Two Great Reads Blog

Two Great Reads: Both Reasons to be Optimistic

Perhaps not the typical pool-side page-turner, but this is no typical summer. 

During a recent holiday, I found that Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy and Rutger Bregman’s Humankind both make an ideal accompaniment to a hill-walking trip to The Lakes or a splash in the sea off St David’s. Why so optimistic? Because both show what we are capable of, and what we can do if we muster our combined intelligence, strength and courage to get on and challenge the flabby state of our future vision.  

The National Food Strategy

‘The National Food Strategy contains recommendations to address the major issues facing the food system: climate change, biodiversity loss, land use, diet-related, disease, health inequality, food security and trade.’
Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy.

This piece is a strategy document on how we feed ourselves as a nation. It was commissioned by HM Government and written by a team of highly knowledgeable people from within and around the world of food and chaired by Henry Dimbleby of Leon restaurants.  

I have read much of the sceptical and cynical commentary in the press about the document – many taking side-swipes at Dimbleby’s background and the like, but to me the true story here is that we can create a better diet and better environment if we spend wiser and eat better.  We cannot ignore this document; it is compelling and demands us to decide what we want our future to be.

Here, at Elephants, our own research shows that ‘in the cold light of day’ people want to eat better, with more focus on quality, healthiness, provenance, ethics and the environment; yet, when they reach out in the ‘heat of the shopping moment’ they tend to buy on convenience, colour, glossiness, and price… even if we know we will berate ourselves later.  If we marketers can help the ‘Good Me’ in each of us to combat the ‘Bad Me’ in us all then we will be in a stronger place as individuals and as a society.   We have all seen this work successfully with smoking, seat belts, drink driving, motorcycle helmets and 5p plastic bags: so why should it not work with unhealthy food?

The National Food Strategy shows us how we got into the mess of obesity, weakened biodiversity and crass fast-food over-powering quality grub, and what we need to do about it.  Chapter 16 is the list of actions and completes in a trim 30 pages.  The whole document is a little more of a meal, but full of tasty morsels and titbits which will have you thinking for weeks to come. 

Humankind: A Hopeful History

‘Most people, deep down are pretty decent.’
Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History, published by Bloomsbury.

In his “Hopeful History’ Rutger Bregman considers why we mistakenly believe ‘things are not as good as they used to be’, why the world is seen as a dangerous place even though it is becoming safer in almost all measurements.  He examines the news that we consume and how it is angled towards the bad stuff, looks at the stories we tell each other and how they perpetuate the myths that strangers are dangerous, and he replaces such long-held suggestion with compelling reason, facts and realism.   

It is a fascinating read that debunks the myth of The Lord of the Flies and The Stanford University Basement ‘Experiment’ and shows that, when the chips are down, humans pull together rather than fight with each other. He shows how this happened at 9/11 and during the Blitz and of course this has been born out through our own experiences during the past 18 months of Covid lockdown and constraint.

Why is it relevant to marketers: because we have a responsibility to deliver the Truth Well Told, to sell the good stuff well, to be the purveyors of Great Marketing for Good Reason, and not to create fear where there need not be fear just to sell another insurance policy or safety device.  Our skills of communication and persuasion have been used for many things – mostly in an effort to move cash from an individual’s wallet or purse to a business’s bank balance and a spreadsheet. 

But the biggest contribution marketing we can make in the future will be to help persuade the ‘Bad Me’ to listen to the ‘Good Me’ across a wide range of sectors and issues and save us both and those around us to boot.

Bob Bayman

Managing Director at Elephants Can’t Jump.

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