Is There a Place for Hope Marketing?

This is a Blog post by Seth Godin, author of “All Marketers are Liars”, printed by permission and was posted on February 04, 2008 at

Fear, Hope and Love: The three marketing levers
Seth Godin

Where does love come from? Brand love?
The TSA is in the fear business. Every time they get you to take off your shoes, they're using fear (of the unknown or perhaps of missing your plane) to get you to take action. Chanel is in the hope business. How else to get you to spend $5,000 a gallon for perfume?

Hope can be something as trivial as convenience. I hope that this smaller size of yogurt will save me time or get a smile out of my teenager...

And love? Love gets you to support a candidate even when he screws up or changes his mind on a position or disagrees with you on another one. Love incites you to protest when they change the formula for Coke, or to cry out in delight when you see someone at the market wearing a Google t-shirt.

People take action (mostly) based on one of three emotions:

Every successful marketer (including politicians) takes advantage of at least one of these basic needs. Forbes Magazine, for example, is for people who hope to make more money. Rudy Giuliani was the fear candidate. He tried to turn fear into love, but failed.

Few products or services succeed out of love. People are too selfish for an emotion that selfless, most of the time. It's interesting to think about the way certain categories gravitate to various emotions. Doctors selling check ups, of course, are in the fear business (while oncologists certainly sell hope). Restaurants have had a hard time selling fear (healthy places don't do so well). Singles bars certainly thrive on selling hope. Google, amazingly quickly, became a beloved brand, something many people see as bigger than themselves, something bigger than hope.

Apple lives in this arena as well. I think if you deliver hope for a long time (and deliver on it sometimes) you can graduate to love. Ronald Reagan was beloved, even when he was making significant long-term errors. So was JFK. Hillary may be respected, but Obama is loved.

I don't think love is often a one way street, either. Brands that are loved usually start the process by loving their customers in advance. The easiest way to build a brand is to sell fear. The best way, though, may be to deliver on hope while aiming for love...

Why Not Start a New Course

I totally agree with Mr. Godin and think that Hope-Givers who start by giving Hope could very well end up with a love brand—a brand people love. In most copywriting it is said that the way you motivate people to buy is to push their hot buttons. Generally it is agreed that those buttons are fear, greed and vanity. So your task is simple, sit around all day preying on the weakness of fear, greed and vanity hidden within your customer.

I’m not saying this doesn’t work, look at any ad and you’ll see that’s exactly how it’s done. That’s why the writer in the forum was defending “John-boy’s” copy of “10 Websites and a Pair of Boobs”. The copy appealed to the fear of not having money now, the greed of making tons of money with no work, and the vanity of being smarter than the two “Barbies” on the infomercial. Well, while it may be true that “John-boy” did his job, but it’s not a job that I want.

I understand that people will buy faster when they are afraid than if they are calm, but do I really need to prey on their fear? What if I asked the simple question of, “What is behind the fear?” If I can appeal to what is causing the fear and answer that problem, then I will actually be helping instead of taking advantage of someone’s negative emotional state.

I may not make as many sales as a Hope-Monger, but I can live with myself. And maybe if customers start to see the difference, they will stop allowing themselves to be manipulated by fear and look for answers.

It’s the same with greed and vanity; both are just different forms of fear. What is the root of it all? What real issue needs to be answered here?

My Dilemma

As I said, all writers use hot buttons to reach their readers and motivate them to buy. The dilemma for me is which hot buttons do I pick and how do I use them without manipulating people. Exposing someone’s fear and using that to scare them into buying bothers me. Appealing to hidden greed or lust in a buyer doesn’t do much for me either.

Of course I want to motivate people to buy and that does mean tapping into their hot buttons, but doing this without manipulating people, that’s the trick. I’ll be talking more about this in my blog at but for now the purpose of this paper is to get people to open their eyes and WAKE UP.

Hope-Mongers think I’m foolish, stupid or insane for “leaving money on the table” and not chasing customers down until they buy. That’s their opinion and they are entitled to it, but it’s not for me or anyone who wants to be a Hope-Giver. Lest you forget, let me remind you that Hope-Givers do get paid. I know there are more examples of Hope-Mongers making their fortunes than Hope-Givers, but I’m hoping we can change that.

I believe with all my heart there is a right way to prosper beyond anything the Hope-Mongers could imagine. A way to prosper which not only includes finances but in every area of life and that’s not going to happen by sitting around and coming up with new ways to suck money out of people. I think that as Hope-Givers, we are going to have to set our own standard, a new approach to marketing. We are going to have to set our own course and do it our own way.

Let’s start by looking at a few Laws and Principles: The Hope-Givers Foundation and The Laws of God (starting in Part 9)...