Don't you love it when someone in finance or operations (or even a neighbor) asks, “What is it you do again?”

A lot—in fact, most—of effective modern marketing is about reducing the perception of risk around the purchase of a product or service. Now marketers are being called on to reduce the risk associated with the business impact of their work in a way they haven't before. That's really what the hubbub around ROI is all about.

We talk a lot about return in this business, but very little about the associated risk. Risk and return are inextricably linked. Many of us are hurting because we don't sufficiently address the most acute pain of all.

If we don't acknowledge risk, we're only looking at half of the challenge: the half any CFO is most interested in.

In a famous, Nobel Prize-winning and historical experiment, people demonstrated that they are twice as afraid of losing something as they are optimistic about gaining something. It seems the fear of loss, as an emotion, is twice as strong as faith in gain.

Did you see the “Pepsi Show”? Almost everyone took the cash instead of “going for the billion."

So let's skip the Wanamaker quote and focus on reducing fear, uncertainty and doubt—or, in a word, risk.

The ‘fear, Uncertainty and Doubt' Dilemma

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Tom Barnes is CEO of Mediathink (, a consultancy specializing in media and marketing strategy and implementation. Contact him at