As marketers, we’re primed to use emotion to gain attention and connect with customers. Emotion can take many forms, from joy to sympathy and many in between. But the ultimate emotional motivator is fear.
Fear defined is “a vital response to physical and emotional danger.”
There are many situations in which we might find ourselves in some sort of danger that could reasonably require a product or service to allay that fear: identity theft, accidents or lightning strikes, for example.
But if you’re using fear to promote a product or service that has nothing to do with protecting someone from danger, then you’re abusing this technique.
During political season, we see the more odious among the candidates stumping for votes by stoking fears — largely fears that are unfounded or that may be more nebulous. And this kind of fear-mongering is dangerous because by its very nature, it leaves uncertainty in play. In his signature opus The Nature of Things, the Roman poet Lucretius observed that, “if men saw there was a fixed limit to their woes, they would be able in some way to withstand…the threatenings of the seers.”
Or, in the words of H.P. Lovecraft, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
When we’re fearful, it’s more difficult to make a decision; we’re either indecisive or we make a decision in a panicked, emotionally compromised time.
Instead, try to motivate by eliminating doubt. Doing so results in a build-up of confidence. And confidence means more decisive actions. And that in turn means your customers will trust that you understand them and that you take their well-being into account.
Fear is a powerful motivator. But it’s a negative one. Would you rather have your brand associated with a positive or a negative emotion?