Going Alone or Going Together: Fear vs Hope-Based Marketing Strategies

Lately, as we connect with our marketing partners, we’ve replaced the usual “how you doin’?-good-okay” at the start of each call with a time of active listening. 

As we provide our ears as sounding boards, we’ve noticed the surfacing patterns of very real fears and very powerful hopes.

We fault no one for their fears during uncertain times, but be cautious that you aren’t enacting short-sited strategies based on them.

Fear Sells Today, But Ignores Tomorrow

As marketers, we are acutely aware of what a prominent role fear can play in decision making, as it is one of the top emotions that drive a customer’s decision to either consume or avoid. And it gets over used.

It is the hammer many marketers use to smash all the other tools in their tool box. Fear may sell today, but it doesn’t build a very good tomorrow.

Just look at most political ads… many lift not a finger to inform audiences about policies or inspire positive change, but only foment action or in-action based on fear. The informed voter pays them no mind.

An Invitation To Be a Better Brand

In this time of unique crisis, we are noticing something different: brands leading the way with hopeful, encouraging messaging and even remarkable acts of generosity.

These acts are emanating from both smaller and bigger brands – even some that we normally wouldn’t harbor much empathy for…

  • Verizon: free long distance, discounts, waiving fees and increasing shipping speed. Now just please restore Net Neutrality.
  • xfinity: issuing $22 credits – every little bit helps.
  • New York Times: allowing free access to coronavirus coverage

The most encouraging and inspiring message I found in my inbox this morning wasn’t a note from my mother (who is a saint, btw), but it was from PayPal’s CEO. PayPal?!

“Many businesses today are stepping up to help, because no one business can do it alone. We’re calling on companies across the financial ecosystem, to come together to help the most vulnerable during this crisis. We all need to support our employees and look for ways to help our customers navigate these waters. In the last few months, we’ve seen generosity and kindness, intergenerational support and solidarity, and remarkable fortitude. It is during times like these that courage and generosity and resilience make a difference.”

Dan Schulman, PayPal President and CEO

Then he says this, setting apart these words in their own paragraph for emphasis, “We are here to help our customers.”

Now, I haven’t used PayPal in years, not since its business associate eBay essentially became a thesaurus for the term “hidden fees”, but their stock just went up in my eyes.


The brands that differentiate themselves by being generous and who provide relevant support, encouragement and relief to their audiences through the dark days ahead will emerge stronger and brighter when the sun shines again.


Beacons of Reassurance

There is a call out there now, louder than ever, and it is not to abandon hope, but to embrace it. It is a call to use your marketing as a beacon of reassurance in turbulent times.

Our agency partners with a clutch of amazing credit unions throughout the United States.

We feel honored to support their marketing teams during this time as we know that these member-owned financial institutions will play significant roles in the economic support and recovery of their local communities.

The subject line of a recent email from one CU summed up everything their members and potential members need to hear right now: “Financially impacted by COVID-19? We’ve got your back.”

Fear-based vs Hope-Based Marketing Strategies

There are two routes a brand can take to get the other side of this pandemic:

  1. The Insular Route: fear-based, protect what’s mine, others are out to get me
  2. The (We’re-In-This) Together Route: hope-based, generous, encouraging common security

The Insular Route takes a “me first” approach that fails to look at the horizon beyond today.

Brands that take this route often fail to adapt their messaging, products and services to new realities. They seek instead to simply maintain.

In a sense, they will persist in their own fear-induced denial. They are inclined to shrink their presence for fear that being bold simply means having more mouths to feed.

Contrast this with brands who pro-actively resolve to travel the We’re-In-This-Together Route.

These are the brands who offer life boats to their current customers and provide space aboard to pull others out of the water with products, services and kindness that meets them where they’re at.

The brands that differentiate themselves by being generous and who provide relevant support, encouragement and relief to their audiences through the dark days ahead will emerge stronger and brighter when the sun shines again.

This is a key moment in history where brands have the opportunity to differentiate themselves and not only stand apart, but stand beside their key constituents which will, in the end, make them stand above the rest.

Scrappy Optimism Fuels Adaptation

We also understand that not all businesses will have the footing right now to pull others aboard their proverbial life rafts. But that is not to say that they aren’t still able to take the Together Route by adapting.

Kimberly Bell-Jessop of Nil Organic Tea makes some of the best teas you will find anywhere.

Heck, she made a tea drinker out of this ardent coffee consumer the first time she let me sample her Coastal Coconut blend a few years ago.

I used to find her teas at the Portland Saturday Market where she says the majority of her revenue originated from in-person sales.…and hope to find them there one day again soon.

