Use this one-word trick to multiply your marketing during 2020

Congratulations! You made it through the first half of 2020. However, you can’t say it hasn’t been stressful. 

Turns out there is a staggering amount of research on what happens to your body when you’re stressed. And as you might expect, the effects aren’t always pretty. For example, did you know that long-term stress can actually hurt your memory and recall? (It does this by shrinking the pathways in your hippocampus.)

Meaning that lowering your stress levels doesn’t just give you peace of mind – it does your body a whole lot of good too. Turns out, this also directly relates to your business. Specifically, to what your customers are experiencing. And changing your approach to how you address this can make a huge difference in your marketing.

What do I mean?

Well, right now everyone’s talking about what Psychologist and Neuroscience expert of UNC Chapel Hill Kurt Gray calls ‘direct stress’.

These are direct threats to our well-being, safety or livelihoods. Examples are threats to our health…the economy…even our physical safety in some cases due to the protests.

Turn on the news or look at Twitter and you’ll see no shortage of examples.

These are first things we notice when something new unfolds. And for good reason – because they’re the most obvious and imminent. But there’s another form of stress that’s arguably just as important as this. It also happens to be under most people’s radars.

This is called “Symbolic Stress”. Simply put, symbolic stress is a threat to people’s identity and sense of meaning.

Why is this so important?

Because when your everyday life and rituals get impacted by some sort of disruption (whether it’s a pandemic or protest), your identity is also impacted. Essentially, you lose chunks of your identity and replace them with new ones to suit the situation.

As a result, who you see yourself as and what products, brands and messages you align with all take a shift. This happens because stress is a time of fluidity.  Gray explains that people are more open to adopting new forms of identities when the everyday mold has been broken.

For example, someone who’s taken up biking as a way to safely get exercise during the pandemic is now likely to view themselves as a “healthy and active person” – even if this wasn’t the case before. At the same time, in some cases people also want to reinforce their old sense of identity

Perhaps they work from home and now have the liberty of working in their underwear if they choose. But because they still want to see themselves as a “professional”, they’ll make the extra effort to look the part even if no one’s watching.

And if you want your messaging to resonate – more strongly than ever – then your marketing needs to do two very important things:

  1. Appeal to Direct Stress by allowing them to receive the benefits in a safe way (such as cycling during the pandemic)
  2. Appeal to Symbolic Stress by suggesting the most desirable identities that align with your brand or product

Many brands are only doing one or the other. But fusing these two approaches together will have a powerful psychological effect that can multiply the effectiveness of your marketing.

How can you do this?

When it comes to direct stress, you can provide alternatives or ways to use your product or service that fulfill their need for safetyThe “contactless” option that meal delivery apps and restaurants started rolling out is the perfect example of this.

To do this effectively you need to address the underlying fears of concerns of your customers with how your product or service is delivered. (Not sure how to do this? We recommend advanced customer research techniques such as Forensic Listening). 

This is all based on Chip Massey’s experience as a special agent and FBI hostage negotiator turned business advisor and Adele Cehrs’ decades of experience as a crisis communications expert for Fortune 500 and nonprofit CEOs.

When it comes to symbolic stress, you can tailor your messaging around re-establishing their pre-covid identity.  Essentially, you’re helping them be “them” again – the old them who’s now in a different time. 

But this doesn’t have to be a drastic overhaul of your messaging – even a change as small as a single word can have a massive impact. A simple yet highly effective way to do this is to use nouns in your marketing that appeals to these identities.

Here’s an example:

  1. Do you have a job and you’re stuck at home?
  2. Are you a professional who’s stuck at home?

The second one anchors them back to the fact that they’re a professional – and Covid hasn’t changed this. As a result, they’ll want to take actions that are consistent with this definition. 

By giving them the option to prove to themselves (and the world) that they’re still a professional, you tap into their needs at a fundamental level.

And you give them a way to ground themselves in an unsteady world and unpredictable time.

But that’s not all – you can also reinforce a new identity by focusing on the most desirable traits they want to adopt. 

Talk soon,

Adele and Chip

PLUS: Whenever you’re ready – here are a few ways we can help your business profit during these unpredictable times:

P.S. Get personalized feedback for your situation

If you’re interested in implementing the content I shared above – but want to make sure you do it right – then I invite you to hop on a 15-minute call with me and Chip Massey a former FBI hostage negotiator. We’ll go over a few ways to apply these crucial behavioral concepts to YOUR business so that you come out ahead in 2020. This call is absolutely free of charge. If you’d like to schedule one, click here. 

P.P.S. Download our free report

Want a special PDF report detailing all of these important communication techniques and strategies – and how to best apply them in a business setting? Click here to grab your free copy.

P.P.P.S.Work with us 1-on-1

Can’t afford to make any missteps in 2020? Need help solving a crisis or spotting your next opportunity based  on our Behavioral Science Brain Trust? We can help — schedule a call to learn about our services:’t see an article that interests you? Check out our Insights page for all the best crisis management tips and strategies.