Love or Fear – Which will drive your marketing?

My good friend Judy Ryan likes to say that all human actions, feelings, and reactions are driven by two things, and two things alone – love and fear. When you’re in a state of love, you’re willing to be open, accepting, transparent, and vulnerable.  When in fear, you’re guarded, limited, and seek protection at all costs. So we think of it this way: if you love something enough, you’re willing to set aside your fear and make that love/belief/desire the most important thing to focus on.

While Judy and I typically talk about this in the context of company culture and human relationships, I recently began thinking about the concept of love or fear in terms of marketing. As I pondered, I realized that over the last 16 years, we’ve seen a number of clients in these states.


It’s normal to be afraid sometimes. We wouldn’t be human if fear didn’t factor into the equation from time to time. I can help us identify challenges to overcome, and be prepared. The key is to recognize when you’re letting fear be your guide. Here’s how you can spot when it showing up:

  • Analysis Paralysis – You over-analyze and second-guess every detail. You recognize every “what if” as a roadblock that cannot be overcome. This can crop up at any time during a marketing campaign, but we typically see it when launching a new product or entering a new market. “If I just make this last tweak it will be perfect!” Then the tweak is made another change is identified, and the pattern continues. In one case, we saw a former client tinker so much that his competitor beat him to market. His fear was guiding. In his mind, his product was never going to be good enough, and that fear led him to lose his competitive advantage.
  • Chasing the Competition – Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good idea to know what your competition is doing and how you stack up in terms of market share, brand awareness, and the like. However, if you find yourself focusing so much on the competition that you forget your purpose and what your brand stands for, you’re acting out of fear. Your belief in this state is that the competition is better, smarter and faster than you, and you’ll never stack up. You’ll never be enough. So you chase their every move, and stew every time you see them mentioned.
  • Imitation – You know the old adage: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I don’t know who made that crap up. If you’re imitating another company or another brand, you’re afraid to create and live your own brand promise. We once had a client tell us, in a “finding your why” session how different they were from their competitors. “We’re nothing like them! We believe in different things, treat our customer differently, and we’re doing it right!” My team was so excited. We put together messaging, a brand story, and started down the road of how their visual identity would take shape. Our enthusiastic presentation to the client was met with disappointed faces. “We know we told you all that, but we really just want to look exactly like the big guy in our industry.” Their fear of standing out and telling THEIR story prevailed.

Love – the antidote for fear

It sounds touchy-feely, right? I thought so the first time I heard it too. This is business, not a kumbaya session. But think about it. If you love your business, your product, your goals and dreams for what it’s going to become and are committed to it, you set the fear aside and make that love the priority. We can always tell when a client is in a state of love:

  • Brand Clarity and Commitment – You know what your brand stands for, and are willing to live it and defend it even if one person tells you they don’t get it or agree with it. You’re OK with that because you know your brand isn’t for everyone. You make decisions based on your brand promise, and your enthusiasm for it is infectious. I was in a meeting with a client yesterday who demonstrates this. Kolbeco worked closely with the organization’s founder many years ago to develop the brand. He loves and believes in the brand story so much that he’s spread it to each member of his large team. Each can tell you exactly what the company believes in and can give you an example of how they lived it today. As a result, the organization has grown tremendously over the last decade.
  • Love of Learning and Exploring –If you’re motivated by love, you are completely at ease not being the smartest person in the room. You know there is so much to learn, and so many people to learn from. You listen. You have a genuine curiosity. You’re open to feedback and the perspective of others – or as one of my clients like to say, you “love every idea for five minutes.” You’re open to opportunities. This is where innovation comes from. It’s where new products are developed, new marketing avenues are discovered, and a greater connection with your audience (including your internal team) is fostered.
  • You Celebrate Success (of Everyone) – Of course you want to celebrate when you and your team have done something remarkable – and you should. It’s a cause for appreciating your team, your hard work and collective accomplishment. But consider this. If you truly love your product, your brand, and your industry, why not celebrate the success of another in your industry? In many cases, we’ve seen that the success of one brand in the industry can elevate all. It creates more awareness for the product or service in general. We’ve experienced this from both sides. In one instance, our client’s achievement helped increase sales exponentially for the industry – a product and industry that the public previously had little awareness for. More awareness for the industry means more sales for all. On the flip side, we’ve also seen business increase for clients due to greater awareness for a competitor. The decision to buy – or what product to buy – relates back to your brand and the connection you make with the audience. In celebrating the success of all, you’ve put that fear of not being enough aside and recognize that acceptance may reap rewards for you as well.

So ask yourself the question when it comes to your company, your brand promise, your culture, and your marketing – am I operating based on love or fear? Fear will hold you back. Love will allow for advancement. It’s your choice.

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