Fear will continue to be the dominant trend of the coming years. As we continue to deal with the fallout from the financial collapse, repay our individual and national debts and deal with the environmental consequences of an economy built on mass consumption being able to connect and deal with consumer frustrations and fears will be increasingly important.

Understanding the risks and fears that a consumer is taking and helping them deal with these realities can create deeper, more profitable relationships. But understanding risk and fear is something modern marketers don’t seem to be very good at. Lucian Camp, Chairman of the advertising group Tangible and an independent consultant looked at the communications of financial products in the 1990s recession in the UK, and compared them with those in the current economic difficulties.

He found many of the brands in the 1990s recession used the harsh realities of unemployment and economic instability to connect with their potential consumer and sell product. Fast-forward to the recession of the last few years and financial advertising has continued to be dominated by the ‘people dancing down the beach happily,’ or happy-go-lucky sort of creative. Focusing overly on the positive means that the realities of life are largely denied in marketing. The risk is that brands become even more fantastic and less about solving day-to-day issues.

Most of us have only practised our trade in good times and therefore its unsurprising that we find it difficult to connect through risk and more downbeat messages. Going back to basics and understanding the role and real consumer needs that we are targeting and getting comfortable talking about difficult, potentially fear based situations, will be a skill that we would be wise to learn.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW


Human beings have a difficult relationship with fear and risk. Ulrich Beck (1992), a German sociologist and professor at the London School of Economics coined the term ‘risk society.’ He used the term to sum up societies where risk has become a major concern, leading to people living in fear.

Marketers and salespeople have known for a long time that fear and loss sell.


Fear is the ‘lower order’ stick and the brand is the ‘higher order’ carrot. Think of all the ads which claim that if you don’t buy this or that brand you are running mortal risk. The soap and detergent ads that destroy our invisible enemies – bacteria – and protect our children. One ad campaign or another may not have effect on the overall level of fear in society but, combined with the media and all other fear-based messages from other brands, it does contribute to the overall negative impact.

Fear affects the level of social capital in our society by making us more worried, stressed and less trusting. Loss and the fear it invokes changes our behaviour and causes us to act irrationally.

Today however the smartest brands are moving away from this interventionist trend. They no longer depend on unfounded fears to create new needs but realize that they can prosper and build trust by delivering their product or service efficiently, whilst having small moments of celebration with their customer in just getting the job done correctly. A Zappos video, an Innocent wooly hat, or even just a smile and a thank you from someone behind the counter – these are authentic  ways to connect and build the relationship.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW

5 rules for marketers as we move away from Greed to Fear

I was at a seminar last week organised by the Financial Services Forum where I was lucky enough to hear Lucian Camp talk about his take on the current crisis and how it challenges advertising and commuication. I agree with him that something fundamental has changed and we are moving away from a predominant focus on “Greed” to needs around “fear”.

However I don’t particularly like the concept of Greed and Fear since I have rarely heard consumers talk about these words directly. I prefer to think of it as “gain” and “protect”. Over the past 20 years the prevailing mood has been “gain” – gaining goods, houses, wealth, quality of life, happiness, health. This doesn’t mean we have achieved any of these things but we have experienced the advertising of aspiration.

We have now been shocked into a different mode – that of “protection”. We have all been given pause for thought on whether our jobs, our homes, our families, even the system we rely on, are secure and around for the long term. Products and messages that talk about protecting and sustaining what one has now are more in the current zeitgeist. These messages are also more in tune with the global sustainability issues that we are all facing.

Here are 5 rules for marketers to think of as we ride this trend:

1. Invest more time in understanding consumers worries, frustrations and concerns. I’ve often seen research spend too much time focusing on what people want, with almost an embarrassment to talk about problems that are more negative. Spend time wallowing in these fears with your consumer. From this new insights will come which might not be positive but will resonate strongly in today’s market.

2. Don’t be afraid to link your brand to these concerns in communication. One of the challenges that many of us will need to battle with is that if your career is less thn 15 years old then you’ve only ever worked in the good times. My generation of marketers have only been used to dealing with positive messaging – I think we are a bit afraid of the brand equity we build by talking about negative situations. The best brands will go with the consumer, build equity of “understanding” and “on your side” by reflecting consumer needs hence Rule#1.

3. Move your product development to focus on protection and design products which are sustainable and thrifty. I blogged a while ago about my adventures trying to fix my toaster. Products which help consumers protect what they have whilst having features which are thrifty and sustainable will better meet these needs. Products such as LCD TVs with “eco settings”, Ariel and its turn down to 30 campaign, or printers from HP which have much lower running costs are all examples.

4. Big brands have a great opportunity to gain market share. Small brands need to be faster and closer to their niche. In this environment there will be a natural move to bigger, less risky brands. The big brands that invest through this period will prosper. Those that don’t run the risk that consumers write them off as having failed during the downturn (even if they haven’t). Small brands need to be faster with new concepts and products and more focused than ever on their niches. Luckily more and more niches are appearing and new channels allow greater ability to connect with these groups.

5. (Small) Moments of pleasure matter more than ever. The protection agenda, and the recent crisis, for all the media’s efforts to persaude us otherwise, doesn’t mean a return to mud huts and sack cloth and ashes. However I suspect the embullience of the past cycle will be more muted for a long time. And that means that moments of pleasure and escape will mean even more to people. We are seeing this with consumer spending moving into cinema tickets, chocolate, staycations, and eating well at home, small moments of often thrifty pleasure.

As always please feel free to comment and share your views. I will try and reply to all comments so please leave one if you have a thought.

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