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.

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