If we’re reading the gossip mags correctly, it appears that James Bond actor Daniel Craig took his one-month-old daughter out for a walk in a baby carrier. Piers Morgan wasn’t impressed to see 007 out with a papoose and bemoaned the photo of an “emasculated Bond.”
Yes Piers, how dare he make use of parenting tools that are convenient and make a parent's job easier. He really should be stubbornly attempting to do everything the hard way so as not to appear weak. You got some serious issues dude. Get help.
Imagine that. An actor actually being a real person and not the character they are playing. Imagine that an actor being a father. Imagine that trying to find out your point and failing because their isn’t one.
A man who cares for their kid and takes on responsibilities is one to be celebrated. Those things are life savers for people who want to get stuff done and care for their kid. Overall just a bad take Piers.
When you want to explore cultural relevance of strategic ideas, creative concepts, brand narratives, stories or innovation territories and how they tap into the cultural zeitgeist, the mood of the now, semiotics is in my opinion by far the best way to approach such research.
What Is Semiotics?
The name ‘semiotics’ comes from the Greek, ‘semei-’, meaning a sign. Semiotics can be naturally defined as ‘the science of signs’. However, as broad as it sounds, this doesn’t do semiotics justice. Since creation and production of meaning in culture via communication is something so inherently human, semiotics as the ultimate science of signs is also inherently human. This means that it can quite easily mean various things to various people depending on how they use it.
Three Different Definitions
For the general public, semiotics is the unconscious cultural technique we all use every day to distill, create and find meaning in the world around us, and as such make our existence in this world a meaningful one. We all use semiotic systems unconsciously to code our speech (native language) to express ourselves. We use it to dress ourselves in the morning and accessorize (construct our own identity via the semiotic system of fashion) based on how we feel on that particular day. We use semiotics to make choices of what we’re going to eat in a restaurant determining how we order (matching the offerings of the restaurant’s menu with the symptomatic function of our tastes and assigning them meaning). We use semiotics when we’re commuting to work driving a car and stopping on the traffic lights (pairing the universal signals of red, orange and green colors with the meanings of stop, get ready and go). We do all of this every day in a blink of an eye, and yet we don’t call ourselves semioticians. But we all are semioticians in a way, we just do all this symbolic labor unconsciously as a part of our cultural programming – the operation system we’re immersed in as a part of living in society.
For trained semioticians, semiotics is the study of how meaning is produced and consumed in our culture and society. Semioticians can read codes and signs consciously unlike their ‘mere mortal’ counterparts. They are able to do it because they are equipped with techniques of cultural translation. This means that semioticians have developed an in-depth understanding of associations between cultural codes, brand signs and their meanings and are able to detach themselves from their immediate cultural surroundings into a role of an active observer, yet remain partially immersed to properly interpret what things mean. Some codes can have different meanings in different cultures. This is why it’s always important for semioticians to be locally encultured to secure the cultural relevance when consulting on a project across more regional markets.
For marketers and researchers, semiotics often represents the missing half of insight in their brand-consumer equation. As consumers’ identities are to a large extent formed by culture, consumers cannot always tell us what brand, product, service, concept or idea they prefer and why simply because they are not consciously aware of these reasons. That is why we shouldn’t ask them directly but rather ask the culture first and then frame what the respondents have told us within the cultural framework we have extracted. Brands only make sense when both parts of the insight – consumer insight and cultural insight – are present. Consumer insight is just one half of the puzzle. Without the cultural part, marketers can spend a whole life figuring out why consumers responded the way they did and what it meant without understanding the whole picture. That’s why consumer insights are often so fragile; they lack the cultural basis that anchors them in the real world and makes brands relevant.
How Do We Apply Semiotics To Brands?
No brand is an island. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, although marketers often mistakenly manage their brands as if they were islands unrelated to the physical and cultural environments of their customers.
Every brand lives in a broader context: it is surrounded by other brands in the same or similar category, other categories on the market, communication discourse and local forms of expressions, and in a larger sense also by the global marketing discourse, its globalized forms of expression and values the global culture promotes. This is why to truly understand the meanings of your brand and its consumer perception; we need to study your brand in context.
Three Key Contexts Of Your Brand
As semioticians, we look at three most fundamental contexts of a brand. Not all of them need to be studied at the same time, although it’s advised to give your brand a complexity of perception. We can equally choose only those contexts, in which your brand needs are most pressing.
