Fear is a powerful motivator, and it has been used to persuade people to do or buy things for decades, if not centuries. Many marketers still rely on fear-based marketing to encourage customers to buy their product, by waxing lyrical on the awful things that will happen if they don’t. But are these kinds of scare tactics still relevant in modern marketing?
Why is fear such a powerful marketing tool?
Fear is hardwired into humans as a survival mechanism. When we’re afraid, our bodies release adrenaline, which motivates us to act fast. This is also why it’s such an effective sales technique!
While inducing a state of outright panic in your prospects is probably not your goal, techniques like limited time offers and urgency based marketing create similar sensations by making a customer anxious about missing out on a good deal or limited edition product. This in turn makes them more likely to buy quickly or impulsively.
Fear based marketing is frequently used for industries like insurance, security and health products by showing us a gloomy scenario of what could happen if we don’t buy the product or service in question. Many cleaning product marketers also use scare tactics, by painting a picture of a germ ridden floor crawling with nasties waiting to attack our children.
Physical fear is the fear of being robbed or losing your home due to a fire, but marketing can also play on social fears. Fear of judgement, of exclusion and failure are all valid fears that can, and frequently are, used to manipulate us into thinking we need a particular product or service.
The future of fear in marketing
While there’s no doubt that fear based marketing does work as a short term fix, many organisations these days are taking a more long term approach to their marketing strategy. When you start to focus on long term relationship building, fear can be problematic. To start with, there are only so many times you can scare a customer into buying from you before they will start to get immune to it. Like any relationship, starting with a foundation of fear is not really all that healthy.
There is another way to build those strong relationships with your audience without relying on fear based marketing tactics. Taking a positive and inspiring approach is also very powerful and it has the benefit of making your customers feel good. And if they feel good, they’re more likely to come back.
How to market positively
If you’re keen to market your business more positively, there are a couple of approaches you can take.
- Focus on the positives. Think about the benefits your product or service will bring your customer and emphasise them in your marketing. Paint positive and inspiring scenarios, instead of dark and gloomy ones.
- Take a solution focused approach. Instead of focusing on the problem, spend time explaining how you will solve it and how great your customer is going to feel afterwards.
Taking a positive, rather than a fear-based approach to marketing can help build trust with your customers and establishes you as an authority and source of useful information. While you might not get the quick sales hit that a fear based campaign can give you, over the long term you’re likely to see payoffs in the form of more customer referrals, loyalty and ongoing business.