Kimberly was refreshingly transparent when she reached out to her audience via email about how her family are adjusting their lives and business.

She began with gratitude, then expressed her uncertainty (something that unites us all at the moment) and then invited her audience (current and former customers) to join her as she adapts her business to focus online instead of in-person.

“We are excited about the creativity that is to come with shifting our focus online, and honestly hopeful that we will be okay, but to say we need your help is an understatement.”

Kimberly Bell-Jessop, Owner/Founder of Nil Organic Tea

In that one short paragraph, she perfectly describes the scrappy optimism and need for community that is inherent when a small business chooses a hope-based marketing strategy.

Paralyzing Fear and Blind Optimism Be Damned. Hope Is What We’re After.

Renowned philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm, a German Jew living in the era of Nazis, provides us with a wonderful description for reviving and adapting our messaging – for being scrappy optimists. 

“Hope is a decisive element in any attempt to bring about social change in the direction of greater aliveness, awareness, and reason.”

Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope

If you ask the team at Edge, hope is the higher route that we take together – and the one we’ll always recommended to our partners big or small. 

Besides, the view of the other side is almost always better up here.

And with that…I think I’ll go have a cup of tea.


One more quick note…Edge has been a work-from-home company for almost two decades. We’ve assembled some of our favorite tips and commiserations in the posts below.

More Than Maintaining: Transforming Your Digital Marketing In Times Crisis

As your team works diligently during this time to inform, protect and serve your members, your partners at Edge want you to know that we’re here as a resource for you to lean on as well.

To that end, we’ve assembled a list of considerations for your digital marketing during this time to help inform your strategy as things unfold and adapt to a new reality over the coming months. 

We’ll continue to update this post and distribute any new, relevant guidance as it comes in.

If there’s any way we can help you just reach out, we’ll do our best as always. Together we’ll get through this stronger.


9 Ways To Adapt Your Digital Marketing To Better Serve Your Audience In Tough Times

1) Expect Your Digital Branch To Get Busier

Short term: Until the virus peaks we might expect that larger, non-immediate consumer financial decisions to slow down. Search intent is already migrating towards topics of immediate safety and provision…and home office supplies.

During this time we suggest keeping your brand present online. Pausing or stopping budgets altogether is not recommended, as you’re likely to lose ground as well as consumer trust by running silent.

Instead, this is the time to remind and encourage your audience that your organization is there for them and has the financial tools they need and…they can all be accessed online. More on this in points #2 and #3 below.

Long term: As your membership adjusts to #quarantinelife, expect even the staunchest technophobes to start moving to online banking and more potential new members to explore services and products online instead of dropping by a branch.

Ad schedules will likely need to be at least temporarily extended to accommodate an expanded work-from-home audience that will behave differently than a primarily commuter audience.

For example, standard commuter hours that we might normally exclude could see upticks in online activity as commuters replace drive time with screen time.

Perhaps more than ever, PPC pros must make sure brands and organizations are present when people are searching.

Frederick Vallaeys of Optmyzr

In his blog post this week, Frederick Vallaeys of Optmyzr said, “Perhaps more than ever, PPC pros must make sure brands and organizations are present when people are searching. And let’s face it…we’ll undoubtedly have a LOT more searching going on via Google and Bing” in the coming weeks as consumers adjust their lives.”

Vallaeys goes on to say, “While businesses often knee-jerk their budgets down in times of uncertainty, now may very well be the best time to up the spend on PPC. Social distancing means more people will buy online. It’s essential and responsible to be sure to capture the surge in online shopping.”

Developing budgets that are responsive has always key part of healthy digital marketing strategies and budget flexibility is especially crucial at this time. 

We have already seen some spikes in online conversion activities starting at the end of FEB, when the virus got very real in the U.S. Rate fluctuations have also impacted user behavior. 

We’re keeping our eyes on patterns as they develop to keep you informed.

Should we continue to see online demand rise as expected you’ll want to make sure your brand is present to answer the call whether that be via your digital branch, online banking tools, paid search and display ads and/or call centers.

2) Creative Shifts

Review your current ad, social and landing page creative. Is there anything that should be changed to account for and be sensitive to the current situation?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t have the means to generate new creative at this time, but if there’s an opportunity to pivot and improve than we suggest doing so. 

Edge can also help out here by providing design services to extend your team’s capabilities should you find yourselves over taxed.

3) Tone and Transparency

When you communicate to your audience be transparent (this sucks), but temper your messaging with healthy amounts of encouragement (we will get through this). Keep your audiences informed, not overwhelmed. 

