Why Fear Is the Best Way to Do Marketing

There are two basic ways to sell someone a product. You can either appeal to their desires or you can appeal to their fears. Of the two motivators, fear is by far the more powerful one. How does this work and why? Read on to understand:

The Yin and Yang of Marketing

Fear and desire are the two essential forces that drive us to do something. Imagine for a moment that you are marooned on a desert island. You have nothing to eat and no tools with which to hunt for food. You might hold out the first few days by drinking water (assuming you can find some) and by eating whatever fruits you can find nearby. However, pretty soon you’ll start to run out of the easier to eat foods and you’ll find that you need something else.

You may end up for example looking at the blades of grass and wondering if those are edible. If you got really desperate, you might even remember that insects are supposed to be a great source of protein. What motivates you to start eating these things that an ordinary person would likely never consider? Fear – the fear of starving to death. Now I know some people will say it’s a desire to live, but ultimately, you fear the pain of starving as opposed to simply desiring the joy of living.

Now consider instead that you have the opportunity to buy yourself a bottle of really fine wine. It’s pretty pricey – around $200 or so. You can afford it but it will blow a pretty big hole in your discretionary budget for the month. You go ahead and buy it, enjoy it with your friends and or family and you feel good about it. This is desire, not fear. If you didn’t buy that super expensive bottle of wine, would you have died? No. You would have perhaps bought a less expensive bottle of wine which scored a 94 instead of a 96. However, you had a desire to treat yourself.

Fear is Stronger

As we can see from the above, fear is always a stronger motivator than desire. Yes, I might desire that bottle of fine wine but frankly, if I didn’t get it, my life wouldn’t be over. Now, the odds are good someone is asking themselves, what if I’m the guy selling the fine wine? I have no fear to push in order to make people want to buy it.

The answer is that you do have fear to push, even if you don’t realize that you do. Imagine if instead of mentioning how sublime the flavor of the wine is and how much Robert Parker raved about it, you mention that it could be used to impress your friends. Make it seem as if this is the ‘in’ thing for the crowd who buys fine wines and that you wouldn’t want to be caught dead without a bottle of the stuff. Suddenly, you are marketing to fear instead of desire. You are trading on people’s fear of being embarrassed around their friends instead of purely on their desire for a fine bottle of wine.

Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that whatever you sell, you should look for some way to induce fear, whether it’s fear of being left out of the next big thing or it’s fear of being embarrassed, this is always going to be the stronger motivator in getting your customers to make a purchase.

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