I was watching a documentary about Greta Thunberg with my wife today.
While there are multiple reasons for her rise to celebrity status as a climate activist, three things stand out to me that are relevant for every brand: Her clarity. Her simplicity. Her appeal to emotion.
Anyone who has heard the name Greta Thunberg knows what she stands for. The brilliancy of her approach is that she is able to take over 3 decades of complicated research warning us of impending climate disaster and reduce it to a talking point. Just look at these quotes from her speeches:
“Time is much shorter than we think. Failure means disaster. The changes required are enormous and we must all contribute in every part of our daily life. Especially us in the rich countries where no nation is doing nearly enough.”
“The grown-ups have failed us. And since most of them including the press and politicians keep ignoring the situation we must take action into our own hands. Starting today. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed.” “We’ve had 30 years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas and I’m sorry but it doesn’t work. Because if it would have, emissions would have gone down by now. They haven’t. And yes, we do need hope, of course, we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”
I've worked with technical experts who would have taken 300 pages to say as much.
The best brands get this. They know that we don't buy because every single detail about a product or service is laid out. We buy because the top line is so powerful, and it meets a felt need.
Clarity and simplicity might be viewed as synonyms, but there is an important different. Clarity is about how you cut through the noise to say something snappy and succinct that can't be ignored. Simplicity is about avoiding complications.
Greta Thunberg isn't Greta + the U.N. + BMGF + P&G + Apple + Brawndo. She rose to fame as a student who took a stand on behalf of climate change. Just her, against the world of corporate and government interests.
Simplicity is the fact that everyone (even my parents) knows Greta's name and what she stands for. She isn't leading with some coalition she's part of, or joining Red Nose Day--she's showing up as herself and selling her authenticity.
Her appeal to emotion
This is what so many brands get wrong. When Greta skyrocketed to fame, she was just a kid. Anyone could see the emotional impact she was having at the U.N. when speaking to the crowds of global leaders, because her message resonated. We can all imagine what it is like to have our childhood stolen. We can all imagine what it must be like for our children or grandchildren to grow up with anxiety about their future because of climate change. This is not manipulation--manipulation requires something that is counterfeit. Greta has literally and metaphorically had her childhood stripped from her, and she is open and straightforward about that, resulting in an emotional connection with her audiences.
The most successful companies understand this and are able to spark connection with their audiences through the use of emotion.
Does your organization or personal brand meet the Thunberg test?