I remember in the period following 9/11, I was making a killing on eBay.

I don’t mean to sound crass or opportunistic. It is just the truth.

I remember sitting on my couch for days, tethered to our newly bought television (not so fortuitously purchased on 9/10) and drenched in the despair and sadness of our country.

And something made me look at my newly opened eBay account. I couldn’t believe it. People were buying up a storm. Buying crazy stuff for insane prices.

Remember that time? People were afraid to leave their houses. Afraid to go to malls. People were just afraid.

Fear does funny things to people. Some people lock themselves in their house. Some people shop. Some people do both.

I watched in fascination as I saw the backlash of 9/11 on eBay. It created what I will call the “fly or buy” mentality.

And I am seeing this again today.

People are afraid in this economy. Maybe even more afraid than they were after 9/11. Because today this “economy thing” is so much more personal. The fear is palpable: anyone can be let go for any reason at any time. People’s sense of security is non-existent.

So what do people do when they are afraid? They spend money–the “Fly or Buy Phenomenon” rises like a phoenix in the ashes of our country’s woes.

I saw it over and over again when I worked in retail. Who do you think goes shopping during the day? You would be surprised. More often than not, when I was working at antique stores and retail shops, half of my customers were unemployed. I would hear them tell me, “I shouldn’t be buying anything right now. But I am going on an interview today/tomorrow/next week/sometime soon o I should be ok.”

It is human nature: when you are afraid and insecure you need to have something, hold something, be something to get that confidence back.

So what does this have to do with legal marketing, you ask? Fear is a very strong motivator when motivating someone to purchase legal services. I learned this a long time again when I was an AG. You want to negotiate to win? Scare the crap out of opposing counsel and your client.

In fact, my philosophy for all marketing efforts? Incite the seven deadly sins because underneath it all is the core feeling of fear. If I can scare someone into needing legal services then I have succeeded. Diabolical? Yes. But too often true. Human nature being what it is, scare tactics are often required to motivate individuals into doing what they need to do. And this even more true when dealing with the sale of legal services.

Sure, legal marketers dress it up and make it look like a Tiffany’s gift box. But inside, once you peel back the tissue paper and open the velveteen jewelry box, inside lies a poison ring. You have a legal problem? Don’t want to face it? We can make it all better for you …

What’s that famous Jack Nicholson line I love so much?

“Truth? You can’t handle the truth”