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The Positive Side of Fear in Marketing

Lit pink neon sign that reads

Even to its most successful practitioners, marketing can sometimes seem like a negative, manipulative process. It's common knowledge that you can achieve great results by finding a customer's pain point and pushing it relentlessly. Then there are the concepts of fear of missing out (FOMO) and scarcity marketing, not to mention trading on consumers' insecurities and vulnerabilities.

Viewed like this, it's surprising that so many marketers try to simultaneously generate warm and fuzzy brand associations on the one hand while doing their best to stir anxiety on the other.

However, it doesn't all have to be doom and gloom. The point of these anxiety-based tactics is to sell your product as a solution to a problem, and this can be done with a little more finesse and subtlety.

Instead of provoking fear only to resolve it, it can be just as effective to emphasize benefits in such a way as to imply the negatives. This gives all the selling benefits of anxiety without the bad karma for your brand.

Here are some examples.

  • Show the customer how buying your product will save them time (with the obvious implication that without it, they're wasting time).
  • Emphasize how buying will save money (and therefore they're currently throwing money away).
  • Your service will improve their business or career (because no one wants to fall behind their peers).
  • Your amazing product will improve their personal, social, or family relationships (because no right-minded person will risk harming these).

All of these may seem typical ways of marketing a benefit, but the key is to introduce that element of doubt alongside the advantage without making it your main focus. Clever copywriting or imagery is important here, and the precise implementation depends on your product and niche.

But however you approach it, you don't have to scare people outright. Preaching the positives while hinting at the negatives will still do the subtle work of sparking anxiety, but without the risk to your brand image.

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