Fear In Advertising Series Part 1: What Is Fear In Advertising?

For the next 3 days I’m going to write a 3 post series on what fear in advertising is, examples of how to use fear based advertising in your copy, and finally a real-life example of something that happened to me last night that honestly pisses me off when I see the effects of this kind of advertising.

So today, I’m simply going to explain why fear in advertising really works.

What Is Fear In Advertising?

Ever notice that nearly everything you see on the news or read in the papers is something BAD that’s happening?

Do you know why these companies do it?

I can tell you one thing, it’s not because they think the story is interesting or that stuff like that happens all the time.

It’s simply because…FEAR SELLS.

For example, even though crime went down by something like 40% throughout the 90’s and I think is still keeping that pace today, you probably think crime is everywhere and the entire world is being consumed by it don’t you?

People today are afraid to let their children go just a few feet from them in fear that they might get picked up and stolen by some random stranger.

I hate to tell you, but it’s not that more people are getting abducted today…it’s that more stories are covering these abductions.

Here’s another example – the swine flu.

The entire country (I’m referring to the U.S.) has been in horror for the past few weeks, sitting back and waiting for something to happen with this new strain of flu.

Ummm…the last time I checked, one person died. And it was a 24 month old baby whose immune system was barely developed.

But wait…did they forget to mention that over 3,000 people die every single year from the regular flu, and that only 1 person died so far from this “horrific” flu?


Here’s some homework for you

The next time you’re watching the news, do me a favor and count how many fear based stories their are compared to how many inspirational, uplifting stories.

I can guarantee you, there’s going to be a minimum of 5 negative stories to every 1 good story.

I literally don’t read the paper or watch the news anymore because of this. You know, I honestly don’t want to hear about a 7 year old getting shot in the head. That’s not my idea of an interesting story to read because it makes me sick. I realize that these things happen, but I don’t want to be inundated with these stories every second of my life.

And THIS Is Why Fear In Advertising Works

The reason the news is so negative is for one simple reason: human beings LOVE to hear bad things happening.

I know it sounds cruel but it’s 100% true.

When we’re scared we enter the “fight or flight” response which triggers a whole slew of hormones to be released  in our bodies, and over time you can actually learn to become kind of addicted to these hormones.

While this may or may not be the actual reason why fear advertising works, it’s certainly a plausible one. After all their are a lot of things we can’t explain in advertising.

The question is – do you want to scare people into buying the product you’re writing about, or do you want to give them a little love and tell them the benefits instead?

Both ways work, although many people say fear is the ultimate motivator.

However, I personally don’t like playing on the fear emotion TOO much because I feel a little guilty. That’s just me. Maybe I’m too morally conscious.

After all, we have fear based advertising all over the place and the last thing we need is more of it.

In tomorrow’s post I’m going to give you a few examples that will show you the difference between fear in advertising and benefit-oriented advertising to help clarify this topic even further, so stay tuned!

8 Responses to Fear In Advertising Series Part 1: What Is Fear In Advertising?

  1. Bonnie Dubrow May 11, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    Jeremy, I resonate with what you’ve said in this post! I, too, am on a news fast. I’m even on a complaining and negativity fast! That’s stunning in how challenging this is and how powerful. As I interrupt myself when telling horror stories to myself or others, as I shift to telling happy, healthy stories, I am happier and healthier and so are the people around me.

    I also am applying the same concepts to my copy writing. The old sales addage “make them sick, then make them better” is of the old consciousness. In the world where I live, we and the Universe are always vibrating at a higher level, always expanding, whether we perceive it or not.

    I am honored to be in your company, co-creating and collaborating in the spirit of cooperation – whether it’s to tell happy, healthy stories or sell our products, services, and programs.

    I know we are growing in numbers, power and strength every day. So I’m inviting the rest of you to stand up, step out and join us in sharing our uplifting message with the world.

    The Energizer Bonnie

    • Jeremy Reeves May 11, 2009 at 10:44 am #

      Hey Bonnie,

      You have an AWESOME mindset! I wish everybody thought like that. I’m heavily into personal development, trying to create a “higher consciousness” myself, so I know exactly what you’re saying.

      Thanks again and glad to see you enjoyed the post!


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