The Power Of Pain In Marketing

Are you using the power of pain in marketing?

Let’s talk about human nature for a second.

If I were to offer you a succulent, moist, still-warm-from-the-oven piece of triple chocolate cake…

…while simultaneously slamming my heel into your toes…

…which one would you notice?

  • Which one would you react to?
  • And which one would you still be thinking about tomorrow?

People will spend an enormous amount of time, money and energy to avoid pain. They’ll avoid confrontation with bosses, neighbors, spouses and kids to avoid emotional pain. They’ll take drugs to suppress physical pain.

Your job as an effective marketer – whether you like it or not – is to use this pain to help them find a solution.

Is That Ethical?

Some might call this exploitation – digging around in the pain and agitating it to motivate people to take action.

But it’s probably a pain that they already have… nagging away inside them. You're not inflicting the pain on them. You’re making them aware of the pain, maybe even making it feel worse, before you finally prescribe the cure.

The human body responds instinctively to pain and makes people take action. If you accidentally put your hand on a red hot cooker hob, the pain will startle you into action to remove your hand so it doesn't get cooked.

So if you can help people become aware of pain and then remove that source of pain, it’s your job to do so using the best method possible to motivate them to take action.

If you decide that using the power of pain is unethical, that's your choice. However, being aware of how marketers use it (and they do!), can help you avoid being drawn in to purchases you may, or may not, have otherwise made.

Isn't There A Kinder Way?

Rather than making the pain worse before you finally prescribe the cure isn't there a kinder way to help people?

Result of effective marketingPerhaps you are thinking – you don’t want to make their pain worse to sell them a solution. Instead, you’ll motivate them with a positive picture of what their life will be like once they have the solution. Well, you’re half right.

But understand this – Humans will do far more to avoid pain than to receive reward. They’ll run as fast as they can away from the stick, but they’ll creep up on the carrot and many times never even reach it.

Most people cannot clearly describe what they want, which is why they never get it. But they can tell you exactly what they don’t want. By rubbing their noses in what they’re trying to avoid, you momentarily make the pain worse until it’s unbearable. They want to take action now. They NEED to take action NOW.

That's the point at which you motivate them with the positive picture of all the benefits they’ll receive from doing this thing you want them to do.

Examples Of The Power Of Pain In Marketing

Power of pain in marketingWhen do people use the power of pain in marketing?

Any time!

Pain is a universal motivator. Whether you’re selling software, information, washers and dryers, or stocks and bonds, agitate the problem, then offer the solution. Examples:

Selling Software

Marketers tell their prospects:

  • How much work they are having to do, and how much business are they missing because they don’t have your automated solution.
  • The government has introduced new rules and unless they buy compliant software they may be liable for penalties (for example, Making Tax Digital, in the UK)
  • They’ve already wasted tons of time and lost a fortune.
  • Their competitors are ahead of them, and soon their business will be on the scrap heap.

Unless… unless they grab your software now, because then they can get x benefit and y benefit and z benefit, etc.

Selling Health Information

Marketers tell their prospects:

  • They’re overweight, tired, catching colds and at risk for serious disease.
  • From here, it only gets worse – much worse. Sick, in pain, bed ridden, in the hospital, heart attacks and chemo and drugs and …

But wait… they can turn their health around, starting right now with your program / supplement / treatment.

Selling Washers and dryers

Marketers tell their prospects:

  • Think how much extra they’ve already paid in water bills because they don’t have energy efficient models.
  • Plus, the wear and tear to their clothes from inferior washers and overheating dryers.
  • Their shoddy appearance wearing these clothes, making a lousy first impression at work because of how bad their clothes look.

But you can solve it all today:

Selling Training

Marketers tell their prospects (as I am suggesting to you!):
Learn Internet Marketing

  • They’ve already wasted time and money through not having good quality training
  • Just look at the results your clients have been getting from following this training
  • If only they had started Internet Marketing Training (affiliate link) earlier they wouldn't have lost all that time and money

So right now you have chance to choose from the best Internet Marketing training courses yet (affiliate link), but it’s a competitive market online and timing is critical, so….

Pain Marketing Works

Okay, you get the idea. No matter what you’re selling, you can agitate the problem and then offer the solution.

If you're still not keen on the idea, watch some of the successful campaigns you see in Internet Marketing, or TV / YouTube adverts. These “big players” wouldn't be using the power of pain in marketing unless they'd found it added to their bottom line.

Remember – in movies the hero doesn’t arrive to save the day until things look completely bleak and desperate and the cause is all but lost. Effective marketing is no different.

Article amended, with permission, from the original source: Content Marketing Made Easy (affiliate link).

Please share

I left it too late to plan for a financially secure retirement. Don't make my mistake. Start building an extra income with a part-time (or full-time) business online. Think you don't have time? Can't afford the start-up cost? Can't meet sales targets? Contact me for free advice (no obligation) on the best fit for your circumstances.

Gaurav Kumar - March 22, 2019

Hi Joy,

A doctor cannot prescribe the medicine without explaining the health issue to the patient. This same works in marketing. You cannot suggest something and expect someone to buy your words without actually making them realize the problem.

Glad you have shared this.


    Joy - March 22, 2019

    Thanks Guarav,

    Good point relating it to an example that most people are familiar with and would consider completely ethical.

    Joy Healey – Blogging After Dark

James McAllister - March 23, 2019

Hi Joy!

Pain and fear are the two cards I always feel a bit uncomfortable playing, but in the end, every transaction comes down to this – people are exchanging money to solve some sort of problem. Sometimes that’s simply the pain of being bored, they need entertainment. Other times it’s much more drastic.

My most popular product line out of all my companies is my baby bodysuits. It’s with these we’ve had the most data to test out what works and what doesn’t – although fear and pain are definitely market dependent, I’ve learned how to use them most effectively with this product line.

Our strategy in this area has been to help people foresee potential problems (coming to that conclusion themselves), and immediately offer them a solution through our product.

We don’t tell them that their baby will be uncomfortable in other brands’ clothing, but we’re sure to mention how much their baby will appreciate how comfortable our clothes on.

We don’t say that other brands clothing will fall apart, but we’re sure to mention ours will last long enough to be passed down to somebody else.

For gift buyers, we don’t say that you’ll embarrass yourself by giving a gift that’s not well received if you decide to go with one of our competitors, but we’re sure to let you know that if you buy our product, it will be the hit of the baby shower that gets everyone talking.

You’re absolutely right that people are more driven by avoiding pain than seeking pleasure. We try really hard to hit both of these – eliminating the potential problems in our copy, and creating a situation where people feel good about themselves for buying our (much more expensive) products.

Of course, it helps that our products actually are top-tier, but you get my point.

I’ve always believed this – if your product is good, and is actually worth the price you’re selling it for, than you’re never doing an unethical thing by making people aware of its benefits.

– James McAllister

    Joy - March 29, 2019

    Hi James,

    I agree with you, I felt a little unsure of using pain in marketing, but in another way, you could say it’s “not right” to withhold a solution from someone with a problem that you can solve.

    I really liked the wording of your excellent examples, highlighting examples used with real-life products that will be very close to any new parent’s heart. It’s very much down to the “promote benefits of a product, not just features” that I heard in a sales training course some years ago.

    And yes, it’s much easier to do this when you have complete confidence in the product or service you’re selling – you and your baby clothes, for example. Me and my software services.

    Joy Healey – Blogging After Dark

Comments are closed