1. Brand Context: First, there is the brand context. It is the symbolic layer closest to your brand, but takes into account more than solely the brand itself, which is unfortunately how the majority of brands are still managed today. We do not look directly at the brand, but rather behind or around it – at the layer of meanings associated with the brand and its core assets. By putting your brand in the immediate context of its communication, consumer perception and creative visuals, we can track the codes of your brand in time and look for hidden connections that would otherwise remain hidden.
We look at the immediate context of your brand, the communication, messaging, images and core assets it has created historically. We explore the dominant brand codes, evolving trends in the settings and storytelling, the brand’s tonality and tone of voice. We are interested in the kind of people present in your brand materials and past campaigns, what they’re saying, how they’re saying it and what they embody on the higher symbolic and ideological level. We want to understand what these brand stories and the way that they’re framed signal about the larger context of the culture and society today as we see it, live in it and experience it every day.
The brand context overview ensures a strategic coherence of your brand. It means that the brand will be portraying accurate codes in an accurate way that is relevant to the brand essence. When the brand meaning is coherent, future activities planned around your brand will much more consistent, and thus more effective. The inner meaning will function as a shield to protect your brand from possible fragmentation of perception in the future.
2. Category Context: Secondly, there is the category context. This is the layer encompassing not only your brand and its communication and marketing activities, but also the communication and marketing activities of your competitors. Together, your brand and brands of your competitors create a system of expressions, values and dominant messages that define the look and feel of your market category or your industry.
Let’s say we are exploring the category of a banking brand. In the banking category, we would look at the entire landscape of all other major banking brands, the key competitors, as well as the newcomers in the category, with the aim to explore and understand the dominant narrative of the category and how the language and iconicity is evolving in our society and the particular market in question when it comes to our representation of banking and finances, our thinking about money and what the money signifies.
The category context overview helps ensure a competitive distinctiveness of your brand within a particular market category. Having the category context explored helps you to better imagine the context, in which your customers absorb your communication, branding and packaging because it embeds the brand in its natural habitat. Monitoring dominant, emergent and residual codes also allows us to detect whether the category is stagnating, or attracting new consumer interest, which will determine the kind of narrative you need to craft.
3. Cultural Context: The third layer of your brand is the cultural context. When exploring culture, we look at its current dynamics, dominant codes, new emerging meanings and residual narratives, which help us conceptualize the symbolic trajectory in which the culture evolves, moves and gains momentum across different regional markets at a different pace in time. We are interested in the cultural and ideological landscape of branding and the larger implications of history, politics, economics and our society with regards to your brand and the category or industry it operates in.
The cultural context overview helps ensure and strengthen a cultural relevance of your brand due to exploring the cues in popular culture, lifestyle trends, or cultural specifics of any local market. This practice helps you adapt global content to a local mindset and also vice versa find universal principles for global expansion to build strong brands that are locally relevant.
Thanks to analyzing the trends emerging in our culture today, we can also gather unseen inspiration and equip your brand to resonate culturally in the future. In this sense, semioticians are kind of cultural surgeons or cultural architects. They dissect the right codes to heal the brand, where necessary, but also rebuild the insides of your brand – its meaning – to better fit the cultural specifics of the concrete regional markets you’re active in.
Why Use Semiotics In Marketing?
The truth is that the world of marketing is undergoing some rapid changes today. Thanks to the major shifts in both style of communication and distribution of technology globally, we are experiencing a significant transformation to the nature of people’s consumption.
Consumer drivers are changing. People no longer consume brands purely for the projection of their own aspiration or for escapism as they were in the past. The latest studies show a significant increase in people’s desire to consume goods in order to create, creatively mix and enhance their personal identities.
People don’t consume brands, but what they represent – their meanings. This means the symbolic representation of their own needs, wants and desires to signify what’s important to them internally (value systems, integrity, identity) as well as projected towards others (status, social valorization etc.).
The intangible is quickly becoming the new tangible in marketing. The whole idea of shifting perspective from the obvious and tangible (products and services) to the ephemeral and intangible (signs and meanings) will be one of the most fundamental changes in the future of marketing.
