Climate Tech's Story Opportunity (Part 1): Story Quadrants
How to Solve Climate Tech's Top-of-Funnel Problem.
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Climate Tech’s Story Opportunity (Part 1): Story Quadrants
By Art Lapinsch
Usually, my ideas are stupid, but this time, it seemed that something resonated.
When conference attendees asked me what I was working on, I responded with a question:
“Where’s Top Gun for Climate?”
After walking them through my rationale, everyone’s reaction was the same:
All of them said “We need that!” and then, all of them stared into the abyss 👁️👁️
Interpreting this as a positive signal, I decided to expand on this idea. This essay is part of a larger series about story telling in the context of climate (tech).
Let’s do this 👇
Where Is “Top Gun for Climate”?
Watching Top Gun Maverick left me elated and thinking.
Last year, I wrote this note:
Holy smokes, this was f*cking awesome! It’s a hell of an action movie.
All the fighter jet scenes were shot in real-life. No CGI, only raw cockpit footage. And oh boy, can you tell.
It’s not the story they tell. It’s how the story makes you feel.
Most importantly, it is an emotional spectacle. Something happened in my body. It must have been some serious hormone release.
But what the hell, it’s just a movie. Right?
Anecdotally, I’ve read that the original Top Gun movie resulted in a 500% increase in recruitment numbers for naval aviation at the US Navy.
So what is Top Gun?
It is a gateway drug into a profession.
If you haven’t seen the movie or want to relive the epic-ness, just watch this trailer:
My personal experience combined with the quantitative impact on Navy’s recruitment numbers left me thinking.
If it works for naval aviation, why wouldn’t this work for climate-related professions?
Hence, the question: Where is Top Gun for Climate?
What’s the Problem We Are Trying to Solve?
Having served a decade in adtech, my instinct is to explain this in terms of a funnel.
Think of your typical funnel where you pour water. Wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Similarly, in marketing we use this analogy to describe the journey of your audience from top to bottom. Many enter at the top and the further down you go the fewer people stay in the funnel.
We can think of a person’s climate journey in three steps:
🤷♂️ Top-of-Funnel (ToFu - Climate Oblivious): Someone who is not aware of climate tech → the goal is to grab their attention.
🧐 Middle-of-Funnel (MiFu - Climate Curious): Someone who is interested but doesn’t act on it yet → the goal is to generate a desire to do something.
💪 Bottom-of-Funnel (BoFu - Climate Active): Someone who is ready to act → the goal is to support them as much as possible.
From where I stand, we are catering quite well to #2 and #3 but there’s a whole lot of nothing for #1.
Middle-of-Funnel: Up-skilling the Believers
Climate-focused communities like MyClimateJourney help people to connect with likeminded peers. The main benefit is in creating a journey group and increasing the “stickiness”. People stay interested in climate because their buddies do as well.
Luckily, many bright minds dedicate their spare hours to think and write about climate-related topics. Those are educators who are one step ahead in the journey. They share what they learn.
People prefer learning from guides (one step ahead) rather than from gurus (many steps ahead).
Bottom-of-Funnel: Supporting the Doers
Some people decide that they can no longer sit idle on the sidelines. They need help. Funding, talent, operational expertise, services, etc.
The Drop climate conference is one such example where builders, capital allocators, and everyone in between gets the opportunity to connect, support, and amplify.
Top-of-Funnel: Opening the Floodgates
In terms of a marketing funnel, someone could say that we have steps #2 and #3 figured out (roughly speaking).
What’s missing is the high amount of people entering at the top. We have a Top-of-Funnel problem. It is dry.
As a result, we should ask:
How can we open the space to more people?
How do we grab their attention?
How do we get them to care?
How do we convince them to explore?
How do we get them to enter Wonderland?
We have to be this guy 👇
Solving the Numbers Game
People who are not in climate tech have a vastly different view of climate tech than the people working in it.
What they see is not what we see.
I am convinced that climate tech is a win-win-win industry.
We are not selling cigarettes. We are not selling bullshit solutions (… if you do that knowingly, pivot or go to hell!).
We are in the business of unf*cking our planet.
I can say with good conscience that the goal is to introduce people to the magic of climate tech.
Coming Up With a Plan 📋
In any marketing department, you’d have to come up with a plan:
👨👩👧👦 Audience: People who are climate (tech) oblivious.
🎯 Objective: Increase the number of climate (tech) curious people.
🏃 Action: Audience takes some sort of climate-positive action (e.g. start learning/researching; browse climate jobs; etc.)
💡 Belief: “I want to be part of the solution.” *
*if there’s interest, I will write about copywriting techniques with emotional objectives/triggers. Just reach out and let me know.
With these corner stones in mind, we can start thinking about messages.
Climate Tech’s Story Quadrants
If it's a good story, it leaves you with resonances. - Chris Nolan
The resonance we want to achieve is a positive attitude: The desire to act on climate.
Climate stories can be divided into four quadrants:
Scary Non-Fiction: An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore’s masterpiece is a prime example. Legendary VC John Doerr said publicly that it kicked him into action.
Scary Fiction: The Day After Tomorrow. Not sure who is motivated by this but hey… Whatever floats your boat.
Awesome Non-Fiction: AlphaGo was an inspiring example in the data/computer science space. Director Greg Kohs is a masterful storyteller and I’ll try to interview him for one of the upcoming essays. My hypothesis is that it inspired a whole lot of people to go into computer science and machine learning.
Awesome Fiction: Top Gun for Climate. Where is it? Don’t Look Up missed the mark. Maybe the Climate Film Festival has some answers. We’ll be on the lookout 👀
In the coming two essays, I will tackle:
🤖 AlphaGo for Climate → What could awesome non-fiction look like for our industry
🛫 Top Gun for Climate → What could awesome fiction look like for our industry
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Navy Climate Race
Let’s tie it back to Top Gun.
Not everyone who signed up to the Navy became a fighter pilot.
But at least it opened the doors for a new generation of talent to care about a profession, a problem space, and a story they haven’t considered before watching the movie.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we can do the same for climate?
Not everyone who will be exposed to inspiring climate art will become the Green Rockefeller. But maybe they will become an energy/climate lawyer, an energy trader, or any of the thousands of needed professions in this space.
Our task is to inspire talent to join the greatest journey of our generation: Our Race to Net Zero.
The ingredients are all around us:
🦾 Technology: Solutions that are indistinguishable from magic.
🍋 Opportunity: A market that makes amazon.com look like a lemonade stand.
🙌 Community: Smart and well-intentioned people trying to unf*ck the planet.
How will we do that?
Whether non-ficition or fiction, I don’t care. But let it be awesome.
Everything has been said but nobody was listening. - Kevin Kelly
🙏 Thanks, Sara, Leone, Ben, Pauliina, Tommy, Chris, Foivos, Javi, Philipp, Berkay, Skander, Gyri, Marc, Joel, Heidi, Hampus, Rickard, Eirini, Gnievomir, Yoann, Adam, Amos, Niklas, Stella, and Finn for inspiring and discussing.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider forwarding it to a friend who wants to get started with climate 🌳
If you have feedback/ideas/critique/etc., please get in touch and let’s talk.
Trying the poll feature 👀
Here’s a glimpse at my brainstorming process for this piece: