Signs You’re Losing Your Audience to Fear and Shame-Based Marketing Tactics

by | Oct 22, 2023 | Business Lessons, Chapter Eleven, Inspiration, Unbecoming | 0 comments

Fear and shame-based marketing can creep up on you without warning. As a multiple published writer (poetry, short stories, academic articles, magazine articles, international no.1 bestseller), a former editor, an interdisciplinary PhD with research on shame, fear and control, a highly trained mentor, a multiple trauma survivor, life-long entrepreneur and a generally decent human being I was shocked at what I discovered when I entered the online business space. There are words that speak shame, fear and control to people EVERYWHERE. Lines like:

“Wanterpreneurs flip flop around inconsistently, changing their niche, offers and marketing, and never create results. Real entrepreneurs know that consistency is the key to success and that you don’t create it alone, you hire a team to create it for you”. My three step TEAM TO DREAM PROCESS is the only way to guarantee real success in the online business space.”   

Translation: I’m telling you you’re a fake and a loser who will never be successful, unless you hire a team and I’m manipulating you to believe my process is the only one that works so that you’ll buy it.

Wound: Shame


This tactic is using a negative identity construct. It’s taking normal aspects of early entrepreneurship and saying if you’re doing them, you’re wrong, bad or invalid. It’s then using that shame to manipulate you into believing in the service and buying.   

Result: Takes people out of their power and has them looking to the service provider as the source of power and solution provider, rather than a supporting system to their own success and power. This makes for a bad experience on both sides because the relationship isn’t what either person wanted. 

“If you could have done it, you would have done it by now. The real truth is the only thing standing in your way is you. That’s why we have a specialist success team on hand to take your call and help you get out your own way and invest in the solution you need today” 

Translation: I’m shaming you now to take you out of your power so you will be easily manipulated by my aggressive sales team, who are going to use shame, fear and control tactics to get you to buy. Possibly even if you have to sell a kidney on the black market to do it. 

Wound: Betrayal


Like the above, there’s shaming here too, but this tactic really relies on betrayal. The sales agent will pretend to be very interested in you and to build an apparently genuine connection. Most of them are trained to overcome every objection and make sure you buy, no matter what. Even if it’s not the right fit or price point for you. 

Result: This tactic pressures people into signing up for things they don’t need and aren’t ready for, and for solutions that they actually really just don’t resonate with at all. Ultimately, people feel mis-sold and abused, and generally take months (or more) to recover a feeling of being in their power again. I’ve seen successful business owners tank once they joined masterminds etc, for this very reason, and then wind up having to rebuild from the beginning again.   

“If you don’t buy now (for the low, low price of $997) you’ll never get access to all of these amazing game-changing tools, our fantastic, supportive community, and my eyes on your business, ever again for this price. When the call ends, the price goes back up to $5,997 and I’ll never offer it for $997 ever again.” 

Translation: I’m trying to use fear of missing out to push you into a buying decision that benefits me, instead of taking the time to make a buying decision that truly benefits you.

Wound: Abandonment


This tactic uses your fear of being left behind against you, making it seem like you’ll really be missing out. Businesses with sales calls often take this further by making it feel like you’ll be missed if you’re not there too. For example, they may reach out with messages about how much they’re looking forward to seeing you in the community, and how much everyone will love you etc.

Result: There’s a high probability you’ll buy something you don’t really want or need, or can’t use because it’s not the solution to your biggest issue right now. It’s likely you’ll under-utilise this investment or regret it. 

The problem with fear and shame-based marketing tactics 


Using shame and fear makes people much easier to manipulate and control, which is why it’s the marketing norm. But sales-by-gaslighting only guarantees one thing: a low likelihood of results. Being in shame and fear significantly reduces agency (agency is the capacity to act in the world). 

Even apparently ideal clients may not get results under those conditions, because not only are they cut off from their power, fear and shame impact all of their decision making (not only the original buying decision) and one of the side effects of shame is self-sabotage. Hardly a recipe for success. The sad thing is that when you’re a buyer experiencing this, you’re typically made to feel like it’s your fault, and you’re the only one who isn’t getting results. Neither of which is true.  

Shame and fear tactics appear to work FOR THE SELLER and we’ve all bought something due to them. It’s not uncommon for a buyer to walk away feeling abandoned, shamed or betrayed in the beginning. But stay around in business, and your baseline for normal shifts. 

Frequent exposure to toxic marketing gets internalised, just like any other cultural norm. In time, most people remedy their own bad feelings by falling in line with the idea that the ends justify the means, and that everybody sells that way. 

If that’s you, it’s important to know that it’s normal to wind up going down that path for a while. You have debts you need to pay and your business has to make money. With manipulation being the only tactic you’ve seen make money, finding yourself somehow drifting towards selling the same way is normal, just in the same way that toxic patterns from childhood are internalised as normal. In fact, it’s those very same childhood patterns that pave the way to us accepting toxic marketing in the first place. 

The consequences of fear and shame-based marketing


As a species, we learn by copying others. 

But still, the hurt part of you – the part that screams no, you’re better than this! – creates resistance. Procrastination. Perfectionism. Exhaustion. Irritability. Self-doubt. Burnout. It knows that you don’t like interacting that way.    

It knows there’s a high chance of the seller who works that way winding up with their reputation in tatters. That what keeps the big fish in many industries in place is that they get big fast enough that people who feel little can’t fight them.

And that they make people feel little. For this to work, the contemporary shame-fear business model relies on massive amounts of social media content to continually “teach” new people to know, like and trust the seller and “create” new buyers. We’re all being indoctrinated into this model, just by being active on any social media platform.

How to empower your buyer instead of shaming them


But there’s another way – one that’s founded on love, compassion, joy and non-judgement. 

You can start experiencing the difference in your business today by creating content that focuses on:

  • How your ideal client is bigger and more amazing than they think;
  • Witnessing their value;
  • Showing them how to know when they’re are ready for the next step; 
  • Highlighting why they are where they are right now, and exactly why it’s not all their fault
  • Showing your ideal client that you see them, hear them and have been them (not just telling them).
  • Committing to never abandon, shame, or betray your clients or community through your marketing tactics 

Which one of these speaks to you the most? How do you want to feel when you’re following someone? 

If you have any questions regarding how to ethically sell your offerings without sabotaging yourself or your audience in the process, I’m inviting you to go on your own self-exploration journey through my Fractal Aligned Expansion™ blueprint.

Come join us in the Flawsome Abundant Entrepreneurs Facebook group. It’s a space where we talk about all of these topics and more, and where you can ask questions and get real answers. 



Dr. Morgana

Dr. Morgana McCabe Allan


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