Throughout the recession, consumers have been urged to save in order to maintain their toehold on dry economic land and avoid being pulled beneath waves of escalating prices and debt. Thus, it is curious that sales of non-staples like guns, burglar alarms, condoms and sexual enhancers shot up by as much as 22 percent in 2009, writes Martin Lindstrom in Fast Company. The indication is that fear of loss – in this case of life, loot and libido – is a powerful force, a fact that isn’t lost on marketers looking to expand their brand.
We who fear losing
In theory, human beings aren’t that far removed from primates, evolutionarily speaking. Our basic drives – food, sex, sleep and survival – are never far out of mind. Condoms, guns and burglar alarms are a natural extension of this, suggests Lindstrom. More than anything, fear of loss and desire to commingle genetic material are what drive us through survival country.
Politicians make careers out of exploiting the fear and loathing buried in the amygdala (fear-producing) region of the brain, offering voters the protection they desire. Automakers were less successful in 2009, as massive discounts failed to address the fear that a weak dollar implanted in the minds of the working poor. Only Hyundai made a dent in sagging sales – a 20 percent dent – because of a promotion that guaranteed consumers could return their new Korean car if they lost their income in the year following purchase. Lindstrom points out only two cars were returned because of that promotion.
Building brands by managing fear
As fear is often irrational, and irrational propositions trump big discounts, it pays for brands to take on fear directly. By considering what problems people face during the recession, marketers can begin to form solutions. People may not be able to afford to fly to Paris and fear missing out on the experience during their lifetime, writes Lindstrom, but a perfume that evokes the more romantic aspects of the Champs-Élysées will do in a pinch.
Turning a problem into a brand asset means tempering irrationality with practicality. Well-designed products with a solid practical dimension can cut through any economic downturn. Sure, a pair of good work boots may be more expensive than the Walmart store brand, but the difference in quality will mean much longer life – for the shoes and your toes.
Removing fear is the goal
Making sales means removing fear. Lindstrom gives the example of a flood of new banks that formed during the recession. These banks marketed themselves as being “outside” the Wall Street jungle, a practical approach that has helped alleviate consumer fear that the new banks will mishandle their hard-earned dollars like the ethically questionable banking monoliths.
Fast Company: http://bit.ly/eLoAG7
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