I was watching the Colbert Report recently, as the man himself — Steven Colbert — talked about a certain company’s devious plan of using women’s insecurities to make money. In short, the company created another body issue for women to feel insecure about: their armpits. Then, the company sold the solution to that problem: a new deodorant. What a genius marketing plan! – Inventing a new problem in the minds of your target market and at the same time, delivering the solution.
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This kind of “fear” marketing is nothing new. It’s like a cigarette manufacturer who also sells nicotine patches. Or a political campaign that says, “If you vote for this person, you’ll risk an attack from raging, zombie bears.” And antivirus software that scares us into protecting our computers (when we all know they’re the ones creating the viruses in the first place. Am I right?)? Or how about newscasts that tell us things like: “find out what’s lurking in your home at this very moment that could potentially kill you. Right after these messages.”
This article isn’t necessarily meant to question whether or not using scare tactics is moral in advertising. As a business, you must ask yourself whether or not it’s right for your audience and your brand. If it is, the steps to create a fear campaign are simple in theory:
Step 1: Make a problem that’s real and personal to the individual.
The more personal and relevant your message hits your audience, the better chance your message will be heard. But don’t exaggerate the seriousness of the threat – you’ll lose credibility.
Highlighting a threat doesn’t mean that you have to convince your target audience that their very life is in danger, but rather to bring a real (or new) problem to light. For example, the fear of missing an opportunity to save money (or make money) might be a better motivator than the fear of losing your lifesavings.
Step 2: Provide a specific action or solution to combat the threat.
Your audience must view the solution as being feasible. They also need to clearly understand the Call-To-Action: “buy this product” or “go to this website to learn more,” etc. If they feel that the solution is out of their reach (or budget), they’ll be less likely to take action.
Consumers rarely buy products or services for material reasons. It’s for fulfilling a need or for solving a problem they believe exists.
Incidentally, during that same Colbert Report episode, there was another interesting segment, which discussed product placement (also a good watch for all you marketers).