Rebranding Global Warming and Climate Change? The Limits of Brand to Persuade
By Lisa Merriam
AMA New York Board of Directors
Will rebranding “climate change” finally persuade people to take action? Certainly not! In fact, it would be counterproductive.
Right before the Thanksgiving break, Ad Age ran an opinion piece by Aaron Hall, a naming specialist at the global brand strategy firm Siegel+Gale. In it, he suggested a new name would better “convey the urgency of the situation, while also encouraging folks to take action.”
As a naming pro myself, I must disagree. Brand elements like names, logos, colors, graphic systems, even sounds, only symbolize the story. Of course, you do want each element to be effective in carrying the story. In that regard, “climate change” is a rather weak brand name. The now disused “global warming” was much better in defining the issue. Climate change grew in usage, however, as it was considered more comprehensive. Global warming limited the debate to temperature, but climate change expanded the conversation to bring in forest fires and hurricanes.
The failure of the climate change/global warming movement to persuade is not, however, due to its brand name, but its brand story. A new shade of lipstick will not change the appeal of the pig. The global warming side of the debate has suffered real damage to its brand story that a name change can’t fix. A few examples:
- Dire predictions of climate catastrophe that have largely not come to pass–the public tunes out the escalating hyperbole after a while
- Making connections to climate change cause and effect that are hard to prove, leaving room for doubt
- The “Climategate” data manipulation scandals and high profile climate study errors undermine perceived credibility
- Perceived hypocrisy among climate change champions (Leo DeCaprio’s prodigious use of a private jet, the Obamas spending $15 million on an estate that will be under water in a few years, Ocasio-Cortes of Green New Deal fame spending tens of thousands of dollars on SUVs with an office 138 feet from a subway station, Greta Thuberg’s “flight-shaming” when she had to fly two crew members across the Atlantic to return the boat.) that the other side can publicize to add to public doubt
These are only a few examples of problems with the climate change brand story. Until the global warming movement can better “live the brand,” changing the brand name will not make a difference. The story needs to be more consistent to be more persuasive.In fact, rebranding climate change gives the other side a cynical talking point and feels manipulative. Fix the brand story and leave the name alone.
Please share your thoughts…
These views are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Marketing Association New York.
About the Author:
Lisa Merriam serves on the American Marketing Association board of directors and is chairman of the communications committee. She is a marketing, brand, and content consultant at Merriam Associates. She is the co-author with Milton Kotler of Weaponized Marketing: Defeating Islamic Jihadists with Marketing that Built the World’s Top Brands, Rowman Littlefield, Spring 2020.