Fear – exploiting our emotions to increase sales

Fear – exploiting our emotions to increase sales

Think about how often you see this being used – consciously or subliminally…. the technique – I suppose you can call it this – is one of the most powerful drivers of our spending today.  Fear is the emotion being used to manipulate us to part with our money.   Such campaigns

  • find the most subtle way to manipulate our fears and reactions
  • exploit our anxieties
  • dwell on the make believe – the secret of eternal youth
  • using all tactics from paranoia to reassurance to unlock our basic instinct ‘ Wow, I really want/need/must have this XXXXX.

There was an excellent BBC2 programme in the summer which examined some of the examples which I give below, but what prompted me to look further into this was an instance earlier this year when one of my clients, at my suggestions,  attended a two-hour ‘intro’ sales seminar,  which he then followed up with a 1-2-1 session with the deliverer.  The up-sell from intro two hours was a sales training programme of £several thousand.    Not an option for someone new in business and I would challenge not necessary at that point at all.  But the feeling my client was left with was not good.  Not going for this service was clearly going to mean the business was never going to succeed which thankfully was and is wrong. But more than that I would challenge it is immoral to leave prospects feeling like this in your justification to sell your product or service.

Another internet marketer who I have been following is the same although of course the emotion is perhaps tempered as it is not face to face.  You get the emails initially with the ‘free’ stuff, then you are deluged, literally, with the follow up emails with the up-sell for this and that and if you don’t do this or that then you won’t ever be successful.  If he is putting on a (paid for) seminar or webinar, then there is a frenzy of emails, hard copy mails, automated voice mails telling you why you must attend.  I stick with it for a while as it is interesting to observe from a marketing point of view, but then I have to unsubscribe as it is just taking over the inbox!   So is this moral?  Is it successful these days?

Think about some of these early examples:

halitosis

halitosis

“Halitosis makes you unpopular”  – early ads from the 1930s created the fear with halitosis which was ‘inexcusable’ as it could be cured with – wait for it – “Listerine”.  Listerine cured halitosis at a time when Americans didn’t know what this was or that it was really a problem. But suddenly it became a huge epidemic in society and the damsel in distress/mother was the social outcast.  “Men never linger”  “Whisper copy” by fear – leading you to understand that ‘this woman will never be married as she has halitosis’  Why take chances?  This technique took sales in 8 years from £115K to $8M. So clearly it worked.  And how sexist was it as well….

When Zantac was a new prescription drug for heart burn, the branding experts had to get the message out there that instead of going to the drug store to ask for over the counter medication, you needed to go to your doctor and demand Zantac. Which clearly worked as 240 million people took Zantac, yielding revenue of some $3.5bn – until the patent ran out.

Similar examples with high cholesterol and statins… “know your number”.

  • And think to today….
  • Corsodyl has taken over from these early Listerine ads – but it’s now concentrating on gum disease.  “Treat gum disease if you have it… Protect your gums if you don’t… Gum Disease is a main cause of tooth loss”   And the image of the lady with that ‘blood’ running from the corner of her eye.    Exactly the same technique/recipe as years ago.
    • Anti bacterial sprays. We’re now bombarded with messages about germs, moving from traditional cleaners to the new anti-bacterial, and for children’s toys and now for washing children’s clothes.  Tests show that hands washed in both ‘ordinary’ soap and anti-bacterial soap give the same results.  Germ panic is also firmly planted in our minds – first swine flue – how long to see ‘Ebola safe’ items on the market. In fact there are already such face masks selling.
    • When Coca Cola bought Glaceau , they had the opportunity to take vitamin water to the next level and to be seen as pushing its healthy products.  “Find out more about the history of Glaceau Vitamin Water as well as getting nutritional information & facts”.
    • Nintendo brain games – all part of our effort to keep our brain fitter for SAGA age group who didn’t want to lose their ‘marbles’.  “With practice your brain can improve”.  A winning formula and it became their best selling game.  The player just had to measure and judge him/herself and bring the score down.  Nintendo never made any false claims – they just played on anxieties – the more you play the more it will lower your brain age.

“Happiness is freedom from fear” screams a billboard from the side of the road. Storytelling advertising is a simpl system honed:

  • Creating anxiety
  • telling them something they didn’t know
  • and then introducing a magic solution.

Story telling engages us – damsel in distress, the consumer, the villain, any number of frightening things going on.  The hero whisks us away from danger.  Always with the moral, “without your favourite product, you are in danger”.

“Please part with your money.  Thank you”,