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Brad VanAuken Brand Building

Brand Building And Fear

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Unfortunately, fear is still the primary motivator among humans. I say unfortunately because I would hope that one day we would transcend our fears and be motivated primarily by our highest dreams and visions. It would lead to a much more utopian world.

Never the less, as I lead up to a brand marketing point, here is a partial list of some of our most common fears (in no particular order):

  • Fear of flying
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of heights
  • Fear of the dark
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Fear of commitment
  • Fear of crowds
  • Fear of making a mistake
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of damnation
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Fear of being discovered as an imposter
  • Fear of germs
  • Fear of clowns
  • Fear of snakes
  • Fear of spiders
  • Fear of wild animals
  • Fear of drowning

And marketing messages certainly play off of fear. Consider the opposite of each of these marketing claims. With our brand, you will feel:

  • Safer
  • As though you have more social status
  • More beautiful or handsome
  • More attractive to others
  • Sexier
  • More virile
  • Smarter
  • More likable
  • As though you are a better mother or father
  • As though you are a better husband or wife
  • More competent in your work
  • Like a better breadwinner/provider for your family
  • More unique
  • More lovable
  • More loving
  • More compassionate
  • Stronger
  • Faster
  • As though your life has more meaning
  • Like you are making a difference in the world

So what underlies all of this? People do not feel completely at ease in their own skins in this world of ours. They feel insignificant, inferior, unlovable, inconsequential. It all relates to their self-esteem and their belief in the benevolence or cruelty or indifference of the universe. Does my life have any meaning at all? Do I matter? Does anyone really care about me? It also relates to the notion of judgment. Will I be judged to be worthy or not? Am I a good person or a bad person? Do I deserve to be loved? Do I deserve anything good in my life?

I could get metaphysical at this point and say that the solution is non-judgment and non-attachment and transcending the sense of self and feeling connected to everyone and everything and being loving in all that you do. I guess I did just say that. However, my point is, until people wake up to a new way of seeing the world, fear is the primary motivator on which many a successful marketing campaign and brand has been built. Just observe successful salespeople, ministers, politicians, lobbyists or advertising campaigns. The importance of fear as a motivator will become crystal clear.

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3 Comments

Jeremy on February 14th, 2013 said

This is so succinct. I love it. But isn’t fear a primary motivator because humans are hardwired to avoid loss. Hence our aversion to things we fear? As those things we fear could cause us to lose something we do not want to lose? I don’t believe this is a new revelation, because as soon as you accept that intrinsic behavior trait you can justify your decision in your own mind and make sense of why you fear.

Brad VanAuken on February 15th, 2013 said

You are right Jeremy. There is nothing new about fear. Fear is a primal instinct that aids in self-preservation. Having said that, fear has been understood for a very long time by those who wish to sell us something. So, there is a significant amount of fear that has been introduced into our lives that is not really tied to our self-preservation, but rather to getting us to buy something. This causes us to be more fearful than we need to be and it causes us to buy things that we don’t really need. Because fear is such a strong motivator, we tend to do what we believe we need to do to protect ourselves from that fear, which is often to buy the thing that is promoted by the organization that stimulated the fear. And yes, fear of loss is one of the stronger fears. But going back to my earlier comment, if we are not emotionally attached to something we will not fear losing it. William Blake’s Eternity poem sums it up well:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

Alan Bergstrom
Twitter:
on February 19th, 2013 said

Brad: as you know, the insurance industry is a big user of fear messaging to get people to buy their products. Wonder how effective this approach is compared to other approaches.

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