Fear sells – or does it?

So, here we approaching the end of our first week of Brexit, and the recriminations, celebrations, uncertainty and political turmoil continues unabated.  I’m publicly steering clear of the politics, keeping my opinions to myself, but I’m struck by one observation that relates to sales and marketing.
It’s often said that fear is a strong motivator and can be used to create a powerful marketing communication.  And yet the Remain campaign, lost the referendum despite ‘project fear’.  Why did the fear argument not prevail?  Some will say it was down to personalities, but I think there was something more fundamental at work.
‘Fear’ is an anticipation of pain in the future, and avoiding it is indeed a strong motivator, however it isn’t the strongest.  The model below considers the relative purchasing motivation levels associated with ‘Pain avoidance’ and ‘Pleasure seeking’ against two time frames – the present and the future.


The evidence shows that for most people, avoiding current pain is the strongest motivator of all, with future pleasure the least powerful.
If we return to the referendum, I think most, if not all of the ‘fear’ messages that the Remain campaign communicated were associated with future pain (economic downturn, security …).  By contrast the protest vote (whether that be against the establishment, immigration, the government, the EU etc.) was more probably about current pain.
What does this mean for our businesses?  I would recommend you to look at your marketing messages and what they promise your customers and prospects – are they promising future pleasure or taking away a current pain.  If you can credibly focus on the latter (without becoming negative), your communications will probably become more engaging and help you stand out from the competition.
Of course to do this isn’t as easy as it sounds and requires a robust understanding of your target customers – if you would like some help with this or to talk about any aspect of your marketing, please call, email or send me a web enquiry.