This is such a great article that I wanted to reprint it here. Bolding is my own.
Posted on 2010/08/06 by Know Thank You
As vegans we tend to focus on a short list of things that get us really excited: great food that doesn’t have some horrible ingredient, politicians or scientific reports or movies that support our choices, cool clothing with a message we like, there’s all kinds of things that get our hearts pounding and our keyboards melting. And it’s great, because the vegan cookies and the factory farm movies and the Nail The Vivisectors t-shirts will be embraced by all of us. By all of our little 1% of the population.
So much of what we produce, what we wear, what we write, and say, and do, separates veganism from what everyone else is doing. And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it, but it also creates an “us against them” atmosphere that’s not always welcoming to everybody else. And what we really want to do is bring everybody else here, isn’t it? A lot of the time though we come across as preachy and judgmental. While everyone else is out there trying their best to ignore the terrible realities, there we go shoving it in their faces. Even if we have our facts right (and let’s face it, we do), not everyone else shares our morals. They are entitled to their own, even if we disagree with them. And a lot of the time, our in-your-face tactics turn people off. Rather than inform them, they get defensive, they ignore us, and our whole message is lost. The public often perceives us as being anti-establishment, and as opposing a lot of the things that they hold dear.
What we need to do is show the public that vegans aren’t anti-establishment, we’re pro-establishment! We love the establishment, because we love the public. We’re the public too! We love for the public to get what they want, and we love the companies that produce those things. Remember, every vegan business you can think of, without exception, operates within the laws and practices of modern business. Vegan businesses use those laws and practices to provide compassionate products and services to us and other people around the globe. We can’t possibly afford to be anti-establishment; we need to give vegan businesses all the support we can, so they can grow and show the rest of the establishment how it should be done. If we stop being anti-establishment, vegans can start being the leaders of positive change within the establishment.
So if a lot of vegan products, vegan films, vegan writing, and more make us appear separate from the rest of the world, how do we get back in? Back to where we all came from so we can talk to people there and bring them out? Basically, how do we get our message of compassion to the other 99% of America? How do we appeal to mainstream consumers – like us?
This used to be easy. Years ago the majority of American households were white, suburban, 2.4 rug rats, and got most of their news from the TV set. If we still had one type of audience now we could figure out pretty easily how to appeal to them. But that stereotypical American family began to change a few decades ago, and there’s no longer any average American household or average American consumer. The buying public now includes a much wider variety of ethnic groups, ages, professions, family situations, and other criteria that all impact the choices people make. What we want is for everyone to choose compassion, environment, and health, but unfortunately, the vast majority of people aren’t looking for these things.
When most consumers shop for window cleaning fluid, they just look at price and grab what’s on sale in the store. Occasionally they’ll have a brand preference. They don’t consider the hazardous chemicals, or the plastic bottle, or the fact that they could simply use vinegar instead and save even more money. The consumer wants to save money and doesn’t want to have to think about it.
When most consumers shop for bread, they usually pick a brand they prefer because they like the combination of price and flavor. There may be other brands with better flavor, but they often won’t buy them unless they’re on sale. The ingredients are almost never checked. They stick with a brand they know, despite any negative impact the production or consumption may have.
I’m vastly simplifying this, but you get the point. If you want to sell a vegan product to a random person who’s not vegan, you are likely to have greater success by highlighting qualities of the product that he or she can most relate to. If you’re selling window cleaner, try some alternate ads highlighting the wonderful scent, sparkle, or offering a special low price. If you’re selling vegan bread, try some alternate ads highlighting the wonderful flavor, freshness, or offering a special low price. Speak in terms they understand.
Remember the things that draw most people to veganism? Compassion, environment, and health. For many years we have shown a vegan lifestyle as a very effective way to both attain positive results in each of these areas and to address related chronic problems. The big stumbling block is that nearly 100% of our outreach hasn’t shown that we are successfully attaining positive results – we’re healthier, we recycle, we rescue etc etc – our outreach has instead highlighted that we vegans are locked in a fight with all the related chronic problems. Your average consumer isn’t looking for a fight. He doesn’t want to stand up to corporations. He doesn’t want to read labels. He doesn’t want to boycott. He doesn’t want to protest. He doesn’t want to hand out leaflets. He wants things easy. He doesn’t even want to have to think. Being explained very clearly that something is total nonsense and even life-threatening doesn’t stop people from doing it, in fact that can actually propel some people to make that choice. After years of campaigning and government warnings, people still start smoking each day and smoking related deaths continue. Despite how remarkably stupid they are, the senselessly violent stunts in films like Jackass are reproduced by people, and each year people die in the process. It seems as though people actually avoid knowledge, as if it’s too much work, and our media perpetuates this. Any television news program, once advertising, entertainment, opinion, and chit-chat have been removed, leaves very few – if any – facts for us to have to bother with. Mainstream consumers aren’t being informed; they’re being encouraged how to think.
Look at the advertising on television now and really cut it apart. You’ll find that most ads don’t tell us much about the product at all. Instead, they try to tell us about the people that use the product. We are meant to identify with those people or desire to be one of those people, and we can be! All we have to do is buy the product. Once again, the ads don’t inform, they create desire. What we need to do then is a better job of making veganism desirable. We all know that each and every one of us is healthier, is kinder to the environment, and just by choosing a vegan diet we save dozens of lives every year. Those are the kinds of messages that mainstream consumers are more accustomed to. Keeping things simple, positive, “new and improved,” and desirable: that’s the kind of message that drives decisions.
There will ALWAYS be a place for the hard-hitting exposure that some hard-working vegans give to abusive corporations and individuals. That type of abuse should not exist, and exposing it helps to bring about change. To be most effective changing the lives of mainstream America though we can learn something from the mass media that’s already doing so: do less informing of people, and more creating desire in people. “Give the customer what they want” is an overwhelmingly obvious rule of marketing. We tend to ignore that and instead put all our efforts into giving the customer what we want them to see and hear. That’s something like adults sending the kids to math class rather than healthy, compassionate people sharing their successes. Let’s tweak what we’re putting out there – sell our product a little better – and we’ll likely find more people will buy it.
Back to me> I think the information is important but also showing that I can cook, and cook great delicious easy meals is part of how I try to showcase being vegan. That there are other options.
How else can we help show this is the desirable way to live?