Does Fear Based Marketing Work?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s a question for the experts: Should the CDC parade images of sick patients to coax the public to heed the threat.
That’s what it did with its anti-smoking campaign. One terrifying TV spot featured Terrie, who started smoking at 13, her face disfigured by throat cancer, dressing herself for the morning. Did it work?
Fear stimuli are processed by the amygdala which triggers a “Fight or Flight” response. The brain shuts down and tunes out the message. While some smokers were deterred, others dismissed the message as extreme or were so stressed out by the Ad that they smoked more.
In contrast, the Melbourne Metro Rail produced a light Ad with cartoon characters singing a perky ditty. It enumerates many “Dumb Ways To Die” and ends with warnings about rail safety. The video garnered 187 million viewers on YouTube.
COVID-19 is unlike any threat before. But here’s what works – keep the tone non-stressful and confident, talk about fortunes preserved and use friendly spokespersons.

[Written by: Sandeep Dayal]