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.

Make Work from Home Work for You

Here at Edge, a virtual office space has been part of our day-to-day landscape for almost 20 years. As social distancing becomes the new normal, working from home is becoming an option (or requirement) for many folks.

And we understand all too well the challenges of conquering your work day from home. So we’ve gathered some tips directly from our team about how they stay connected and productive while working at home.

Our Top Work-from-Home Tips

1) Create your own space

However you can, set aside someplace where you can get into “work-mode,” even if it’s just a corner of a room someplace.

Gavin Heslop: Ideally, you’ll be able to find a space to help alleviate new distractions you will face when working from home. Working from a high-traffic area makes you susceptible to being distracted by others’ activities.

A designated workspace can also allow you to signal to others that you are at work: a closed door, or the use of headphones, perhaps.

For meetings, you’ll want to ensure that your space is quiet enough to be able to hear your colleagues, but more importantly that you are the only one in your space that they can hear.

Austi Baudro: When I began at Edge, I didn’t have an actual office. I typically would work downstairs on an over-cluttered desk filled with art projects and messy papers.

Having a dedicated workspace was essential to my productivity. My husband and I ended up renovating the room across the hall. Now, it’s MY office where I can close the door and get some serious work done uninterrupted.

Stephanie Chadwick: Working from home is not for everyone. It works best to have a space with a door that you can close.

Over the past almost 20 years that we’ve been in business, our work-from-home situation has varied greatly. At one point, we had newborn twins in the house and a barrage of grandparent and nanny helpers coming and going.

During this time, I would have important conference calls with CEOs, CMOs, COOs (you get the picture). I used our master bedroom closet, the quietest room in the house, to make this work. Clothing is a natural noise insulator – and on the plus side, instead of doodling on a memo pad, I could organize my shoes.

Granted, I wasn’t permanently parked in my closet, though for some, that space could convert really well.

2) Set a schedule

As much as you hated that daily commute, it gave you some time to separate work time from home time. Find a way to signal to yourself (and everyone you share living space with) that you’re done for the day.

Zack Stack: I’ve worked from home for almost two decades now. I love it, but switching from professional Zack to Dad and/or Husband Zack can be a bit jarring.

For me, buffer activities between work and home help me flip that switch in my head that tells me work is done for the day. These buffers often consist of gardening, biking, taking a walk or a run, or just heading to the park to shoot some hoops. All way better than sitting in a car.

When I return to my home I usually find I’ve left my work day behind me and I’m more present for my family.

Jennifer Hall: My family has always been so gracious with my work from home set-up and respecting the time that I am working, but it is equally important to be sure I adhere to a “close of the business day” time.

I can easily work late into the evening if we have no plans but that is not healthy to a good work/life balance. Being aware of when the workday should end, helps my family to know when they can expect me to begin transitioning from working women to mom and wife.

3) Have a Familiar Routine

Monday morning isn’t Saturday morning. As much as possible, make sure a work day feels like it should.

Zack Stack: This might sound like the anti-work-from-home suggestion, but get dressed for work, or at least pretend like it’s always casual Friday.

People always say, “Oh, it’s great working in the semi-permanent, pants-optional home environment.” But I’d hate for my boss to show up at my door one day to find me in sweatpants, Crocs, and my Hillsboro Hops T-shirts from four seasons ago and think I’ve given up on both work and life.

Austi Baudro: Set a lunch time. I’ve found that setting a specific lunchtime helps me to stay productive in those afternoons where sometimes it is hard to focus. Sometimes, I’ll make a lighter early lunch and then take a walk to help clear the brain fog.

Stephanie Chadwick: Have a clear picture of where you’re going to start the next day before “signing off” for the night. I find that 15 minutes of prep before I shut my laptop for the day helps me jump in quicker the next day.

4) Get Outside

Granted, we’re all at home now because we’re trying not to spread disease. But nobody can stare at a screen all day.

