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The Greta Effect: 4 Marketing Lessons From Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg.

Is there anyone more famous in the world of climate change than the 18 year old activist?

That was a rhetorical question. And the answer is no.

From lone school strike outside the Swedish parliament to de facto leader of a global movement, Greta Thunberg is now a household name.

Nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Time magazine's youngest ever Person of the Year.

Even the political impact she's been having on the world stage has been given a name: the "Greta Thunberg Effect."

The question is...

What does an 18-year-old Swedish climate change activist have to do with running a successful business?

1. You need grit

No, not the stony kind.

Angela Duckworth - who literally wrote the book on grit - found that more than intelligence and talent, grit is the biggest predictor of long-term success in nearly every realm of life. She defines it as:

The combination of perseverance and passion towards a long-term, meaningful goal.

It's the ability to keep doing something even when obstacles get in the way. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.

It's also about having an unwavering, internal commitment to that goal, where you stay committed to something for days, weeks, months or years, even if it's difficult or boring.

Greta is a great example.

Long before the international media and global attention came, when only 15-years-old, Thunberg skipped school for three weeks in the lead up to the Swedish election, and sat outside the Swedish parliament protesting the government's inaction over climate change.

Even after returning to school, she continued taking Fridays off to continue her protest for climate change.

The point?

Greta never gave up. Even when she was alone, when no one was listening to her, when her classmates refused to join her, she was not discouraged. Because she had an unwavering commitment to a long-term, meaningful goal - in this case, her very future on this planet.

2. Being different matters.

Ask yourself this.

How is your business standing out from the competition?

Usually when it comes to developing a marketing strategy, the plan goes something like this:

  • Research your competitors.
  • Analyse what they're doing.
  • Come up with a plan to do the same thing they're doing, with one caveat...
  • Do it BETTER.

The problem with this?

By following the crowd, you will go no further than it.

And look, I get it. Being different is scary as hell. We're not hardwired to stand out. Most of us have spent the majority of our lives trying desperately NOT to be different, to fit in with the crowd.

But the very best products and services are highly differentiated from all other products and services. And not just different for the sake of being different. But in a meaningful way.

Greta gets this. Her calls to action were directed at fellow teenagers and school children around the world, not to those in power. Her words are carefully chosen, with lots of uses of "us" and "we".

She started a #fridaysforfuture hashtag so other young activists could participate in school strikes. All of this fostered a sense of community, a sense of meaning, that they are all in this together.

Today, Fridays For Future is a movement of over 14 million activists in 7,500 cities around the world. And it all started with that single hashtag.

3. The power of voice.

Ever seen one of Greta's speeches?

Watch this 👇

Impassioned, direct and powerful.

How can anybody not be moved by that righteous fury?

That's exactly what developing a powerful brand voice can do for you.

I'm not saying you have to tremble with rage or brim with tears every time you sit down to write an email, article or social post.

But a strong tone of voice will:

  • Make your brand more memorable.
  • Make people listen to you.
  • And most importantly, move people to take action.

The problem is that for most marketers, tone of voice is nothing more than a footnote in their marketing strategy. Yet in the words of Doug Kessler, Creative Director at Velocity Partners...

Tone of voice is the single biggest opportunity facing every marketer...A clear, compelling voice will multiply the impact of your marketing.

So how about reshuffling your priority list for the new year? Focus on developing your brand voice to amplify your impact and start a movement of your own.

4. Be honest.

Honesty in marketing is easily overlooked. Or deliberately smothered. But it can set your company apart in ways you never thought possible.

It's one of the reasons Greta stands out. She's 100% honest. Her direct and no-nonsense approach is a breath of fresh air. When she speaks to politicians and calls them out for "behaving like children," for making excuses, for never doing enough, it demonstrates one simple thing.

She cares.

This resonates with people. Big time. In fact, there are a bunch of reasons why honesty in marketing works:

  1. It's surprising.
  2. It's refreshing.
  3. It signals confidence.
  4. It builds trust.

All of the above amounts to a powerful cocktail of marketing that will help you stand out, make your marketing less like marketing, and attract people to you or your brand like a magnetic force.


If Greta can do it, so can you. Just remember these four points as you look to kickstart your own brand movement:

  • You need grit.
  • Be different.
  • Voice matters.
  • Be honest.

As Greta herself says, "I have learned you are never too small to make a difference."

Neither are you.

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