Climate change is growing in both impact and brand


By Peter Makwanya
THE popularity of climate change is strengthening while challenging its non-juicy publicity tag. While people need the knowledge of climate change as an existential threat, they may not necessarily want it as phenomena, as it is prone to divided or split attention.

Climate change may not be as attractive and marketable as adverts for beverages, fast foods or other upmarket accessories, which the companies continue to remind people through various forms of channels like radio, television, the Press, online, posters, billboards or regalia, but has managed to stay in the public domain and capture attention.

In this regard, climate change may be topical, but not as popular as a brand product, but has proved difficult for people to ignore or just wish it away. In this view, people also need to know, quite often about the subject that has dominated their livelihoods. Climate change may not be what people necessarily need, but they want it for resilience building purposes.

Climate change may not be in the mold of Nike or Coca-Cola, but in its own right, it is just appealing and attention-seeking too. While climate change, through its related impacts like natural disasters, it does not offer happiness or pleasure, but has proved a choice to be communicated regularly and sustainably, all the time and everywhere.

While popular brand companies and organisations invest in wide-ranging research to maintain and transform their brand images, climate change has also kept the world awake and on its toes too, in order to maintain its image, but for checks and balances otherwise the earth would be torn apart. Just like all these other brands, climate change has target audiences and situations that need to be managed proactively. While many other brands need to be sold and bought, climate change requires interactive and participatory engagements as well as immersion into its nature, to sufficiently understand it.

Climate change requires reaching out to target situations and audiences through appropriate and relevant communication approaches and messages. Above all, target audiences should be able to have knowledge of what is being communicated to them. They must be able to relate what is being communicated to what is unfolding in their communities. While brand companies invest billions into advertising, green funders channel forms of funding to developing countries for adaptation purposes and mitigation, as part of publicising their communities of practice. In this regard, climate change practitioners continue to connect with stakeholders for the target audiences’ attention, for climate change education, training and awareness in order to keep on shaping mindsets, attitudes and beliefs.

While many people around the world want popular brands like CocaCola, Nike, Mercedes Benz, Sprite and many others they may not necessarily be in need of them, but climate change adaptation is what people actually need and not necessarily want.

As climate change requires partnerships and multi-sectorial approaches, development partners need to connect with governments, public and the private sector in order to get the target audiences attention and acceptance. In this climate change discourse, development practitioners need to invest in communication experts and knowledge brokers, who can communicate across the board and have the knowledge of target audiences including their crucial needs and choices to be respected.

In this community of practice, people continue to be networked and connected so that communication approaches function effectively and meaningfully. In this regard, climate change communication is used to bind people together, enhance public engagement and keep climate change topical. The aim in this regard is to provide accurate and continuous information flows to all stakeholders, not just a few, making the whole process open and transparent.

Just as brand advertising is cross-cutting and aimed at breaking language barriers, video-story telling in climate change documentaries and narratives continue, reaching out to target audiences in ways traditional development approaches cannot do. Furthermore, video is a sufficiently empowering tool for stimulating dialogues and discussions in the same manner an advert would do in probing people to discuss and engage. In this regard, community radios, mainstream radios stations, community-visuals, posters and print materials continue to be used in the same way as in advertising in reaching out to large numbers of stakeholders or target audiences.

The need for communities to have continuous access to climate change information for adaptation in the changing climate is also the same way advertisers of brand products use to keep in touch with their customers and clients. Although it is critical that local communities and stakeholders should be interested in climate change issues, advertising through the use and integration of multimedia tools and visuals can save the required purpose in climate change engagements.

All in all, stakeholders in the advertising industry, should also include climate change in their communities of practice and make it relevant as a critical pillar of adaptation, awareness, education and training tool and compete for target audiences.

  • Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on:


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