Posted by Dan Greenwald

Fear is a powerful motivator. But as Solis Women’s Health found out, it can also be a powerful demotivator.

Studies prove it: people are incapable of making decisions without a little burst of dopamine – the brain's emotional happy juice. Smart marketers know emotion is the key.

Case in point, I'm shopping for a new guitar right now. Ok, more like lusting for one – a Fender Stratocaster. I’ve always wanted one. There are cheaper guitars, guitars with more bells and whistles. But I want a Strat. I can practically feel the dopamine sloshing around my head now. It's irrational.

After the rush comes the rationalization – people find reasons to support the emotional decision AFTER they make the decision. Exactly backwards from the way most marketing and sales is designed.

As in all marketing, healthcare marketing needs emotion to acquire new patients and referrals. But which emotion is the right one to trigger?

Texas-based mammography provider Solis Women’s Health learned the hard way that fear is the wrong one. On the one hand it seems intuitive that scaring women into getting regular breast exams would be effective. "Don’t be that one out of eight women." "Don’t wait until it’s too late.” "Be smart."

But Solis did some research (see this NPR piece) to help find out why their business wasn’t growing as fast as they expected. Instead of creating appointments, they actually created procrastination. The more scared women were of the possible results, the more they wanted to actually avoid the test. It seems obvious in hindsight.

We are all wired to avoid pain. Ironically it’s the most primitive, deeply wired psychology that causes us to procrastinate, because subconsciously, the brain thinks it’s a danger to our survival. So we avoid it. Like we avoid paying the bills, or going to the gym.

So Solis tried the opposite approach, and a new tagline was born: “When you're ready, we’re here.” The opposite of fear, this message reduces anxiety, and creates a sense of comfort. With comfort comes trust, the most important emotion in healthcare marketing. Solis sales are up 10% this year.

The single most important concept in marketing. 

The vast majority of marketers never bother to look at the world from the point of view of their audience. Instead, they focus on what they want to say about themselves. Your audience is too busy worrying about themselves to give a hoot about what matters to you. Understanding this and living it everyday is the single most important thing great marketers get.

Our B2Me approach gets to the heart of which emotion will connect with your audience. Too many marketers make the mistake of guessing, and more often than not they’re wrong. And wrong is expensive. 


Dan Greenwald is the Founder, President and Creative Director of White Rhino, since 1990. Dan has deep expertise building growth for B2B and healthcare companies globally. He has been recognized with numerous industry awards for interactive, strategy, advertising, branding, direct marketing and design work. Get more info from Dan on Twitter or Linkedin, or email at

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Topics: Creative, Market Research, Healthcare, Addictive Experience