A slick salesman will employ a “call to action” (buy now) and will often assign a sense of urgency to this: “act now, offer will expire in the next couple of minutes, hours or…” The person is urged to make a decision, to commit to something they normally would have passed on or taken time to think about.
An example of this can be seen in online sales pages. These may present a time-limited offer (sometimes showing a clock ticking). Marketers know that it is better to strike while the iron is hot, while someone is actually on the page. People who leave a site and get busy with others things are far less likely to remember to return and buy whatever is being offered.
How Cults Play the Urgency Card
The sky is falling…
End-of-the-world cults (also known as Armageddon or doomsday cults) play the same urgency card. They tell people the end is near and that they must take “life-saving” action before it’s too late. This is a huge trump card to play and it hits people on the deepest level.
The Two-Pronged Urgency Sales Card
Now, if someone lands on an online sales page and does not respond to the urgent scenario created and tries to click away from the page, often an additional incentive is offered. A box will pop up: Wait! Stop! Do you REALLY want to leave this page? The the person is offered some additional incentive. This might be a price-reduction, this might be a freebie. Whatever it is, it is usually even more powerful because the person stands to benefit further.
Cults Play the Same Double-Pronged Urgency/Fear Card
A two-pronged approach: if it doesn’t grab one, it may grab the other.
For someone who has been subjected to end-time propaganda, the thought of dying may be a powerful incentive to investigate matters further. But it also may not be. Many adults are skeptical and so therefore are perfectly comfortable taking their chances, rather than take any action. Just like the person who tried to click out of the online sales page, a person may not be overly concerned about the possibility of dying at Armageddon, so will pass.
Many people who have been sucked into end-time cults, however, have related that they would have continued on in the way they had been living, having no real desire to “become religious” and not overly concerned about their own potential future demise. In fact, they may have even joked to their recruiters that if the end came, they would finally be put out of their misery. All well and good, but…
They felt very differently about this happening to their family. The thought of their beloved children perishing because they, as the parent, failed to take action, was a powerful incentive, the thought of other family members at risk, had them taking a harder look.
In sum, loved ones dying was a powerful tipping point that saw them investigating and later on, buying into the ideology.
The Guilt Card
Would you be responsible because you didn’t act?
“The end is coming” is an effective “urgency card” to play, but some recruiters take it one better. If the person they are talking to still hesitates, they pull out the “guilt card”: “Your children’s lives are in your hands. They are too young to be protected when God destroys the world at Armageddon. God expects you, as the parent, to take action. If you do not act, you are pretty much consigning your children to death. You, not your children, are responsible for their lives.”
What parent would want to think that their failure to act might result in their children’s deaths? This type of persuasion, plays to parents’ protective instincts.
The same reasoning is employed if someone does not have children but is concerned about other family members. they are told that it is critical that they take in “life-giving” knowledge. Urgency and guilt cards effectively press emotional buttons.
If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it
Recycle, rinse, repeat
While the whole end-time scenario has been used repeatedly, there’s a
reason why it is revisited and trotted out again and again. Each new
generation is “fresh meat” as it were; each new generation has the same
concerns. The urgent end-time scenario is used because… it works.