Using psychology instead of fear to market safe travel
Inspiring people to do what’s best for themselves and the community is never easy. We wish that was the case. But human beings are messy and complex organisms. Unlike the computer-generated algorithms that permeate our lives, we are not made up of programmable bits and bytes.
This is why there have been so many attempts – and so many failures – to encourage people to behave well. Just look at recent vaccination and masking efforts.
Some attempts use fear to inspire behavior, but the effectiveness of the approach is questionable at best. On the other hand, positive messages have been shown to convince people to avoid certain activities.
GeoSure chooses positivity, safety and trust over apprehension and danger. This is something we have considered since the inception of GeoSure. As a data-driven startup that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning, GeoSure generates real-time safety data for over 65,000 neighborhoods around the world.
The safety scores — which cover eight categories, including metrics for women, LGBTQ+, and nightlife — could easily be marketed from a fear-mongering standpoint. But from the start, we wanted to flip the model upside down.
We choose hope, not panic. We choose to give people accurate data that empowers them and the wider community to make smarter decisions.
We sell to large corporations — and federal, state, and local agencies, including tourist boards — based on the empowerment, assurance, and emotional and physical well-being our data provides. The experience was intentionally designed for the end user. It’s different too.
There is solid evolutionary science behind our approach. After all, if we are well-meaning but scientifically irrelevant, we will not succeed in our mission.
GeoSure understands that human beings are information processing organisms. Humans have evolved with the ability to quickly identify and evaluate information that determines whether they will survive or perish, whether it is the sound of a woolly mammoth or the smell of deadly mushrooms. We no longer live in a thriving or dying environment, but our biological heritage still responds as if we do.
For these entrenched reasons, not positioning GeoSure to deeply appeal to our fear instincts may seem counter-intuitive. After all, there’s a reason the local news mantra has long been “if it bleeds, it leads.” Peril captures attention.
But let’s go a little further. In treacherous situations – whether the threat in our immediate environment comes in the form of a pachyderm or data from a digital platform – we are programmed to react in one of three ways: fight, flee or freeze. .
But if you want to know if it’s safe to go to a local restaurant at 9 p.m. in an unfamiliar city, the three “Fs” won’t help you. What will help is the reassuring, authoritative and trust-building experience that GeoSure offers. This emotional context is just as aligned with our evolved brains as waving the flag of fear.
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In fact, we are programmed to both avoid danger and seek out opportunity, which GeoSure makes possible. Opportunity is linked to the pleasure and reward centers in the brain. GeoSure can reach those with its message about the adventure that motivated you to take this journey. Are you making the trip to minimize the danger? Or to maximize positive experiences while feeling empowered and safe? GeoSure thinks it’s the latter.
Additionally, GeoSure encourages people to contribute to community safety. Many studies show that people derive pleasure from betting on the common good.
In short, we are replacing the short-term marketing of fear with the long-term promise of well-being. Fear is toxic, the anxiety it causes leads to emotional and physiological damage, including the release of cortisol which triggers inflammation. In contrast, positivity associated with GeoSure will generate what is known as “chronic positivity”. Aren’t employees and customers more composed, constructive, better decision makers in a confident state of mind than when they are bothered and uncomfortable?
The arc of positivity extends from GeoSure to all members of our network – the companies that offer our platform to employees and customers in partner cities, local tourist boards and, of course, end users.
In a way, it boils down to a cognitive bias called the “availability heuristic”: whatever is familiar or comes easily to mind is assumed to be common or typical. So when we are bombarded with negative information about something, we think something is negative. If we are instead presented with positive information, we will think of that something positively. Which would you rather live?
It is so simple and profound.