How David Wolfe Profits From Fear

Kris Noble
4 min readJan 6, 2017

David Wolfe is a name you may not recognise but you’ve almost certainly seen his work on social media, often in the form of those vaguely inspirational memes with pretty pictures that make perfect share-bait.

What you might not realise is that the memes are just his marketing campaign - how he actually makes his money is far darker.

Wolfe has many revenue streams, and the pretty pictures and cool videos just serve to drive people to his page so he can get on with the real work of selling to them. A tried-and-true business model for the social media age.

The nasty part is not just what Wolfe sells, but how he pitches it. He has a simple three-stage strategy:

  1. Farm the followers: get people to follow your social media profiles by posting “shareable content” such as memes, inspirational quotes, cool videos, that kind of thing.
  2. Scare them: tell them half-truths or even outright lies to have them frightened and vulnerable.
  3. Sell them the cure: “helpfully” point them towards products that you sell or get cutbacks from. Enjoy a comfortable life while your customers live in fear.

We already know how he builds his following, so let’s look at the next stage…

Fuel the Fear

Stage two is where Wolfe starts to reveal his true colours. He takes a scattergun approach to spreading fear, telling us our food is killing us, modern medicine wants us to be sick, modern agriculture wants to make us sterile and more.

The main aim of this stage is to cause the obvious unease, but it also fosters mistrust of others, positioning Wolfe and his friends (including quacks like Mercola, Food Babe, and Dr Oz) as the only reliable source of information.

It’s a form of othering that creates an “us versus them” mentality, resulting in an echo chamber where frightening stories can spread easily, unchecked by the influence of conflicting information.

It doesn’t even matter if the problem is real. What matters is that you’re scared and looking for something — anything — to make it all go away.

Provide the solution

Now the flames of fear are well stoked, it’s time to offer the remedy — at a price, of course.

Wolfe sells a wide range of products through the “Longevity Warehouse” website including herbs, mushrooms, coffee beans, “superfoods” and other supplements, all claiming to have some sort of health benefit. He also sells books and DVDs and speaks at conferences which carry hefty ticket prices.

The pages selling Wolfe’s products include the standard, legally-required warning that the FDA has not approved any of the health claims made but after creating mistrust in the previous stage, Wolfe is one step ahead. Why should anyone care about the FDA when Wolfe’s told us they’re in cahoots with “Big Pharma” to keep people sick and profitable?

Again, it doesn’t matter if the proposed solution actually has any proven benefits. Frightened people look for help, and who better than a health guru like David Wolfe to turn to? Nevermind that he doesn’t appear to have any relevant accredited qualifications, he’s trusted by celebrities so he must be alright, right?

The biggest problem here is that Wolfe’s strategy requires actively discouraging his customers from receiving proper medical treatment. For minor conditions that might not be such a big deal but if someone puts off treatment for a serious condition, even for a short time, there could be deadly consequences.

So, now you know more about how his business model works, what can you do to help stop Wolfe and his ilk profiting from fear?

The first and most important thing is to unfollow and never share any posts from his page, even if it’s a really lovely quote, picture, whatever. Most of what he posts is recycled from other sources anyway so you’ll probably be able to find the same story elsewhere quite easily. If the story is some kind of health or science claim, see if you can find the same story on a reputable source before sharing it as Wolfe loves to spread content from his quack friends.

Secondly you can help educate your friends who still share his posts by directing them to resources explaining why his business strategy is problematic.

This article is an overview, but here are some others which are very good:

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Please go forth, spread the word and remember — don’t cry Wolfe!