…A recent neuroscience study shows that fear is a far bigger driver than we would ever care to admit. Fear of losing our job, fear of not being able to make the kids' school payments, fear of ending up in the proverbial gutter. These thoughts are scary enough to bring on an instant anxiety attack. When we're operating in survival mode, fear and sex become our two main drivers.
When President Johnson ran his “Daisy” TV commercial, which threatened voters with nuclear annihilation if he wasn't elected, the voters hated it. George W. Bush tapped into a similar zeitgeist in 2004. His commercial, showing wolves crossing the border as stealthily as terrorists, he instilled the self-same dread and fear. Both TV commercials aimed to knock us square on the amygdala, the region in our brain responsible for generating fear. Voters spoke of their dislike for both commercials, yet what brain scans showed was that as a consequence of these ads, voters favored the politicians that would best “protect” them.
From the very first days of the U.S. recession, all three big car manufacturers announced unheard-of discounts to shift their stock. They continue to offer their cars at cost, and despite this, nobody's buying. The problem is not the cars, but the proposition which has failed to take the fear factor into account. People who fear for their jobs are hesitant about spending money on a big-ticket purchase. The Korean car manufacturer Hyundai took this cautious mood into account and began and offering very real assurances. They say, “Buy any new Hyundai, and if in the next year you lose your income, we'll let you return it.” In just a month Hyundai increased its sales by more than 20% in the U.S. alone. You may wonder if the company's sitting with a lot of returned stock. Well, as this goes to print, supposedly only two cars have been returned.
Still curious? Martin Lindstrom is the author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best–seller. His newest book is Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.