Does Fear-based Marketing Work?
Except for when it doesn’t. There’s no better way to drive prospects to pay attention than by dazzling the fear of God into them. It interrupts patterns and interests the unaware. That doesn’t indicate it always works. In fact, oftentimes using fear or negative messaging can in fact backfire.
Here’s why, and how to do it properly. Why do we do what we should do? We used to be cavemen. At least, that’s what research says. In these primitive times, there is no cool brew. No netflix. No alco… well, there was something fermented of some sort probably. But there were harsh conditions. The environment was unstable. Plus they were encircled by scary beasts constantly. So life was fairly straight-forward probably. 1. Don’t get eaten.
2. Don’t fall off a cliff. 4. Fornicate. (Hey – we all got here somehow. That is science people! Today we’re very little different. Except monsters and cliffs have been changed by bosses and email respectively. Pleasure and Pain will be the major motivators of individual behavior. Humans gravitate towards pleasure while avoiding whatever causes pain.
Fear is a stressor; a a reaction to anything that’s threatening, dangerous, or more likely to cause pain. Which is why fear-based messaging has long been used in marketing and advertising: People don’t want pain. Triggering their fear for pain incites these to action. Stress signals can chemically change your brain. Your emotional processor (the amygdala) sends bright, flashing Indicators to your critical command center (the hypothalamus), which instantly decides whether you should run like hell or suit up just like a gladiator. But response to fear is highly personal, the same manner not absolutely all fear are created equal.
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What George will try to escape from John may deal with with gusto. Differing people respond to the same stressful situation in different ways (or ‘battle’ vs. And here’s the kicker. ” is bad for the health. You don’t desire to be that company people associate with negativity. Therefore, incessant badgering of your target audience with fear-based marketing can be catastrophic for your company’s overall brand health.
Even though it almost always works in the short-term. Does fear-based marketing work? Yes. Fear-based marketing works. Wow that was easy. Just kidding, but seriously. Turns out Gordon Gekko was onto something: Greed, and its own inverse, fear, does matter. What – you think the currency markets will go and down based on math by itself up? Inciting fear has been proven to be the absolute best way to seize attention.
And in a world where an incredible number of blog posts go out and trillions of emails are delivered daily, grabbing attention is freaking critical! The first subject line led to a 65% conversion lift. You observe this frequently that it’s not even surprising anymore. So yes. Fear works. There’s no going around that. So might as well give credit where credit is due.
However, although it will work… you can only just press it to a spot. Go beyond that time and it’s sure to backfire. Messaging based on fear isn’t empowering. It’s not delightful always. It’s fo sho clickbait-y. It manufactures urgency to re-create a ‘fight or trip’ response. And will be regarded as dishonest sometimes.
But can fear backfire? Fear works… until it doesn’t. Until it backfires and works against you. First up, two tweets. One with a “positive, empowering message” and another that centered on the pain of potential loss. Turns out, the first fun loving one won. Next up, a CTA. The first was negative and fear based.