Jennifer Hall: To avoid the feeling of being shut-in, it’s important to physically get up from your desk or to walk away from your workspace and to literally come up for air – fresh outdoor air.

Use your breaks to tend to your garden, walk the dog, or take a stroll. Getting outside, whether for 2 or 10 minutes at least twice a day, has proven to boost productivity, sharpen mental focus, relieve stress, and in general promotes a positive attitude.

5) Communicate early and often

Working remotely means you’re not going to be seeing colleagues at the coffee station or parking lot. Make a concerted effort to check in daily (or more).

Zack Stack: One of the biggest challenges we’ve found for employees transitioning to a work-from-home environment from a shared office is social isolation. This has proven especially true for younger employees who may live alone and crave interpersonal connections.

When you spend the day working by yourself it’s even more important to reach out to others during and at the end of your day.

Also, when you’re relying on text messaging programs for a majority of your comms, don’t forget that voice is sometimes the better medium. When it would take a novel to describe something, when you’re planning creative, or as soon as you see your tone being misconstrued. That’s when you know it’s time to “go audio” as we say.

Austi Baudro: Every Monday, I send out a list to our team to set the top priorities of the week. It not only helps our team, but it helps me to list out my own priorities. Sometimes I will even number these in order of importance to make sure they are completed at the appropriate time.

Stephanie Chadwick: Talking via audio instead of wholly relying on Slack helps you feel and stay connected more personally with those on the other end of the line. Adding video to the mix when possible helps increase the humanity factor as well.

Tools of the Trade

Matt Neznanski: At Edge, we use a range of platforms to stay in contact, share ideas, and work together. There are many options, but here’s a breakdown of some of our faves.

1) Collaboration and Communication

Everyone’s got email. We like Gmail and the Google Suite because files can be collaborated on in real-time and everything works well together.

We’ve always got Slack open for team updates, questions, and water cooler chat. If, in the office, you’d just walk over to someone’s desk for something, use Slack instead of email.

We also host internal meetings in Slack, using their in-app calling. We don’t always use video for those, but it’s available.

We couldn’t get by without Asana, a work management platform that keeps our projects outlined, tasks sorted, and task-related communications in one place.

2) Meeting notes, project documents, lists

Collaborative documents in Google Drive (which allow for simultaneous real-time changes) are a huge benefit when you need to work together and have a single source of truth for a document as well.

Be done with multiple versions of docs hanging around! (This is a solid move even when you’re all back in the office.)

3) External meetings

For meetings with people outside the Edge team, we use Zoom. We like how stable the system is and how simple it is to share screens.

4) File sharing and screencasts

We’re big fans of Droplr for sending big files, annotating screenshots, or capturing video of our screens for troubleshooting, training, and more.

We're calling this "controlling what you can when things feel out of control."

Balancing Work and Kids

Even our home-office day-to-day is turned upside down now that our kids are out of school and daycare. Here’s what we’re doing to cope with that.

1) Schedule blocks of time

Austi Baudro: Now that my boys (ages 7 and 2) are home with me, I have to schedule blocks of time to go outside or play with play dough or get out those magnet blocks that put good ‘ol Lincoln Logs to shame.

Now, my day looks more like 30-minute blocks of work time and 30 minutes of play.

Realistically, I have my laptop and phone in hand at all times.

Talk with your co-workers and communicate when you will be unavailable. Try to limit calls during these times or schedule them when you know you have extra help.

2) Schedule their time

Matt Neznanski: The one thing I always forget about my kids (ages 6 and 3) is how structured school and daycare is.

Blocking out free play, academics/art, and quiet time is huge for us to combat boredom.

I blame the schedule, too: “Schedule says it’s quiet time. Who am I to argue?”

Also, I’m amazed at how often they eat. Never mind the toilet paper, we’re stocked up with crackers, dried fruit, and cereal.


For a much more in-depth discussion of balancing a house full of people with full-time work for years, check out this great post about establishing a more flexible work-from-home life with kids from Edge partner Stephanie Chadwick.

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