Kimberly Dutcher, another Search Engine land author put it this way in a recent article“ensure ad copy and website messaging are in full support of employee and customer wellness. Be aware of people’s reaction to this sensitive issue.”

4) Call Center Expansion

We have indeed already seen some of our CU partners convert branches into expanded call centers to accommodate increased volume.

In a CU Times article, Signal Financial President/CEO Francois Verleysen indicated that a majority of the calls they received were members needing help making use of the online tools.

“Most of the calls we received on Friday included requests from members to help them with installing the mobile banking app or how to use our remote deposit service,” Verleysen said. “We are getting members to use those digital services we always had that they never took advantage of.”

Francois Verleysen, Signal Financial President/CEO

5) Create a COVID FAQs Page

According to Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land, “…every consumer-facing business probably needs a COVID FAQs page that addresses common questions the public may be asking about their products or services.”

No, this isn’t a tactic to increase organic search visibility. It is simply to make sure you are serving your members and potential members as best you can by creating an easy-to-find hub for all your organization’s info and updates regarding how COVID-19 is impacting your organization and FOM.

Create a Corona Virus FAQ page and make it a resource hub for your members. Update it often, email it to your members and post a link to it prominently from your homepage.

6) If You Must Temporarily Close Locations

Update your Google My Business profile to “Temporarily Closed“. Now might be a good time to review your GMB pages to make sure all your contact info is up to date as well.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to update your call center messages to give the most pertinent branch closer updates to callers immediately.

7) Scam Alerts

Continue to monitor and inform your audience against scams that seek to capitalize on turbulent times like Coronavirus-Related Ransomware Sites.

8) Wellness Buddies

No, it’s not a cartoon on PBS and I confess to having chuckled when my boss first suggested this, but then she explained it and I was like, “Dang. That’s a really good idea. We should always be doing that.” 

Wellness buddies…are cross-trained partners within your organization who are able to cover for each other should one become sick or have to take leave to care for someone who’s sick.

At Edge, we’ve been a virtual working environment for going on two decades. Over that time, we’ve learned that one inadvertent pitfall of the virtual office can be the siloing of expertise.

Create systems for sharing knowledge throughout your organization and you’ll not only give your team more depth and flexibility, but also drive new ideas.

“It is the unwanted, unasked for challenges that often spur our best moments of kindness, generosity and innovation.”

9) Give Your Team Permission To Do Good

Innovation doesn’t always have to be about building better widget. It can also be about building a more compassionate organization by thinking differently about what truly matters.

This week, I got perhaps the most unique email I’ve ever received from an employer. In it my boss told our teams that we can take paid time off to help our neighbors during this time and even use the company card to help neighbors in an emergency or donate to a charity of our choice. 

She said she trusts us to do the right thing…and in that simple statement gave us permission to be something more than a kick ass marketing agency. 

We know that even the best laid campaigns and strategies are up in the air right now. However, we’re confident that business can and will move on, just not business as usual.

It is the unwanted, unasked for challenges that often spur our best moments of kindness, generosity and innovation.


One more quick note…Edge has been a work-from-home company for almost two decades. We’ve assembled some of our favorite tips and commiserations in the posts below.

Saying ‘Thank You’ Real Good

Using Thank You pages for better goal tracking and customer experience

You wouldn’t receive a gift from someone and not say “Thank You,” right? Of course not. When a person takes the time to click through and take the action you recommended, it’s a gift.

On the web, we say “thanks” on a page.

A Thank You page is the page that loads after a user has completed a conversion activity on your website. Submitting a lead generation form, purchasing a product or subscribing to your newsletter, are all potential conversion activities.

The Thank You page serves as a way to let people know they were successful and to continue your interaction with them.

Why use Thank You pages?

Thank You pages are just a great way to show that you care, nurture a new lead and build some trust. They also have some benefits for improving your goal tracking and understanding your prospect’s journey.

Thank You pages provide:

  • More opportunity to encourage secondary conversions and sharing of your content.
  • A better starting point from which to engage and nurture new prospects and/or customers.
  • Better tracking and integration with Google Analytics.

From a strictly friendly, relationship-building perspective, a Thank You page is courteous and provides a chance to start a second conversion process.

That could be another product, an inquiry, or additional content. That, in turn, can help paint a clearer picture of who the prospect is and how you can serve them better.

From a goal tracking perspective, having a unique Thank You page URL for each goal gives you the ability to track each goal separately. It also allows us to assign more specific and accurate economic values to each type of conversion goal.

Thank You page best practices

Thank You pages don’t need a lot of content to be successful. Remember that the Thank You page is a great place to help set the user’s expectations by letting them know what the next step is.

