Fear, hope and love: the three marketing levers

Where does love come from? Brand love?

The TSA is in the fear business. Every time they get you take off your shoes, they’re using fear (of the unknown or perhaps of missing your plane) to get you take action.

Chanel is in the hope business. How else to get you to spend $5,000 a gallon for perfume?

Hope can be something as trivial as convenience. I hope that this smaller size of yogurt will save me time or get a smile out of my teenager…

And love? Love gets you to support a candidate even when he screws up or changes his mind on a position or disagrees with you on another one. Love incites you to protest when they change the formula for Coke, or to cry out in delight when you see someone at the market wearing a Google t-shirt.

People take action (mostly) based on one of three emotions:


Every successful marketer (including politicians) takes advantage of at least one of these basic needs.

Forbes Magazine, for example, is for people who hope to make more money.

Rudy Giuliani was the fear candidate. He tried to turn fear into love, but failed.

Few products or services succeed out of love. People are too selfish for an emotion that selfless, most of the time.

It’s interesting to think about the way certain categories gravitate to various emotions. Doctors selling check ups, of course, are in the fear business (while oncologists certainly sell hope). Restaurants have had a hard time selling fear (healthy places don’t do so well). Singles bars certainly thrive on selling hope.

Google, amazingly quickly, became a beloved brand, something many people see as bigger than themselves, something bigger than hope. Apple lives in this arena as well. I think if you deliver hope for a long time (and deliver on it sometimes) you can graduate to love. Ronald Reagan was beloved, even when he was making significant long-term errors. So was JFK. Hillary may be respected, but Obama is loved.

I don’t think love is often a one way street, either. Brands that are loved usually start the process by loving their customers in advance.

The easiest way to build a brand is to sell fear. The best way, though, may be to deliver on hope while aiming for love…