In Praise of Positivity: GeoSure Uses Psychology to Market Hope Over Fear

In a world where too many people are monetizing fear, psychological science and evolutionary theory show that human hard-wiring also responds to messages of agency, confidence, and trust.

Inspiring people to do what is best for themselves and the community is never easy.  We wish it were.  But human beings are messy and complex organisms. Unlike the computer generated algorithms that pervade our lives, we are not made of programmable bits and bytes.

That’s why there have been so many attempts – and many failures – to encourage people to behave well.  The billion dollar anti-drug campaigns of “Just Say NO” and “This is Your Brain on Drugs” of the 1980s are well-known failures. And it keeps happening. Recent vaccination and masking efforts have been less than an unqualified success.

Most of those attempts used fear.  Simply put, if you use drugs, your brain will rot; if you don’t get jabbed, you will get sick and die – but their effectiveness has been questionable at best.

On the other hand, positive messages  have been shown to convince people to avoid illicit drugs.  Likewise, communicating that getting vaccinated and wearing masks shows that you care about your loved ones and others can help convince people to wear masks (and roll up their sleeves.

GeoSure chooses positivity, safety and confidence over apprehension and danger. This is something we envisioned from GeoSure’s inception at. 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. Safety scores – which cover eight categories including measurements for women, for LGBTQ, for nighttime movements – could easily be marketed from a fear perspective.

From the beginning, we wanted to flip the model upside down.

We choose hope, not panic. We choose empowering people with accurate data that enables them, and the larger community, to make smarter decisions.

We market to large enterprises – and to federal, state, and local agencies, including tourist boards – based on the empowerment, self-assurance, and emotional and physical well-being our data provides. The experience has been intentionally designed for the end user.  That’s different too.

There is strong evolutionary science behind our approach. After all, if we are well-meaning but scientifically off-base, we will not succeed in our mission.

GeoSure understands that human beings are  information processing organisms. Humans evolved with the ability to quickly identify and assess information that determines if they will survive or perish, whether it be the sound of a wooly mammoth or the odor of lethal mushrooms.  We no longer live in a thrive or die environment, but our biological legacy still responds as though we do.

For those hard-wired reasons,  not positioning GeoSure to deeply appeal to our fear instincts may seem counterintuitive. After all, there is a reason that the mantra of local news has long been “If it bleeds, it leads.”  Peril captures attention.

But let’s go one step deeper. In treacherous situations – whether the threat in our immediate environment comes in the form of a pachyderm or as data from a digital platform –  we are programmed to react in one of three ways:  fight, flight, or freeze.

But if you want to know if it’s safe to travel to a local restaurant at 9 PM in a strange city, the three “Fs” aren’t going to help.  What will help is the reassuring, authoritative, confidence-building experience that GeoSure provides. This emotional context is just as aligned with our evolved brains as waving the flag of fear.

In fact, we are programmed to both avoid danger and seek opportunity, both of which GeoSure makes possible. Opportunity is connected to 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 taking the trip to minimize danger?  Or to maximize positive experiences while feeling empowered and safe? GeoSure believes it is the latter.

What’s more, GeoSure encourages people to contribute to community safety.  There is a great deal of research that shows that people derive pleasure by pitching into the common good.

In short, we replace the short-term marketing of fright with the long-term promise of well-being.  Fear is toxic, the anxiety it causes results in emotional and physiological damage, including the release of cortisol which triggers inflammation.  By contrast, the positivity associated with GeoSure will generate what’s called “chronic positivity”. Are not employees and customers more composed, constructive, better decision-makers in a confident frame of mind than when disturbed and uneasy?

The arc of positivity extends from GeoSure to everyone in our network – the companies who offer our platform to employees and customers of partners cities, local tourist boards; and, of course, end users.

In some ways, this comes down to a cognitive bias known as 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 will think of that something as negative.  If we are instead presented with positive information, we will think of that something in a positive way. Which would you rather experience?

It’s that simple and profound.

GeoSure has proven, in the marketplace, that the psychological basis of hope versus disquiet, of confidence versus chaos, works.  We are accessible to more than 14 million users, made available through major employers and partners like AIG, SAP Concur’s, Tripit, Nike, and Deem.

In a world where too many people are monetizing fear, we have proved – using sound psychological science and evolutionary theory – that our hard-wiring also responds to messages of agency, confidence, and trust.  We choose positivity over negativity.

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