Restate the core value proposition, confirming the action they just took.

  • Let the user know WHEN, HOW & WHO will be following up with them (if applicable).
  • Let the user know how they can track their inquiry (if applicable).
  • Link to where they can find more information about the specific product they just purchased or applied for.
  • It is also a great time and place to request a secondary conversion such as “Newsletter Sign Up” or “Refer a Friend.”

Short and sweet. Courteous, too. That’s all it takes for a great Thank You page.

Let’s Talk About Conversions!

Let’s Talk!

Personas don’t need every detail, just the ones that matter

Personas are “sketches” of your target audience. They help your team create content that speaks to your audience’s pain points and aligns with what they’re searching for.

Don’t get bogged down with character details like “does she take her coffee black or with cream?” Instead, focus on the mindset of your target audience. What pain points keep them from meeting their goals or reaching out for the help they need to do so?

Your final persona document might assign names and have more detail, but don’t stress. Focus on what motivates your audience and what their daily pain points are.

Envision Your Ideal Customer

Marry what you know about people who use your services with what your data and sales team is telling you. This combination should give you a Buyer Profile.

Start with Google Analytics data about the people using your relevant landing pages:

  • What is their primary age?
  • What gender are they?
  • Are they mobile or desktop users, and what is their browser preference?
  • Where do they live?
  • Are they more likely to be a new or returning user on your website?

Getting Into Your Customer’s Frame of Mind

For this, I like starting with these 3 questions:

  1. What is the first thing my customer thinks about in the morning?
  2. What is the last thing my customer thinks about at night?
  3. Why?

Answering these questions will help identify and document your customer’s pain points in the personas.

Initial Competitor Keyword Research

Once you’re in the mindset of your audience, the next step is to begin to imagine the questions they might be searching with to hunt down answers.

Long-tail keywords may prove to be key here as they don’t tend to have a high volume of search traffic.

Keep in mind the stage of the buying process when planning content. People at the top of the sales funnel tend to seek out content that answers “what is it?” and “how does it work?”. Meanwhile, people more ready to make a decision search for quality differentiators like “why is it better than other options?”.

Audience Profiles and Audience Insights

After exploring your ideal audience’s pain points and the questions they might be using to search, it’s time to compile your discoveries into one proper persona. In a nutshell, you should break down the persona you’re developing in two components: Profile & Insight.

  • Audience profile – who your ideal customer is using relevant demographic and psychographic details.
  • Audience insight – what makes your ideal customer pull out their credit card and buy.

Your final personas can take many forms and will be something you update regularly. It need not and should not be overly wrought. Sometimes the best description of your audience is a list of the questions they are asking that only you can answer. From there, you can launch an effective content strategy and develop inbound campaigns.

How Can We Help Make Your Personas Work For You?

Let’s Talk.

Display Me The Money: Measuring the Value of a Strong Display Presence

Attribution and giving credit where credit is due

It is still the case for much of Digital Marketing that 100% of the credit goes to the last-clicked channel. 

This can be a stumbling block at times for teams investing in and trying to prove the value of, not only a strong digital display initiative, but traditional display as well.

This is because spending is easily measured and attributable to specific efforts, while the value returned from that money spent is often more diffused. In no other channel is this more the case than in Display.

Display me the money!

It makes complete sense when advertisers boosts their display budget that they expect to see an on-platform result beyond more impressions and clicks.

If you’re this advertiser and you give a darn about revenue and justifying your ad spend then naturally you’ll want to see attributable, on-platform revenue grow in step with your burgeoning budget.

While on-platform conversion activity, positive revenue growth and ROAS are not an impossibility, these metrics should actually be considered secondary to the positive impact your display initiatives are having on three other channels: DirectOrganic Search and Paid Search.

Now is a good time to stop and think about why we run display ads in the first place. It can sound a bit counterintuitive at first, but the reason should not be to get display conversions.

Granted in some verticals, with some products and depending on the budget levels you can, of course, achieve a steady stream on-platform conversion activity, but if you stopped there you’d still only be measuring small chunk of the value. This approach could lead your team to inadvertently undervalue display and make it more difficult to communicate value to key stakeholders.

This is especially true for display campaigns with tighter budgets, or campaigns with newer brands trying to expand their name recognition. They might try it once, not see the flood of conversion activity directly attributable to ad clicks they’d hoped for and declare the effort and spend a bust.


Why do we run display ads in the first place? It can sound a bit counterintuitive at first, but the reason should not be to get display conversions.