Therefore, the primary task of brand leaders and marketers today is to offer their customers relevant meanings rooted in the world that they live in and can identify with on a personal, emotional and cultural level. This multidimensional view of brands as the ‘cultural systems of value’ opens up a whole new window to brands being managed on the basis of their meaning. This also means that semiotics and cultural strategy need to gain a more central and prominent role as the new core practices of brand management.
The undoubtful advantage of semiotics is its ability to dig deeper under the surface and go beyond the limitations of traditional consumer research. Thanks to exploring the many valuable contexts of your brand, semiotics helps explain why consumers think what they think or why they do what they do. It’s because these answers aren’t contained in consumers’ heads, they are rooted in culture which has conditioned us to think the way we do and see as a given.
There is no other research method available today that can do the same. Semiotics is in this sense absolutely unique. And if there is a method so powerful that it can do something like this, we’d be foolish not to take advantage of it. Or at least learn more about what makes it so valuable in the first place.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Dr. Martina Olbertova, founder and chief executive at Meaning.Global.
Crafting successful ad copy can make search marketers’ blood run cold. Check out these hair-raising Halloween PPC ads to inspire your next holiday campaign.
The process of crafting successful ad copy can make even the most experienced search marketer’s blood run cold. Luckily, we had our eyes peeled for the most hair-raising Halloween paid search ads to get your imagination boiling and bubbling for your next holiday campaign.
Did You Hear That?
The sound of a million fingers typing the same keywords over and over and over and…
Taking advantage of huge spikes in search volume during holidays is a no-brainer for anyone running PPC campaigns in certain industries. Just look at this Google Trends chart on the lead up to Halloween:
The process of building successful ad copy is a blend of art and science that can have a significant impact on the ROI of your paid marketing efforts. Taking advantage of proven techniques like playing off scarcity, leaning into your brand’s weaknesses, leveraging buyer pain points, speaking empathetically to your audience in a natural way, optimizing your ad copy to target the right part of the buyer funnel, and not being overly creative can make or break a time-sensitive holiday campaign.
Let’s check out some examples of a few Halloween ads that sent shivers down our spine. Hopefully they don’t come back to haunt us..
Playing Off Scare-city
FOMO (the fear of missing out) is a strong driver for many people. If potential customers are informed that this deal isn’t going to last much longer, they might be more compelled to click (and buy) right away. Some examples of scarcity in ad copy could be ‘1 day only sale’ or ‘act fast, deal ends soon’.
Dress the Pawt
In a great example of scarcity, Baxter Boo encourages all dog owners to get a little something for Fido this Halloween – but the deal ends soon, so don’t delay! Bonus points for use of compelling ad extensions and a clear, easy to remember coupon code.
We’re Not Making This Up
Amazon PPC ads tend to be fairly basic, but this one for Rimmel caught our eye. The ‘limited edition’ collection of makeup products means customers will have to shop soon in order to get the look they’re hoping for on Halloween.
Leaving Nothing Left to the Imagination
Morphsuits stepped up their scarcity game with this Facebook ad advertising a one day only sale for 10% off their skin tight one piece suits/costumes. Complete with not one, not two, but four fire emojis, anyone viewing this add new this fire sale wouldn’t last long.
Our Weakness is Our Strength
Every brand or product has a weakness, and usually consumers are more than aware of that weakness. But in an age where authenticity and transparency are king, people appreciate brands that address and ‘lean in’ to their perceived weaknesses. Finding that opening and using it to your advantage can result in campaign successes.
A Shortcut to the Stomach
Pillsbury knows they are no gourmet foodie brand, and they own it. They aren’t going after the Martha Stewarts of the Halloween world, they’re speaking to everyday people who only have a few minutes to get the snacks ready between pumpkin carving, costume emergencies, and candy shortages.
Don’t Bite the Second Hand that Feeds You
Value Village is a second hand/thrift store that leans into what some people may feel are weaknesses. Charity case? Try ‘Good Deeds’. Cheap? How about ‘Great Deals’. Hand me downs? More like ‘Thrift Store Chic’. Bonus points for nearby location address and hours.
Leverage Buyer Pain Points
Addressing (or not addressing) buyer pain points can be the difference between a sale or a loss to the competition. In the examples below, buyer pain points were addressed upfront to make sure potential customers know their purchase will be hassle-free.
