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Thinking tiny

November 28 2007 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim

I was just walking through a parking lot, looked up and saw these two stickers... The message mix is absolutely classic... a rude, direct, holier-than-thou sticker with the literal message "Plants and Animals disappear to make room for your fat ass" next to an "All I do is surf" sticker. So... the combined message is something like; "you're killing the planet (but I'm not)... and what do I do?... all I do is surf". What I love about this... 1. The stickers have stopping power. They have hooks. I walked back three times to look at them, then I ended up taking this picture of them. 2. Edge. Sometimes you need to go past the logical point of an argument to make your point. I don't have a problem with edgy marketing... but when it starts leaning on personal attacks over creative wordsmithing I usually find myself pushed away rather than brought closer (it doesnt' take much intellect to insult someone...) What I hate about this... 1. It's funny, but to who? I'd argue it's funny to people who a) see themselves as engaged in some way with the environment (thus wouldn't see the blue "Plants... " sticker as talking to them, it's talking to "others" and b) are surfers. 2. It's exclusionary. By our estimation, the intersection of these two groups (active surfers and environmentalists) isn't huge. It doesn't have girth, presence or inferred power that other organizations have... such as the NRA... sure, it's a growing group and we're stoked about that growth... but it's still quite small. This kind of sticker combo illustrates why it's small. 3. It's small minded. Net net, it's a tiny group essentially suggesting they are right and everyone else is wrong. Um, that combo is usually a) funny and b) sad. Interestingly enough (and not captured in the photo) is the fact that someone else had written "Kook" in huge letters on the rear-window glass... Kook is a term that is also somewhat of an insider term... thus proving (at least to me) that surfers as a group aren't on this page... also if you look closely at the "Plants..." sticker you can see that people have had a strong enough reaction to this sticker to push them to try and peel it off. It certainly creates some tension. If we, that group of "insiders" want our group to stay tiny... this mindset is right on, it's an excellent strategy to be the Yugo of the environmental movement; small, ineffective and on fire (but not in the good "on fire" way). On the other hand... if we want to create a movement where people feel like they can plug in, feel like they belong in some way, feel like they have a place to "start" with environmentally-friendly habits... then this approach is quite limiting, it's a massive governor on our Strategic Plan. I'm guessing you're thinking "it's a joke, lighten up" (I thought that myself) but then I remembered all the work our activists are doing day-in and day-out to reach out to new audiences to engage them in this movement. This discounts real work... done by people that do more than "all I do is surf". We want onramps to our movement. This approach is an offramp. This sticker combo is, dare I say, selfish, ignorant and exclusionary. The holier-than-thou approach pushes people away more than it hooks them to be come aware/involved. No one's carbon footprint is zero (besides perhaps our own Mark Babski). Let's reach out. Let's bring people IN rather than push them away. Let's not push people out of the room, let's build a big tent that everyone can participate in. PS. I included the link to the "Plants..." sticker simply to illustrate it IS a real sticker
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