Guilt as A Marketing Strategy [video] [list]

Watch this video by Gary Vaynerchuk and you likely get as curious as I did about guilt as a marketing strategy.

We feel guilt when we let someone down, when we don’t live up to the expectations of others. Guilt as a marketing strategy  is not as horrid as it sounds.  We own the expectations we set in our community. If we set the right expectation, the right things can happen.

Aside from talking about guilt (at 11 mins in), Gary also talks about how to tell stories across emerging media channels like SnapChat and Instagram.

Two weeks ago we wrote about “Generosity as a Strategy”.  The problem with such a strategy is people develop a resistance to paying for stuff that’s free.
As Gary says you can rely on marketing folk to break just about every tool you give them. Free has come back to bite. That’s where guilt can help. They provide contrast and context.
If you let people feel comfortable not paying, then that’s the behaviour you will get. Perhaps you don’t want money in exchange for free advice, but you’d prefer people sharing and commenting. If that’s your expected behaviour, you need to work hard to develop that reaction. You can be grateful and expect people to be grateful in return. People learn and mimic behaviours from their peers.
Be clear about what’s paid and what’s free and what expectations you have. It’s simply a case of learning behaviour and using repetition.
We have learned an expectation with sites like Google that free is fine.
With Google and Facebook, you are helping them generate massive ad revenues. You are the product they are selling.
Each business has its own model and culture. Each business has its own economies of scale.
Free is  just one tool and utilizing guilt and setting social norms are another part of the mix. I sense people are now more willing to pay for things. It’s a slow cultural shift to have us adopt premium versions of tools like Dropbox, Evernote and Listly. I know I pay for many more services today than I used to a year ago. It’s becoming normal.
Chris Brogan is a example of someone else doing a great job of combining (free/value) with asking for money or action. Chris clearly distinguishes when he is giving and when he is is asking. Chris owns the term “selly, sell, sell”. My sense is this “pairing” improves his conversion and extends his influence to get people to act. He sets expectations and is repetitive in his mantras.
In “Influence Marketing” Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown talk about the power of emotional guilt in the context of Danny’s 12 for $12k project.
John Jantsch talks about “Exploring Your Guilt Story” as backdrop to understanding what guilt means to us and to our clients.
My research shows there’s lots to learn about guilt as a marketing tool. Vote and suggest things I missed. Guilt in Marketing has been studied since the late 70’s, but today’s nuanced guilt is a different beast – or that’s my impression.
Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
Listly Curator Listly Curator
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15 items   6 followers   5 votes   1.08k views

How to Use Guilt As a Marketing Strategy - Research


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He also talks about guiting people to ask as a part of his strategy to contrast against giving value.

He also talks about his new book that is still on pre-release.

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How to Use Your Guilt Story to Propel Your Business

I love stories. I love that Mister Rogers used to say, "It's hard not to like someone once you know their story." At the end of this post I have a very specific type of story I'm hoping you will share in the comments.

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Guilt Marketing- Why do we feel guilty?

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Motivate buyers with fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity and approval

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Expert Vancouver BC business columnists. Management, marketing, sales, social scene, web and financial experts writing free business columns for BC Small Business.

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The Secrets of Guilt & Shame Marketing It's one of marketing's most powerful motivators, but weaving guilt into advertising requires a masterfully light touch. Get too shaming and the customer will simply rebel. The best advertisers craft a marketing message so inspirational that guilt covertly hits the mark. See more Emotional Marketing videos at

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Consumer Guilt: Examining the Potential of a New Marketing Construct

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, 1991 Pages 290-295 CONSUMER GUILT: EXAMINING THE POTENTIAL OF A NEW MARKETING CONSTRUCT Dana-Nicoleta Lascu, University of South Carolina A negative emotion frequently employed by marketing practitioners in designing advertising appeals, yet afforded little attention in the consumer behavior literature is guilt.

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Building a Brand Based on Emotions: Guilt

Guilt is a powerful emotion that can come in many forms. Whether you feel guilty that you work too much and don't spend enough time with your family or you feel guilty that you ate that extra helping at dinner, it's an emotion that can affect your purchase decisions.