Canada, All Tucked Away Down There
Oya Costumes clearly knows Canadians’ biggest buyer pain point: slow, expensive shipping. But no fear trick or treating canucks – Oya has fast and free shipping available.
Costume Supercentre addressed the same issues facing Canadians, with the added pain point of currency conversion and added cost. No worries here, they take loonies.
Halloween Happening in 3.. 2..1..
We’ve all been there – waking up a few days before Halloween realizing you never got a costume and panicking because you already RSVPed to 3 parties on Facebook. Brit + Co (and Zappos) addressed this very pain point in their Facebook ad targeting all those last minute ghosts, goblins, and cacti.
Treat Others the Way You Would Like to be Trick or Treated
Everybody wants to be understood. And every buyer wants to know who they’re buying from understands their unique needs. A generic ad trying to cater to everyone will never be as successful as an ad that hits on the exact ask of the user’s search intent.
Don’t Take Candy From Strangers, Except on Halloween
We were looking for Halloween candy online and this interesting ad showed up. For anyone who doesn’t want to simply hand out generic grocery store candy, the ‘retro, foreign and rare’ section of the headline is a real eye catcher.
Hottest Makeup on this Side of the Styx
This ad knows exactly who it’s targeting: those who want to have the coolest, sexiest look on Halloween. With the added value of 30% off, NYX can help their target customer slay Halloween.
Hopefully Shipping Doesn’t Take a Fortnite
This Facebook ad by Halloween Depot makes one thing clear: if you need a Fortnite costume, they got you. Bonus for their use of scarcity in the CTA!
Experience Super-Natural Language
Taking a page from the content marketer’s playbook, these ads are writing for humans, not machines. Overusing techniques like Dynamic Keyword Insertion when it might not make as much sense can make your ad feel robotic instead of welcoming.
If You Don’t Over-Decorate for Halloween, Do You Even Exist?
Halloween Haunters had us at ‘skeletons, spiders, and ghouls, oh my!’. That’s the kind of human touch that can really speak to potential buyers deciding where to buy their spooktacular Halloween decor.
On a similar vein, Canadian Tire chose to write ad copy that was a little more playful than the average ‘get your Halloween decorations here’ copy, while still clearly stating what they are advertising.
Not Just Impressive, Scary Impressive
Ok, the pun could use some work for sure – but, the flow of the language used feels authentic. Bonus points for the brief caption and eye-catching (eh) visual that simply and effectively gets the point across.
Bland is Beautiful
To stand out from the crowd, our instinct as marketers is to be as creative as possible. But with PPC, creativity often doesn’t win. Usually, the ads that simply point out the benefits of the product/service are the ones who come out on top.
Target has women’s Halloween costumes at a low price with free shipping or in store pick-up. Wow – that ad wrote itself! #BlandisBeautiful
Gentle Giant Tiger
Sure, the paid search marketer at Giant Tiger snuck in ‘scary deals’ in the headline (who could resist?) but overall this ad gets straight to the point with no tiger fluff.
Bonus: Sometimes Creativity Does Win
Ice T + Busy Philipps + Pumpkins = Halloween success. Someone at Michaels deserves a creativity award for this Facebook ad. Bonus for the subtle ‘bootique’ in the CTA!
The End is Nigh
Hopefully your pulse has returned to normal and your blood is back to room temperature after checking out these Halloween paid search ad wins. Taking advantage of proven ad copy techniques can make all the difference in your upcoming holiday campaigns.
Feature Image: Unsplash / David Menidrey
All screenshots by author, October 2018
Image 1: via Google Trends
Image 2: ad via Baxter Boo
Image 3: ad via Amazon
Image 4: ad via Morphsuits
Image 5: ad via Pillsbury
Image 6: ad via Value Village
Image 7: ad via Oya Costumes
Image 8: ad via Costume Supercentre
Image 9: ad via Brit + Co
Image 10: ad via Candy Funhouse
Image 11: ad via NYX Cosmetics
Image 12: ad via Halloween Depot
Image 13: ad via Halloween Haunters
Image 14: ad via Canadian Tire
Image 15: ad via Food Network
Image 16: ad via Target
Image 17: ad via Giant Tiger
Image 18: ad via Michaels Stores
Cardi, 26, called out Minaj, 35, in 10 separate expletive-filled Instagram videos posted on Monday, just hours after Minaj spoke on their ongoing conflict in the latest episode of her Queen Radio show on Apple Music’s Beats 1.
