bin by getting the bin to sound like space invaders when rubbish is thrown in. Honestly, the environment doesn't care if you recycle your bottles out of concern for the polar bears or because you have a laugh when you chuck them in the bin. Of course, the real aim is to get sustained changes in behaviour - and I understand that three months later, many more people were still taking the stairs than using the escalator.
We also like the health campaign aimed at youngish women: 'if you drink like a man, you'll end up looking like a man'. It turns out that looks are a much better motivator for youngish women than what seem like far-off claims about your liver being damaged.
Who is your campaign hero (past or present)?
Frederick the Great. He knew how to tap into what people really care about. He wanted people to eat more potatoes because Prussians only really ate wheat so were too exposed to fluctuations in wheat prices and failure in wheat crops. But, not surprisingly, peasants didn't care about price volatility and wouldn't eat potatoes because they thought they weren't even good enough for the cattle. So Frederick banned anybody from eating potatoes except the Royal Family, and suddenly potatoes became terribly desirable.
He got the result he wanted - by having the flexibility to appeal to motivations which didn't happen to be his own. Clever.
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