Aspiring to join the Steve Jobs “crazy ones,” we must think different.
And that means turning negatives into opportunities. For example, if you are now eating nearly 100% plant-based, there is one question that you have heard more than all others combined. Where do you get your protein? Many plant-eaters consider this question an annoyance; but I prefer to see it as opportunity. How so?
Not too long ago, it dawned on me that the oft-heard protein question was based on the simple fact that the vast majority of people in the Western world truly believe that they need to eat animal protein in order to be healthy. And why shouldn’t they? It has been drilled into their brains since they were two years old.
But here’s the primary problem. Since everyone naturally assumes that we truly need to eat animal protein, many of the earth-saving, resource-saving and life-saving benefits of plant-based eating never even make it to the table for consideration. Even brilliant scientists who know that meat & dairy calories require up to twenty times more land, water and energy; never even consider suggesting that humankind stop eating animal-based foods. (See a short video of one of those brilliant thinkers at the end of this post)
Dispelling the Protein Myth. But once all those brilliant scientists, physicians and world leaders discover that they have been duped their entire lives about something so basic — they may very well channel their collective anger into a robust plan to correct the horrible damage that has resulted from a century of duping. Therefore, our top priority should be to dispel that protein myth — in a big way. I’m talking about leveraging the incredible power of our professional advertising industry to spread the word to our target demographic. Let’s begin that discussion with one of the tenets of advertising…
Effective Frequency. How many times must people hear a message before believing it? Or before changing their behavior? Of course, that depends on many things.
I began my quest for the answer to that question with a phone call to my daughter, Diana, who graduated cum laude in advertising from the University of Georgia in 2003. We talked about the advertising concept of “effective frequency.” There were several definitions listed in Wikipedia, but I am going to go with the first one; the one from the Advertising Glossary website:
Exposures to an advertising message required to achieve effective communication. Generally expressed as a range below which the exposure is inadequate and above which the exposure is considered wastage.
BusinessDictionary.com defined it as “an advertising theory that a consumer has to be exposed to an ad at least three times within a purchasing cycle (time between two consecutive purchases) to buy that product.” So let’s go with “three times” for this exercise of reaching a very large global target audience with a particular message.
- Target Audience: The wealthiest one billion people in the world over 18 years of age. (If we don’t go after the majority of the meat-eaters here, then the majority that we miss will just continue to believe that the rest of us have lost our minds.)
- The Message: “Despite popular opinion and many authoritative voices to the contrary, the simple truth is that humans do not “need” to eat animal protein in order to be healthy. The fact is that it is literally killing us and destroying our planet in the process.” My name is Bill Clinton and I approved this message.”
In my opinion, that is the single most important message that must be heard — and believed — in order to promote a much broader, and quicker, acceptance of a plant-based in the developed world. After writing a book last year and blogging on this topic for 265 consecutive days, I have concluded that this protein myth is our single biggest impediment to a fast-paced, world-wide adoption of a health-promoting and planet-saving diet of mostly whole plant-based foods.
Who delivers the message? We know that well over a billion people are currently eating the horribly wasteful, harmful and unsustainable typical Western diet. How much would it cost to reach ALL of them with the above message three times?
How much more likely are they to believe the message if it is delivered by a highly credible person who is well-known and respected throughout the world? Someone like President Bill Clinton? Just imagine the above message along with Clinton’s image on billboards, magazines, newspapers, televisions, websites, subways, buses, benches, twitter and Facebook. Just imagine. People everywhere would be talking about it and it would be on the international news every day — which is exactly what we want.
2-18-14 Update. This blog was first posted in October of 2011, long before Hillary was talking about running for president in 2016. We all know that she could not possibly win the election if Bill were our poster boy for plant-based eating. So, it would be someone else.
How much would that campaign cost? How many times would we need to reach each of those billion people before they took the message seriously? Before they believed it? How would we reach them and how much would the whole campaign cost? To answer those two questions, I consulted with a local friend who is a former senior executive of Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the world’s most prominent advertising agencies, with 140 offices in 80 countries and over 6,500 employees.
After reminding me of two of the most successful ads in history that only ran one time each, J. Michael Leahy explained the concept of “reach and frequency” and assured me that professional advertising people would know the most effective and economical method for reaching those billion people around the world with our message.
And they would be able to tell us how much that would cost. Of course, today we have the power of the internet with YouTube and social media to factor into the equation — none of which Thomas Smith had back in 1885…On a lighter note…Wikipedia offered this theory of effective frequency that he put forth in Successful Advertising in 1885:
- The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
- The second time, they don’t notice it.
- The third time, they are aware that it is there.
- The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
- The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
- The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
- The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
- The eighth time, they start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
- The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
- The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
- The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
- The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
- The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
- The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
- The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
- The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
- The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
- The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
- The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
- The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.
The Bottom Line. We know that the powerful message outlined above can have a world-changing impact if it reaches enough people. Despite the 20-message advertising model above, I am confident that we could get the process rolling nicely with far less — maybe just three times.
We wouldn’t expect (nor would we want) a majority of the people to shift over to plant-based eating right away, but we would expect to plant some seeds of change in the minds of millions of the world’s most powerful people.
Once those powerful people accept the fact that not only do we not need animal protein but that it is destroying both our health AND the health of the planet, it wouldn’t take that stellar group long before they recognize the staggering implications attributed to our extremely wasteful and harmful feeding model that we have chosen for ourselves in the developed world.
In short. Things would start moving much more rapidly toward plant-based, but not so fast that it causes a catastrophic global economic collapse in the near term.
The money. Let’s assume that the above ad campaign will cost $2 billion. So maybe our project should begin with getting some well-known deep pockets on board — noted philanthropists like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Ted Turner and others.
Given what’s at stake (and after realizing that we really don’t need animal protein), that $2 billion would be like pocket change to those guys. And they love to put their wealth to work on world-changing projects. To that point, compared to the potential global impact of this project, all of their previous efforts would pale in comparison.
Steve Jobs says we must “think differently” if we wish to change the world. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do here. But, before our most brilliant scholars and thinkers can think outside the box, we must re-define the “box” very clearly and make everyone acutely aware that the “protein myth” is a thing of the past. Otherwise we lose the power of such brilliant people, such as one of the world’s most influential thinkers…
Lester Brown. (not the one with the “band of renown,” but the noted author with over 50 books) the founder of WorldWatch Institute, Founder & President of the Earth Policy Institute, the recipient of 26 honorary degrees and a MacArthur Fellowship; Brown has been described by the Washington Post as “one of the world’s most influential thinkers.”
He recently drew high praise for his 2011 book, World On the Edge, from such notables as Bill Clinton and Ted Turner. He has done a magnificent job of describing our seemingly hopeless dilemma, but like so many other brilliant scholars, he has completely ignored the most powerful single move that we can make to get the world back on the right track. He mentions three billion additional people “moving up the food chain” in this 5-minute 2011 video but never even hints about the possibility of a global shift to the health-promoting and Earth-saving plant-based diet.
If interested, you may download his latest book, in its entirety, for free at the Earth Policy Institute. Here’s what one reader had to say about it:
“Lester Brown tells us how to build a more just world and save the planet…in a practical, straightforward way. We should all heed his advice.” —President Bill Clinton
Finally, in case you missed my “crazy ones” post earlier this week; As Jobs would say, “Let’s get crazy enough to change the world.”
Handy 5-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s latest book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes
- Dr. Campbell’s new book: WHOLE, Rethinking the Science of Nutrition
Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.
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