The mother of one certainly did not hold back as she discussed the aftermath of their NYFW fight, showed a screenshot of the pair’s call log and even revealed that she was considering suing Minaj for “defamation of character.”
“How you say that I was the wild animal, that I attacked you, that you was mortified, that you was humiliated, playing the victim but now you the gangsta. You need to pick a side,” Cardi said in response to Minaj’s radio episode, in which she explained that her friend Rah Ali “really, really beat Cardi’s ass bad” during the Sept. 7 brawl.
“Do you want to be the victim or do you want to be the gangsta. You lie so much, you can’t even keep up with your f—— lies,” Cardi added in the first of 10 clips.
Among the “lies” Cardi was referring to was the claim that she “built her career of sympathy and Payola,” which is the practice of paying radio stations to play a song. “Since you want to talk about suing, maybe I should sue you for defamation of character since you want to claim that I’m using something illegal called Payola for being so f—— successful,” Cardi said in the fourth of 10 videos.
In addition, Cardi’s response posts contained screen grabs of her attempts to call Minaj. Showing a screenshot of her call log, Cardi even revealed Minaj’s phone number along with the text messages from friends after her own phone number was leaked, allegedly by Minaj’s camp.
“Let’s talk about the leaked numbers s—. Tell me if this don’t make sense: How come my phone number got leaked one hour after the altercation at the Harper’s Bazaar party?” Cardi said in her fifth of ten videos, referring to the NYFW fight.
RELATED VIDEO: Cardi B Brings Up ‘Motorsport’ Drama With Nicki Minaj in Instagram Rants
Cardi’s sister Hennessy Carolina recently claimed in a since-deleted Instagram post that Minaj leaked the “I Like It” rapper’s phone number, which led to threatening messages about baby Kulture. “After my sister showed those text messages, look what you do. You go on Twitter and start liking s—, endorsing that type of nasty ass f—— behavior. Bitch you’re f—— sick in the head,” Cardi said in the sixth video.
In her ninth video response, Cardi spoke of the comments Minaj made about putting their feud to rest.
“You say you’re tired of talking about it. I’m tired of talking about it too. I’m tired of the whole internet s—. I’m tired of the interview s—. If you really want to talk about it, you know where to link me, we could always link up,” she said.
However, Cardi also warned: “We can talk about it or we can fight it out. I’m with whatever. But I’m sick and tired of that back and forth s—. I’m not doing it. I’m in a good space right now. Let me know what’s up.”
“What you need to do is stop focusing on other people and focus on yourself and focus on your craft because you’re out here f—— up your legacy, looking like a f—— hater,” she said in her tenth video.
Cardi and Minaj’s exchange on Monday, comes seven weeks after videos of the Sept. 7 incident were posted online. One clip showed Cardi charging at someone. In a different video, Cardi can be heard screaming “say some s— about my daughter again.”
“Cardi walked towards Nicki and all of a sudden Cardi started screaming something about her child,” a source told PEOPLE. “She was yelling, ‘Bitch you feisty. Bitch don’t talk s— about my child’ at Nicki.”
The source also revealed Cardi “threw her shoe because she couldn’t get through” to Minaj who “was there with eight or nine bodyguards.”
The feline welfare charity, Cats Protection in Coventry, is holding a collection of tattoo fundraisers to help cats in the local area. Cats for Tatts will showcase three flash days in three different tattoo studios in the city of Coventry…
The three tattoo flash days, and the cat-themed raffles will raise money for Cats Protection’s Coventry Branch, part of the UK’s leading feline welfare charity which help around 190,000 cats and kittens each year.
Each studio and tattoo artist is drawing up sheets of cat related tattoo designs for you to choose from and book. Once you have your tattoo you can donate to Cats Protection, alongside some of the artists who will be donating a percentage of their fee.
In addition there are two cat-themed raffles – one will see four lucky winners get one of four unique tattoo designs – including the Tatts for Cats china cat (above), by the renowned artist, Coventry born, Joanne Baker.
The second raffle includes a number of unique prizes such as a bespoke pet portrait and custom artwork. After all of the ink is dry you can vote for your favourite tattoo which can win the ‘Cat’s Whiskas’ trophy.