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Branding Strategy Insider | Building Brands With The Guilt Strategy

Forget about depression, fear, angst, anxiety or night sweats. Guilt, that most puritanical of all our human emotions, has resurfaced to become a 21st century emotional social and consumer pandemic.

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The guilt appeal

Guilt marketing is a tried-and-tested tactic to affect consumer behaviour, and the opportunities to play on it are growing as it becomes the predominant emotion in modern lives. But is such a negative focus effective in the long term? We all feel guilty about something, whether it's lack of time with the family or failing to recycle.

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B2B Marketing & Guilt Appeals

B2B Marketing & Guilt Appeals In influencing your B2B target audience, the idea of whether or not to include guilt in your messaging may be a factor. Studies on guilt appeals suggest that as guilt increases, persuasiveness decreases. But when you add in the notion of hypocrisy, things aren't as cut-and-dry.

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Guilt Trip: From Fear to Guilt on the Green Bandwagon: Alex Hesz, Bambos Neophytou

'A provocative, vibrant, panoramic review of the way we live -and shop- today. Hesz and Neophytou pose fundamental questions about the role of fear and guilt in modern consumption and marketing.' - Jim Carroll, Chairman, Bartle Bogle Hegarty 'The biggest economic downturn in our lifetimes has clearly highlighted the limitations of the plc model that has been the basis of our western economy for generations.

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Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility

PART I: THEORETICAL PREMISES. Preface. 1. Persuasion in Today's Changing World. 2. Perspectives on Ethics in Persuasion. 3. Traditional, Artistic, and Humanistic Approaches to Persuasion. 4. Social Scientific Approaches to Persuasion. 5. The Making, Use, and Misuse of Symbols. 6. Tools for Analyzing Language and Other Persuasive Symbols.

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Consumer Guilt: A Model of Its Antecedents and Consequences: Ayla Dedeoglu, Ipek Kazancoglu

AYLA ÖZHAN DEDEOGLU. Professor of Marketing in the Department of Marketing at Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Ege University in Izmir, Turkey. IPEK KAZANCOGLU. An Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Department of Marketing at Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Ege University in Izmir, Turkey.

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Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World: Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur who has revolutionized the way people look at interacting with their communities. While building his family's local liquor store into a national industry leader, he observed the extraordinary potential of what he has dubbed the Thank You Economy.

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Influence Marketing Book - Beyond Social Scoring for Influence Marketing

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Oddly, today’s marketing is so much more about psychology than technology. How you use the tools and how you appreciate human motivation will determine your success.

Audiences feel a duty to contribute to some people and not to others. You own the task of cultivating the desired visceral reaction in your community. How you act plays a big role in how effective you are and cultivating engagement on Listly, for example.

It’s your job to create the mindset where your audience feels the need to contribute. A desire to participate is something you earn, it’s a possibility, not a right. In the age of social participation it certainly is a top  marketing priority. Last week’s post proved what can happen when you do it right.

Guilt and free work well together. They provide contrast, like sweet and sour or yin and yang

One final though is pick the action you think you want/need carefully. You don’t get second chances and you don’t want to offer choice at the moment of participation. Creating density of emotion by driving many people to perform a single action is when social amplification works best.
The big lesson is to make sure you are providing value before you ask. Guilting needs a context and an established context to work against. You need to establish your norms first.
We have some creative ideas we plan to explore, not just about Listly premium but also about helping your ask for help with your lists. That’s where we differ from Chris and Gary. If you are a Listly user, we like believe you are experiencing value from using Listly in the following ways
  • on Listly
  • in social interactions (via Facebook, Twitter, G+ etc)
  • on your blog (as embedded content)
What’s your thoughts and reactions to utilizing and being aware of guilt as a marketing strategy?

PS: Thank’s to Jane Boyd who shared the video with me and thanks to Gary for sharing it with the world.

PPS: If you feel indebted go follow Gary’s YouTube Channel and sign up for Jane’s new Storytelling conference.

Image Credit: JD Hancock via Flickr/Creative Commons.

NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.