Are Pain And Fear Marketing Myths?

marketing strategy Find the customer problem and then offer your solution.

The bigger the pain and fear, the greater opportunity for your business or so they say.

But is this true?

I read an interesting article by Graham Jones – Fear is not a motivation to buy on the weekend.

He highlighted recent research that suggests the pain path may not be the way to go for every brand. In fact it could be stopping customers taking the action.

This makes sense and he debunks a key internet marketing aspect in his article as well so make sure you read the article.


When you focus on pain and solution unless you do research it can be difficult to work out where on the pain scale your customers are.

Is it mild frustration, a little niggle or does it feel like a full blown migraine?

If you don’t know you are left with making assumptions which can complicate your marketing.


Instead of thinking of pain perhaps there is an opportunity to look at the pleasure side.

It is not so much focusing on the benefits of your products or services. Instead identify the emotions that they want to feel as a person.

Then you are able to see how your brand fits, your difference, benefits etc.


By looking at the pleasure side of the emotions it gives you an opportunity to help your customers deepen the emotional feeling with your brand.

It also makes it easier to communicate your difference versus competitors. And it adds simplicity for your business and customers.

This way does not apply to every single market as some do need to hone in on the problem or pain aspect.

However if you think your products or services may benefit from looking at the pleasure versus focusing in on the pain why not try it and see if it makes sense.

As always would love you to share your thoughts on this.

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16 Responses to Are Pain And Fear Marketing Myths?

  1. Hi Susan, I think it somewhat depends on the type of buyer i.e. B2C vs. B2B. in my experience, B2B buyers are very often motivated by risk prevention so that for me it a type of fear.

    • Hi Niall,

      I can see what you are saying about B2B. Don’t you think that there is also the positive elements such as the recognition or importance the person will feel when they make the right decision?

      • Sure there are, but if you were to ask me what’s the greatest driver of B2B buyers in this economy, it’s risk prevention. Or putting another way, if the business is in a cost cutting cycle, the B2B buyer will reflect that culture. If on the other hand, the business is in an opportunistic mode, well then, their buyers will reflect that too.

  2. Generally people are wired to respond to the strong emotional statements which tend to be either pain or pleasure based.
    I think depending on your natural predisposition at the time you will move towards pleasure or away from pain.

    I prefer to focus on people’s strengths – As what we focus on we get more of.

    • Hi Ensha,

      Appreciate your perspective and that is interesting about natural predisposition which makes a lot of sense. Your mention of what we focus on is a good reminder especially when we communicate with our customers.

      Thanks for sahring this.

  3. I don’t think I can entirely agree with the statement that fear is a marketing myth. In my opinion (and experience in offline sales) fear is just one of several tools a salesman (copywriter) have in their toolbox.

    To say it’s a myth isn’t accurate. People choose to buy when whatever you are pitching will put the prospect in or return to a state of pleasure.

    Let’s assume you are a new parent and concerned with the safety of your baby in the back seat. If I’m selling you a car and telling you about all the fatal car crashes where a side impact resulted in the backseat passengers being injured. Don’t you think you would be more inclined to go with the car that has a higher safety rating?

    Just my 2c. I still enjoyed Graham’s article.

    • Hi Henry,

      After reading Graham’s article I put it up as a question and not as a statement as I wanted to hear what others thought.

      I guess it comes down to how it is communicated if fear is an emotional factor that needs to be addressed. I understand what you are saying in your example but I wonder if that approach just might scare them more and even if the car seat had a high safety standard there wouldn’t be a lingering doubt of what if it doesn’t work.

      I like your 2 cents and appreciate you sharing your thoughts especially as you have the experience in sales and we can learn from you.

  4. Hi Susan…That article by Graham Jones is really inspiring and very helpful where yours are just the same too…We aren’t familiar with marketing myths but you gave us an idea here…Thanks!

  5. I think it comes down to peoples motivation.

    Some people are intrinsically moved to action by pleasure and others by pain, depends on the situation.

    I know its much easier to elicit a buying response when you focus on the pleasure points, as there is less resistance. People are willing to go there.

    Pain on the other hand…not so much.

    You only have to remember the old saying: You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
    Lots of truth in that.

    Thanks for sharing the article Susan, was an interesting read.

  6. Yes Susan, fear is a marketing myth. What do we buy because of fear? Maybe a gun? Not even that since most of the people buying guns do it for other motives, even if they are even worse.:-)

    Seriously about 99% of what we buy, or at least 95, is for pleasure. Have you ever bought a pair of shoes because of fear? A bag? Services from an advertising agency? A car?

    How do you scare someone into buying say a car?

    The vast majority of companies in this world should concentrate on pleasure insted of fear to sell their products and/or services.

    Actually this makes me laugh. We could have a lot of fun freightening people into buying say, a pair of shoes:-)

    • Hi Catarina,

      We could have fun indeed. It is such a shame that many small businesses focus on the pain side when there are so many more advantages to going over to the pleasure side.