Dolly Osborne, volunteer fundraiser for Coventry Cats Protection:
Tatts For Cats promises to be three really special events – especially as it will help raise some much needed funds to help us care for unwanted cats. We would like to thank all of the wonderful artists who are giving up their time, talent and money to make the lives of little kitties a little bit easier.
As someone who has been a part of the tattoo community for a long time, I am aware it has a long and established history of supporting good causes. It also has a significant number of cat lovers. We thought it was time we brought these two elements together to help our furry friends
The Baltic Aquascaphe Dive Watch has been a year-long quest to create the perfect dive watch. The Aquascaphe is the first offering in the new line of watches that comes at the culmination of that quest. Aquascaphe is based on Baltic’s HMS/Bicompax designs. Its case […]
Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar is offering a Pumpkin Stache Shake as part of the Mustache Bash campaign, commonly known as No Shave November, a month where men raise awareness of men’s health issues by growing a mustache during November.
For every Pumpkin Stache Shake sold, Zinburger will donate $1 to ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer, a national nonprofit organization with the mission to end prostate cancer. Additionally, guests can donate $1 to add a Stache straw to any shake or float.
The Pumpkin Stache Shake ($6) combines Vanilla ice cream blended with house-made pumpkin pie filling, topped with freshly whipped cream and pumpkin seed brittle, and served with a mustache straw.
The Pumpkin Stache Shake is available at all 16 Zinburger east coast locations.
Since opening the East Coast’s first Zinburger in New Jersey nearly eight years ago, Zinburger has developed an almost fanatical customer following who enjoy made-to-order gourmet burgers, hand-spun shakes and floats, decadent pies and 25 varieties of wine.
The Briad Group®, headquartered in Livingston, NJ, is one of the fastest growing hospitality companies in the U.S. The Briad Group’s entities are: licensed franchisees for Wendy’s, TGI Fridays, Marriott and Hilton. The Briad Group also owns Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar, an upscale gourmet burger and wine concept that is rapidly expanding on the East coast.
About ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer
ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer is the leading national nonprofit organization with the mission to end prostate cancer. ZERO advances research, encourages action, and provides education and support to men and their families through our patient-centric programs. ZERO’s premier activities include the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk, America’s largest men’s health event series. We are a 501(c)(3) philanthropic organization recognized with four out of four stars by Charity Navigator in 2014 and 2015, accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and 94 cents of every dollar donated goes to research and programs. www.zerocancer.org
Amazon is offering 20% off a bunch of Starter clothing. You can save on jackets, sweatpants, hoodies, sweatshirts, and more. There are 58 items to choose from for the entire family. With the colder months approaching quickly, it never hurts to have some additional layers for extra warmth.
Under the 2015 Paris climate accord, 195 national governments committed to curbing carbon emissions to mitigate climate change. After the Trump administration decided in 2017 to withdraw the United States from the agreement, American states, cities, and companies stepped forward, saying they would continue efforts to reduce emissions and meet the requirements of the global agreement.
Although no substitute for a reasonable national climate policy, these decentralized efforts are welcome. A newly-released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlines the dire consequences if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise on their current path: By 2040, scientists expect that extreme weather—like hurricanes, heatwaves, and droughts—will be normal, food and water shortages will affect hundreds of millions of people, and vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever will spread to new regions. The United States remains the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world after China, with among the highest emissions per capita. Decentralized efforts, like the recent law committing California to obtaining all its electricity from clean energy sources by 2045, are essential to reducing US emissions.
But Trump’s Paris withdrawal creates another problem too: A massive gap between the money needed to address climate change and available funds. In Paris, developed countries called the need to ramp up climate finance for developing countries “urgent,” and reaffirmed a commitment to mobilize $100 billion annually from public and private sources. Former US President Barack Obama pledged an initial $3 billion to one of the funds that distributes climate finance—money to help reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts—but delivered only $1 billion before he left office, and Trump decided not to contribute any. Funding cuts supported by the Trump administration and the Republican majority in Congress have now produced a gaping hole in available resources.
The end result is that the US withdrawal has had a two-pronged effect on global mitigation: It weakens not only the US effort to reduce carbon emissions, but also efforts in developing countries that rely on climate finance.
