Fear Sells

There is absolutely zero doubt about this. For years, one of the unwritten rules in advertising was ‘sex sells’. And it did, for everything from beer to shampoo. However, as society rejects the objectification of women and men, sex has been replaced by fear as the most potent advertising tool.

A piece in BigThink explains it this way:

Yup. Fear works. It has to. It’s what keeps us alive. The problem is, it works so instinctively that when dangers are being peddled by the news media to get our attention, by the marketplace to get our money, or by politicians to get our votes, we are little more than fish on the end of a hook, instinctively afraid and flipping and flopping with fear at the end of a line somebody else is dangling to jerk us around…and the instinctive, subconscious nature of this risk perception system are the rod and reel they’re using, and we really can’t too much about it.

Fear is a primal human emotion. While what’s sexy is open for debate and subjective to personal preferences, fear is something that everyone experiences. It’s also something everyone wants to avoid.

In the very first episode of Mad Men, Don Draper explains the use of fear in advertising. “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness,” he calmly tells his clients. “And do you know what happiness is? … It’s freedom from fear.”

The problem with fear is that it overpowers all rational thought. It can easily become a prison, keeping you from taking action. It’s also capable of forcing you to operate from a position of weakness.

The Politics Of Fear

The 2016 election in the United States was a dumpster fire atop a steaming pile of garbage. There is little doubt that it was the worst election I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Candidates across the spectrum campaigned on dystopian promises of loss, economic calamity, and even death if the ‘other guy’ won.

This fear has carried through the election and into peoples’ response to the results. Yes, there are possibilities that definitely warrant concern, particularly for marginalized groups. Yet society cannot allow the fear of what may happen to direct how we respond.

What’s Next

One of my favorite things from The West Wing is President Bartlet’s constant demand of “What’s next?”.  It’s the view of accepting how things are, even in seemingly dark times. It is also forward looking, demanding his people take action and create solutions instead of being distraught or paralyzed by how things currently are.

It’s ok to be afraid. Own your emotional state, whether it’s anger, fear, or sadness, it’s yours and it’s authentic.

Just don’t live there.

Refuse to be a prisoner to your emotions. Don’t let your emotions diminish your inner power. Reject the fear based advertising, whether in politics, news, or consumerism. Simply embrace the awesomeness is you, and face life head on.

The world is looking for leaders, so be one. Be the first one to charge the hill and others will follow. In times of great distress, leadership is better than gold.

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