The inevitable outcome of marketing fear

via Seth's Blog by Seth Godin on 8/14/11


Years ago, the authorities decided that a key weapon in the war on terror (sic) would be to make people more afraid.

Two reasons for this: if you make potential bad guys afraid, they might not move up and graduate to become actual bad guys, and second, if something does go wrong (and of course, things always go wrong), at least it looks like you were trying.

And so an infrastructure is built in which photographers are detained, in which expensive scanners that don’t work are installed and in which people believe they are doing their job when they engage in the fear mongering part of the work without paying attention to the actual inspecting and crime fighting part.

At the airport on Thursday, a colleague of mine was detained by two armed police officers because he took a picture (out the observation window!) of a sunset. And when I politely declined to go through the magic scanner, I was put through the regular (inferior?) scanner, detained, carefully searched and basically encourged not to do it again.

Of course, the hard-working folks doing the detaining feel like they’re doing their job. It’s easy to measure. It’s in the manual. It feels like progress. It’s actually a cargo cult, though, the sort of thing an organization does to simulate progress when it’s actually distracting itself from the mission at hand.

Fear can be used as a tactic, but it’s almost never the end goal of marketing. The problem with using it as a tactic is that it’s so easy to do, organizations almost always forget the real point of the exercise.

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