The end result is that the US withdrawal has had a two-pronged effect on global mitigation: It weakens not only the US effort to reduce carbon emissions, but also efforts in developing countries that rely on climate finance.
Though wealthy states have tended to see climate finance as a voluntary commitment akin to development aid, it is hardly charity. Even if for no other reason, the United States should fund mitigation in developing countries from a purely self-interested perspective. Since climate change is global, the benefits of mitigation anywhere accrue to people everywhere. And if countries with rapidly developing economies can avoid mass dependence on fossil fuels, the benefit in avoided emissions will be enormous.
By contrast, the benefits of adaptation finance—to assist developing states in adapting to climate change effects—accrue primarily to the recipient. Money for adaptation supports a wide range of efforts, including projects to pilot drought-resistant crops, build seawalls, and evaluate the health impacts of rising temperatures. But as a principal greenhouse gas emitter, it is only fair for the United States to assist poor states, most of which have contributed little to the climate change problem and find themselves on the frontlines in dealing with the negative consequences, from flooding to heatstroke. Developing countries view this money as desperately needed compensation. They are suffering as a direct consequence of fossil fuel consumption in the wealthy world.
Given the stakes, it is worth asking: Can cities, states, and companies pick up some of the slack on climate finance, just as they are trying to do with mitigation efforts?
Given the stakes, it is worth asking: Can cities, states, and companies pick up some of the slack on climate finance, just as they are trying to do with mitigation efforts? Thanks to the way climate finance has been structured, the answer is “yes.” Climate finance is delivered to governments through international institutions like the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund, and a number of trust funds hosted by the World Bank, the United Nations, and other international organizations. These institutions were designed to allow non-state actors to contribute. This includes just about any entity one can think of—subnational governments like cities and states, individuals, corporations, and philanthropic organizations.
In recent years, the province of Quebec in Canada and the region of Wallonia in Belgium have made contributions to the Global Environment Facility. Paris made its own contribution to the Green Climate Fund, the first city to do so. There is no reason California, Washington, New York, and other states or cities cannot do the same. While it is unlikely that cities or states would implement a mandatory tax to support global climate funds, it would be politically viable to make individual voluntary contributions an option on state tax returns. Californians can already opt to make contributions to a range of causes on their tax forms, including several environmental initiatives like the Oceans Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund. Other states provide similar opportunities. Adding an option for citizens to contribute to a global climate fund would be inexpensive to the state and politically unobtrusive.
In the United States, individuals can make tax-deductible contributions to the Adaptation Fund through the United Nations Foundation. In fact, a few international organizations have successfully mobilized the public to financially support their work. For example, in 2017 UNICEF raised $512 million in the United States from 471,305 individuals along with 10,168 corporations, foundations, NGOs, schools, and clubs. The money far exceeds the regular resources UNICEF receives from the US Government ($132.5 million in 2017).
UNICEF funding also points to a more general trend in how international organizations are financed. Private actors, especially prominent philanthropic foundations, play an increasing role. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now the second-largest donor to the World Health Organization after the United States. Less well-known is the fact that Rotary International and the National Philanthropic Trust, a UK-based public charity, round out the top 10. Private donors have been less prominent in climate change than in global health, though they do play a role. After the United States cut funding to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Michael Bloomberg announced he would contribute $4.5 million to fill the gap. Some of the climate investment funds at the World Bank, like the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, benefit from contributions from corporations like British Petroleum and organizations like The Nature Conservancy. But their donations have been relatively small.
As the recent IPCC report makes clear, the current moment requires all hands on deck. Foundations, cities, states, corporations, and citizens can contribute to help compensate for the absence of US leadership at the federal level. Last year, the Center for American Progress advocated such an approach and outlined options for pooling decentralized efforts in an “American Climate Fund.”
As with mitigation, which would be more effective if taken on at the federal level, a decentralized strategy is not ideal. Private and subnational actors will not have the same influence in these institutions as the United States would, nor would Washington gain the goodwill or soft-power advantage it would if the administration lived up to its obligations. However, taken together, decentralized efforts from the United States could raise substantial funds, which would help mitigate climate change and assist developing states with adaptation. It would also help demonstrate that Americans have not all buried their heads in the sand and forgotten what it means to hold up their end of a bargain.
This column was written by Erin R. Graham, an assistant professor of politics at Drexel University and a Global Order Visiting Scholar at Perry World House.