DebateWant landscape conservation? Win the people.

Want landscape conservation? Win the people.

Reading time: 4:30 | An obvious equation but not easily be resolved. Let’s go check the carmakers.

When selling a product — and persuading people to support landscape conservation is selling a product — the product must be presented in its most convincing appearance, ideally triggering an irresistible I-want-it reflex. In the past, I’ve been involved in numerous media endeavours for the automotive industry and was an avid petrol head in my former life. Let’s see how the ever-successful automotive sector is doing this.

First, they sell you a good that many of us need and appreciate: individual mobility. What’s more, they early on understood that individual mobility is a synonym for freedom. Most car commercials deal in one way or another with freedom. Car equals freedom is the deeply learned equation every kid knows. Lately, this equation is somewhat in tatters; young people tend to care less about cars than the previous generations (perhaps freedom isn’t a good selling proposition for them, or they are smart enough to debunk such a claim).

Second, they sell status. Owning the right car can elevate your status in whatever direction. In terms of the status level, there’s no end on the ladder. Even super-rich Saudi Princes rely on cars to display their wealth.

Third, they obscure astonishing successfully the downsides of owning and using cars.

The first two objectives are promoted by the industry’s public relation activities and buyers’ word of mouth. Thus, the carmakers’ promises must be broadly met because those will be challenged by the customers and their shared experiences. However, since the personal investment into a car is considerably high, the barrier to admit and communicate deal-breaking flaws is high, too (the industry knows that).

Let’s take a look at the PR side.

Besides advertisements and other sales activities, the car industry has a strong relationship to the press that is fostered as much a possible. They know how unparalleled valuably PR is.

When your target group is car die-hards, this seems to be an easy task. You can easily sell them everything car-related, from tyre-kicking to test-driving and potentially selling them the most exciting cars. Successful car tabloids are doing precisely this. They publish articles dealing with target group-optimised niche topics, in-depth car tests, and a classified section where readers can purchase their dream car.

However, when your target group is the regular user, the task can be more challenging. Especially if the potential customer isn’t looking for a new toy but for a problem-solving product. Here, status, driving pleasure and proclaimed freedom as selling points won’t cut it. Virtues such as energy consumption, practicability and price are more in the customer’s focus. However, gain in status (or avoiding a wrong status for that matter) and a pleasurable driving experience might be a welcome extra benefit.

What does all that have to do with landscape conservation? As you have guessed, when describing the carmakers approach to marketing, I’ve been equally talking about landscape conservation and its consumers. But to make things clearer lets compare both markets.

Like individual mobility, landscape conservation in society is often not thought of as a must-have but welcome addition to our lives with many advantages. Like cars, landscape conservation can be an expensive investment and needs to fulfil meaningful purposes to be justified for rational decision-makers. Like cars, landscape conservation sells ideals too. Individual freedom isn’t one of them, but valuing nature (or god’s creation if you are religious) and its precious inhabitants is undoubtedly one. Hence, nature and landscape conservation play a role in society for more than a hundred years. But in the last decade, more benefits have been emerging that are bringing landscape conservation into a new focus, such as advancing society’s health and absorbing climate-warming carbon-dioxide trough restored landscapes.

What car tabloids are to petrol heads is the nature conservation press to the environmentalist — an easy sell. With regular people, politicians, and governments, it can be a challenging, close to impossible sell to assign landscapes to new rules that benefit flora and fauna but may curtail farmers and other stakeholders’ interest. Like the automotive industry, we have to sell convincing arguments to advance landscape conservation. And like the car builders, we have to do that on different scales matching the client needs. It’s better to sell a little car that can’t drive past 80 km/h instead of selling no vehicle. The same applies to landscape conservation. Better to have some landscape conservation than no landscape conservation at all. Later on in the process, we could saddle up, if wished. And lastly, like the carmakers, we should obscure downsides as much as possible. Sounds unethical? Let’s not be leftist liberal dicks for a moment; let’s follow the capitalist playbook.

What are the selling points of landscape conservation? What do people gain when the familiar landscape at their doorstep comes under new rules and becomes a protected area for flora and fauna?

Typically, the answers are these: we need landscape conservation; otherwise, animal extinction proceeds in an unconceivable catastrophe. We need landscape conservation; otherwise, the destruction of nature will go on non-stop. We need landscape conservation; otherwise, the climate target won’t be reached with all the dire consequences.

To further the analogy to the car industry, in their terms, it would sound like that: you need a car; otherwise, you will become a narrow-minded, lone soul stuck at home missing out the outside world. You need a car; otherwise, you are not exercising your right to be a free man. You need a car; otherwise, you are not having the fun you are entitled to have.

Suffice to say that such statements would never be part of a car salesman’s language. In auto-land, marketeers see things only positively and would never threaten their potential customers with negative messages. But environmentalists tend to do that all the time. No wonder; the stakes are as high as they never have been before. And, to their defence, they don’t participate financially in sales.

But as stakes are so high, we should take sales more seriously and stop scaring people away with a prospect of a doomed future. Perhaps these could be our selling points (in no particular order):

  • Landscape conservation promotes a sound environment and clean groundwater altogether paying significantly into our health.
  • Landscape conservation is a vital component to preserve a life-friendly climate.
  • Landscape conservation brings back our precious friends: lovely birds, rare mammals and cute amphibians.
  • Landscape conservation cultivates our landscapes’ unique beauty, improving the municipality’s status and ensuring prosperity.

Who would want to resist that?