Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Billy's Seventeenth Law: Axiom One - The Need for Security

In previous blog entries, I have indicated that there are four emotional needs that help to drive decisions.  This week examines the first need, the need for security.  Of all of our most fundamental human instincts, the need to survive and replicate the species is the dominant.  If we are in an insecure situation, we react in a manner known as the ‘fight of flight’ response.   Our adrenal glands kick in, and our heart rate and blood pressure increases.  In fact, that tickling in your stomach you experience on a rollercoaster is the body taking blood away from less important organs and channeling them to the heart, lungs arms and legs.  We avoid danger or react to danger instinctively. 
For the most part, people do not live their lives in imminent danger.  Our security need, however; still affects our behaviour, including buying behaviour.  We desire physical security, emotional security, and financial security.  Appealing to the security need is an important part of developing a balanced promotional message.  The ‘trust message’ is a powerful way in which to tap into the security need.  (A great advertising campaign proudly trumpeted that, “Nobody ever got fired for buying a Xerox.)
Closely related to the security need is risk.  Helping customers avoid risk has the added benefit of reducing price as a sole decision making factor.  Customers often make low risk, low reward choices.  For example, given a choice between receiving $5.00 guaranteed, and having a 50% chance of receiving $15.00, most people took the guarantee despite the fact that the second decision has the higher mathematical expectancy.  This example is adapted from the book Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and how to Take Advantage of It) by William Poundstone.
One of the most powerful promotional messages is the threats to security.  Financial ads often worry people about their retirement future and security firms show the vulnerability of not having the latest alarm system.  The contra-emotion to security is insecurity, risk or threat.  These bring forth powerful and even irrational buying behaviours.  This form of advertising brings forth the problem very clearly, leaving the customer to draw the conclusion that the solution.
Business groups do not solely use this advertising.  In health, we are encouraged not to smoke due to the health implications.  A Canadian study reported a 17.2% incidence of lung cancer among male smokers as compared to a 1.3% risk to non-smoking males.  This kind of promotion (promoting smoking secession) drives right to the security need, as does the recent series of ads from preventable.ca, discouraging risky behaviours such as Jay Walking, Distracted driving, and medication safety.  They are appealing to the same emotional needs.
When developing a promotional campaign, whether for a website, brochure or a sales presentation, see if there are ways you can show your customer how they increase their level of safety and security as a result of using your product or purchasing from your company.  Assure your customer that they are making the right decision for the specific needs you have identified.  This core human need goes directly to the heart of the decision making process.

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