Indulgence marketing: Guilty pleasures

Kathy Slack

Guilt sells, but if brands want to build true affinity from their communications, they need to banish guilt in favour of building positive emotional associations.

For decades, guilt has been the predominant emotive driver used by marketers to motivate consumers to buy. Browse the archives and it's easy to recognise the most common sales tool in advertising – guilt. From the classic BT ads that reminded us we hadn't called our mothers in a while and it was 'good to talk', to more recent examples such as the McCain oven chips '3% fat, 100% guilt-free' campaign, the trend has dominated advertising strategy.

Of course, there are areas where it is prevalent: baby-care products, pet products, and desserts. Whether it is guilt about being healthy enough, whether we look after our family well enough or if we're doing enough for the environment, guilt is a tried-and-tested method to motivate action.