People love all things gruesome.
You’ll see them rubber-necking past road crashes (sometimes causing another while their eyes are glued to the carnage instead of the road); lapping up stories of celebrity train-wrecks (think Michael Jackson or Charlie Sheen); and shows filled with murder, abuse and crime are often rating cash-cows.
Is it any wonder that advertisers find FEAR such a powerful motivator?
In some cases, fear is a perfectly legitimate emotion for an advertising campaign. For instance, if you’re a smoker, you’d probably like to have a keener sense of taste, save some money by giving up the habit, and not reek like the inside of a crematorium.
While there are some great benefits to be had from giving up the ciggies, are those things enough to make a smoker kick the habit?
But if you were faced with telling your children you were dying of lung cancer, or if the last months of your life were likely to be spent cooped up in a hospital ward dying in pain… perhaps you might reconsider your choices.
There’s a lot to lose and fear can be a very effective motivator.
So what about using fear when we’re not faced with life or death situations? Is it an appropriate tactic?
Recently there was a TV commercial for a toilet cleaner that could “reach the places you can’t”. Heaven forbid there be any germs or bacteria somewhere I can’t even reach them! The ramifications are simply horrifying!! *insert rampant sarcasm*
We’re now seeing more and more children developing hyper-sensitive immune systems because our clinically sterile homes are not allowing their immune systems to develop normally. Just one of the potential issues which may be caused by the over-use of antibacterial products.
Yet fear-based advertising has many parents perhaps needlessly worried about the cleanliness of their home and the bacteria their children are exposed to. Who wants to be a bad parent because their home isn’t sanitary?
Of course, fear is used as a motivator across all kinds of industries for all sorts of products. Used well for the right product, it can be incredibly effective. Used inappropriately, there is a great potential for harm and it may even cause negative response to a product.
Fear is a powerful motivator, and with great power comes great responsibility. If you choose to use fear as a motivator, be sure to use it wisely.