Fear is like sex, sweet onions, and a seven-day road trip: Once the stink gets on you, it's hard to shake. And, when it comes to the marketing strategies used and the content created by most organizations, that stink is so overwhelming it drives their audience toward any alternative that seems even remotely bold.

How do you gauge the influence fear has in your approach to marketing, communications, and content?

It's relatively simple.

Do you make decisions about marketing, communications, and content based on:

  • Unwritten industry norms?
  • A desire to appeal to every possible audience?
  • A reluctance to be the first?
  • An avoidance of anything remotely controversial or political?
  • A lack of faith in your marketing and communications team?
  • A lack of knowledge about (or worse, judgement of) modern, diverse cultures and generations?
  • The way you've always done it?
  • An unwillingness to avoid making anyone angry?
  • A worry that you'll look, feel, or get called stupid?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, fear is playing a big role in your marketing and content creation.

Fear can be useful. For example, that guy who made the documentary where he canoodled with grizzly bears before being eaten by a grizzly bear could have used a little more natural fear encoded in his DNA.

But you aren't canoodling with grizzly bears.

You are running a business.

In business, fear is the fastest road to irrelevancy.

And irrelevancy is failure.

To better understand how fear leads directly to irrelevancy in your marketing and communications, take a broader view of the word "content." That word means more than just Instagram posts, videos, and blogs.

Content also includes movies, books, music, and art.

Using that definition, think of the content that forms big parts of our shared cultural history. Think Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Grapes of Wrath, Invisible Man, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, every Motown record Berry Gordy ever produced, "This Land is Your Land," every painting Frida Kahlo ever painted, The Catcher in the Rye, every book Toni Morrison ever authored--all part of our shared history.

Combined, all the great works of content like the ones mentioned above represent an immeasurably small percentage of all the content produced, period. But the content we remember? The content that changes all of us collectively, and each of us individually? Behavioral change is the goal of any marketer, and content that succeeds in changing behavior--regardless of whether it is a great novel or a thirty-second commercial--is fearless.

Always.

Every time.

The same is true for your organization's marketing and communications strategy. The only way to succeed as a marketer is to be heard, and the only way to be heard is to be fearless.

Finally, being bold and being fearless do not justify using Gandhi's voice to sell Hyundais during the Super Bowl. That sort of "fearlessness" is just cynicism with good cinematography.

Plus, everyone knows Gandhi would never drive a Hyundai Accent.

The man was a revolutionary.

And revolutionaries only drive the all-new, redesigned Hemi-powered Dodge Ram.

Be bold.

Be fearless.

Be a better marketer.

Published on: Jun 18, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.