The science behind the Greta Thunberg effect and what businesses can learn from this
“I might feel a bit seasick and it’s not going to be comfortable,” says Greta Thunberg as she sets sail for the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.
Her zero-carbon yacht journey has attracted global attention as young and old alike pledge to “unite behind the science”.
But what makes the “Greta Thunberg effect” so powerful? And what can businesses learn from this?
The Greta Thunberg effect
The story cuts through the complexity of climate science with a simple message.
Don’t just protect our planet for future generations, protect it for us, the young people who are your children and grandchildren.
We can relate to these fears and the vague concept of ‘future generations’ suddenly seems real and urgent.
Using empathy to transform customer communications
At the Sustainable Results Lab, we use empathy to transform how clients communicate with customers.
This is not about being nice or sympathetic, it’s about putting your customers’ needs centre stage. Empathy is putting yourself in your clients’ shoes, walking to work with them and staying while they grapple with their challenges.
If you’re sceptical, here’s a summary of the science behind this.
When you visit the NHS organ donation website, you’re asked a simple question: “If you needed an organ transplant, would you have one?”
The choice of words is data-led.
A quantitative study by the UK Government’s Behavioural Insights Team tested what words were most effective at increasing donation levels with hundreds of thousands of people.
A clear pattern emerged.
Messaging that evoked empathy was proven to enhance engagement levels by people shown the organ donation website after renewing their vehicle tax.
So effective was this that researchers estimated it would result in an additional 96,000 people signing up to organ donation each year.
Using empathy to increase engagement is a powerful tool that works even if your offer is complex and technical.
Did you know that if you’re given a puzzle to solve it’s likely that your brain has solved it as much as 8 seconds before you have the conscious “aha!” moment?
Neuroscientists have shown that “95% of all thoughts, emotions and learning occur before we are aware of it”.
When it comes to making decisions, rational, conscious cognitive processes have a surprisingly small influence.
The neuroscientist António R. Damásio explains it as follows: “We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think.”
His research into the role emotions play in our decision-making processes is fascinating.
What this means for sales and marketing
This research should have a significant impact on how we communicate with customers.
“Although there are conscious and rational parts in most decisions, marketers need to focus first on appealing to buyers’ emotions and unconscious needs,” says Roger Dooley in Brainfluence: 100 ways to persuade and convince consumers with neuromarketing.
It’s not always bad to include factual details, as they will help the customer’s logical brain justify the decision – just don’t expect them to make the sale.
“I see so many environmental businesses with inspiring products and services, but they often struggle to translate the complexity into compelling messaging,” says Sustainable Results Lab founder Ruth Smith.
“The science of empathy is a powerful tool. We use it to transform how you communicate with customers, enabling you to engage more people and make more of a difference.”