As you may have heard, 13 human motivators, or "hot buttons," are ultimately responsible for driving sales.

Employ any of them in your marketing campaigns with a deft artistic touch, and you'll easily take your customers to the precipice—the point at which they'll face an all-important and consequential decision: To buy, or not to buy.

If you use more than one or (at the most) two hot-button motivators in a single marketing campaign, you'll likely lose the sale. Just as a sentence should contain only one thought, lest it confuse and distract the reader, a sales promotion should appeal to one dominant motivator at a time.

So, which one or two motivators will work best in a recession? First, let's identify the 13 motivators.

1. Fear

Fear of lost opportunities or the loss of a possession (not to mention... some people just love being scared—else why Stephen King and Final Destination 5?).

2. Greed

The coveting of more... more... and more (and it's still never enough)!

3. Vanity

Mirror, mirror on the wall... (indeed, why mirrors at all)?

4. Lust

Sex sells. Dare to deny it.

5. Envy or Jealousy

It all began when we were little kids and we pulled on mommy's skirt and screamed, "I want one, too!"

6. Pride

Who doesn't want to be valued and to feel important... (and drive a BMW)?

7. Laziness

Why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lie down? Why work when someone else can work for you (AKA, outsourcing)?

8. Anger

You've been robbed! You've been cheated! And now you want revenge!

9. Strength

Come on, do you know anyone who really wants to be weak?
10. Charity

The pleasure is in the giving (so they say).

11. Hope

Why else do we suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (Shakespeare)? Because... after all, tomorrow is another day (Gone With the Wind).

12. Prejudice

We all have one or two prejudices. Because in some perverse way they make us feel better about our miserable, guilt-ridden selves.

13. Justice

Justice is the politically correct, socially acceptable, and legal equivalent of revenge.

OK, so which hot buttons work best in a recession? Hold on, not so fast. Along with those 13 motivators, we humans are also prey to 12 universal desires.

At one time or another—regardless of our sex, age, race, political persuasion, or whether we watch CNN or FOX—we have all been subject to these12 desires. And some of us are subject to all of them, all at the same time!

Again, a warning: pander to more than one or two of the 12 desires, and you will muddle your marketing message:

  1. Money
  2. Good looks
  3. Comfort
  4. Time
  5. Praise
  6. Popularity
  7. Leisure
  8. Self-confidence
  9. Enjoyment or pleasure
  10. Success
  11. Health
  12. Security in our old age

Now, which of those 12 desires appeals most strongly to consumers during a recession—when money is tight, the future is murky, and an overall sense of anxiety and dread causes many a sleepless, frightful night?

Well, truthfully, a recession won't stop, inhibit, or negate any of them! Each desire belongs to the basic human emotional and visceral food groups, regardless of whether Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke institutes another round of QE, or not. Because humans can function in many climates—including many economic climates—they will survive and thrive in the best of times and the worst of times (Dickens, sorta).


Great News!

If your product or service can satisfy any of those 12 desires, your promotion could make you oodles of money—if you can combine it with a hot-button recession-proof motivator!

An important caveat: The desire you choose to arouse and satisfy must be relevant to your product.

For example, if you sell car parts, security in old age or good looks might not be the best two desires to appeal to. But, if you sell pimple cream, good looks certainly works, as does popularity, praise, and self-confidence. A case could even be made for health (after all, if you look good, you feel good).

So Which Motivators Should You Use in a Recession?

Well, fear certainly works, but use it sparingly. For example, use it in the lede, to get the reader's attention. You don't want to drone on and on about how terrible things are; people get enough of that watching the nightly news on TV. What they really want, therefore, is hope! OK, now we've got two motivators that go hand-in-hand: fear and hope. Anything else?

Envy or Jealousy works, too. For example, your prospect grumbles to himself, "Geez! How can Harry next door still take annual vacations to Hawaii when I can't even afford to fill my gas tank?" So, here comes your product to the rescue, allowing him to be more like neighbor Harry and thereby restoring his pride (and, presumably, filling his empty wallet and gas tank).

Lust, now that's clearly a motivator for all seasons. Nothing will stop carnal desire: not rain, not hail, and not even old age (as long as your product has the horsepower of a little blue pill).

Greed, on the other hand, wouldn't work. The average consumer isn't looking for more; he's looking to hold on to and protect what he's got. And for that same reason, charity isn't a big motivator in tough economic times either, unless... your customers are rich and philanthropic. And if they are, greed or charity, and certainly vanity, can be used with wanton abandon!

What about anger? Absolutely! Yes, play into the rage—the loss of privilege and comforts that a recession robs your customers of. And, by all means, pin the blame. Join your customers in throwing rocks at the enemy!

Who is the enemy? Those your customers may have a prejudice against—Wall Street, Congress, Obama, the Tea Party, your landlord, or your boss who denied you a raise (the list could be endless). Your customers want and demand justice.

But be smart and sensitive about it. Use good taste. Don't blame ethnic or religious groups, or even your mother-in-law.

What about laziness? Silly question—that's another all-season motivator. For example, millions of overweight men and women would prefer to pop a handful of diet pills rather than run five miles on the treadmill—or deny themselves the pleasures of chocolate, ice cream, and cake.

And if a pill, powder, or chair (which easily folds and stores in a closet), can miraculously turn their pot bellies into a rippling rack of six-pack abs in 90 days or less and give them the strength to bend steel in their bare hands and leap tall buildings in a single bound (Superman), it's a no-brainer!

* * *

So what have we discovered? No single hot-button motivator is best suited for a recession.

Depending on who your customers are, what they value, what drives them, and what they desire, you have exactly13 motivators and 12 desires to choose from.

In which case... What recession?

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Businessman Using a Laptop.)

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Barry A. Densa is a freelance marketing and sales copywriter at Writing With Personality. For more, visit his blog Marketing Wit & Wisdom.