Trigger Emotions Deep Dive: Fear – Be Afraid… Be Very Afraid…

There’s a well-known acronym in the B2B marketing field called FUD. It stands for “fear, uncertainty, doubt.” It is a tactic used to undermine the competition.

Fear exists just as strongly in the B2B world as the B2C world. Within B2B, a lot is riding on the choice to buy something new for the company. Buyers are typically afraid of failing and then being embarrassed that they made the wrong choice. They’re also afraid they may lose getting a raise, a promotion or even their jobs.

The CDC spent $54MM last year on a new anti-smoking ad campaign. Talk about using fear in advertising!

How to Use Fear In Your Marketing


Fear can be successfully used in your marketing with either strong appeals (“Don’t let the bad guys break into your home!”) or more subtle appeals (“A GPS for the uneasy traveler”).

You want to move your prospect toward action. Identifying what they’re afraid of will take some digging, but once you find it, you’ll have gold in your hands.

People are afraid of many things: fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of losing money, fear of losing someone important to them, fear of death, fear of poor health, etc. These fears can be tapped for your marketing purposes and if done right, will direct your prospect right to your doorstep.

However, you need to remember to add another component in your marketing. Just don’t scare them. Hone into another emotion to cause them to want to take a different path.

The Trigger Emotion of Fear Works Best With a Secondary Emotion

Fear is a very powerful motivator toward making change. But in order for it to be effective, you have to use it with another popular emotion – greed. Greed isn’t just about money (and we’ll be looking at this wonderfully helpful emotion soon). Greed is about wanting “more” of something.

It could be more money but also more good health, more fulfilling relationships, more free time, more enjoyable hobbies, more spiritual growth, etc.

So when using fear, realizing that you’re taking your reader from moving away from fear, and bringing them toward a more agreeable (and safe) place.

Build Up Fear, Then Bring In The Cavalry


When using fear, you want to build it up and then ease back. You’re working to get your prospect alarmed enough to take action but you have to lead them toward the solution in stages.

With each stage, you’re introducing stronger examples of fear until you reach the end of your appeal, where you bring in “the cavalry” — the solution that will save the day.

Remember that along the way of using fear, you need to insert proof elements into your copy that demonstrate why there is a better way. Prepare your prospect for that final moment where your solution is justified in their eyes.

Don’t fear using fear in your copy. Done right, it can be one of the most effective marketing tactics you use to get your prospect to sit up, take notice, and take action.

Just remember that after plunging them into roller-coaster dip of fear, bring them up to the plateau where they can see a better view that makes them happy.

About the author: Mary Rose Maguire

Mary Rose Maguire

Copywriter. Content marketing specialist, B2B web copy, content marketing collateral, and email marketing. Tireless advocate for testing response. David Ogilvy is my invisible mentor, along with John Caples and Claude C. Hopkins. You can find me on Google+
 or Twitter.

1 reply
  1. John
    John says:

    Yes, fear can shake up people. It can make them take action.
    We can use it for agitating prospects to buy a product.

    But we must be careful with the way we use it. It must not be used
    for a long time.

    Prospects might not be copywriters.They might fail to see where
    the copywriter is driving them to. If they could get very scared.
    They could leave the web page and fail to take the intended action.

    Instead of using greed, I find hope better. Agitate with fear and quickly make a unique
    promise. That raises hope. It makes prospects think all is not lost yet.

    One other thing, fear of losing something one possesses is stronger than that of losing
    what one wants to acquire

    For example —.

    The sound of someone breaking into the kitchen at 0400 hrs; shuttering the kitchen window
    and breaking the kitchen door hinges raises enough fear of loss of property.

    But fear of losing items on auction sale at the same time can hardly wake up a man from his
    sweet sleep.

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