Display’s primary purpose

The primary purpose of a prospecting display campaign is to raise the awareness and visibility of your brand within the communities you serve.

Generating awareness through prospecting display is a super important activity, but it is a top-of-the-funnel activity, thus one that seldom gets the easy accolades of last touch initiates of Paid & Organic Search, Social Media or Email.

When we’re prospecting we’re doing just that – reaching out to prospective customers within your market who may have never heard of your brand in hopes that, now that they have, they’ll take action in the future, and that future action is very often taken through a different channel.

Display’s secondary purpose is to keep your brand top of mind within your market via remarketing. And it is remarketing that typically generates most on-platform display conversions.

Remarketing display is more likely to obtain attributable conversions because we’re now reaching out to users who’ve already expressed interest. These users are further down the funnel towards taking action.

A good display or video campaign builds awareness and affinity. Only after that comes on-platform conversion and revenue growth.

Even then, attributable conversions and on-platform revenue are both just the frosting compared to the value of elevating your brand, filling the top of your funnel (generating demand), and contributing to the health of your other channels.


…attributable conversions and on-platform revenue are both just the frosting compared to the value of elevating your brand…


6 Metrics We Can Use To Point To Display Success

1) Viewable Impressions

This is a simple way to see if your spend is reaching more eligible eyeballs. An ad is considered “viewable” when 50% of the ad shows on screen for one second or longer for static or HTML5 display ads and two seconds or longer for video ads. ​

We prefer to report Viewable Impressions to our clients whenever possible because…who cares about an ad no one sees?

2) Display Impression Share (DIS)

Your campaign may be getting more Viewable Impressions than say a previous campaign, but what percentage of your eligible audience based on your budget and targeting settings (location, ad schedule, interest, keywords, etc.) are your ads being served to? This is what the Display Impression Share aims to tell us.

You could be getting millions of viewable impressions, but still only reaching a tiny portion of your eligible audience.

In a well-oiled, mature campaign the main obstacle to growing impression share and winning more customers is most often a restrictive budget.

An underfunded display campaign can still yield positive results, especially compared to running nothing at all, but a good goal is to balance your targeting and budget in such a way that you can get over what we call the 10% DIS Threshold.

You can see positive results under 10%, but the needle really starts to move in the right direction the further you get above 10%.

Note also that 100% is not a realistic goal either for Display Impression Share for a prospecting campaign. That would require either an absurdly huge budget or a thimble-sized audience. How these adjustments typically work themselves out is optimizing the targeting up or down to fit the real-world budget that’s available.

3) Product-Relevant Onsite Interest

You can find this info in Google Analytic’s Behavior Reports for product- or service-specific content. The question we’re trying to answer here is: Was there a discernible lift in Pageviews or New Users landing on site content that’s relevant to your campaign’s objectives?

It’s best to exclude the campaign’s landing page when looking at the data, because of course the LP will see an increase in traffic compared to having never ran before.

So…say your goal was to grow brand awareness and membership. Filter for the pages on site that pertain to membership, but aren’t a campaign LP.

This is a great way to measure the efficacy of a display campaign even if there’s no conversion tracking set up for the target goal, which unfortunately is the case from time to time.

Compare when your display campaign was active to the previous period when to it wasn’t. If you’re patient and enough time has passed, you can also compare the period of activity to what happened after you campaign ended as well for a more wholistic perspective.

A successful campaign should show a positive upheaval in engagement with relevant content during the time it ran.

Another benefit you may see when looking at the before, during and after data is that, while interest will most certainly fall off after a campaign ends, it typically settles at a higher plateau than it was at before the campaign.

4) Direct, Organic and Paid Search Channel Health

Display assists these three channels most by creating more awareness in users. Later, they go straight to your website (Direct) or perform a branded search using a search engine and then click on a result or text ad (Organic & Paid Search).

5) Branded Search Demand

The influence of display on branded search can be a bit more unpredictable. In general, a display campaign that’s strong on brand should help generate more new search inquiries that include your brand. Look for evidence of branded search growth in your Google Analytics Organic Search > Keywords Report and filter using your brand as a term. Google Analytics redacts much of the keyword data, so look to your Google Search Console as well.

6) Targeted Conversion Activity & Revenue

On-Platform and Off. Finally, use targeted conversion activity and revenue to see what impact a display campaign is having both on-platform and in the peripheral channels that display so often assists.

Taking a broader-picture view of all the available data throughout a person’s journey through your campaign and available resources should help identify the best-performing links in the chain, as well as highlight issues. From there, you’ll be prepared to defend (or modify) your budget and each element of the campaign.

Is Your Campaign ROI Not Adding Up?

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