The Delight Of Getting Fright In Marketing Just Right

Each year, Americans spend nearly $7-billion on all things Halloween. With such large quantities spent on haunted houses, horror movies and horrible amounts of candy, it’s safe to say that most people like the experience of being scared. Which led us to wonder: how can the sentiment of fear be as successful in the marketing industry?

Now there’s no doubt that fear in advertising is already well established. Political propaganda, “shockvertising”, and more are at a constant battle to gain our attention. But which kinds of campaigns actually manage to win audiences over? We took a look at a variety of case studies and outlined what we discovered below.

Repetition is not key

When it comes to using fear in marketing, it is important to remember that repetition can desensitize people to what they’re seeing. At first glance, it is likely that a “scary” advertisement will frighten a viewer. However after being exposed to it multiple times, they would likely be less disturbed by it because they’ve become accustomed to it.

This has become especially true in the world of cigarette branding (or lack thereof). In fact, it’s been proven that the graphic images we see on cigarette packaging no longer deter smokers. What once was likely a successful scare tactic has now become an ignored message simply because of oversaturation.

Keep your audience in mind

Another important factor to note when creating a campaign is to consider just how jarring an advertisement is. This is because if it’s too offensive, it will likely repulse audiences rather than draw them in. This effect is caused by the fact that disgust biologically tells us what is safe and what to avoid.

This is something we as an audience have seen from organizations that like to push the boundaries, such as PETA. Known for its controversial ads that feature extremely graphic content, some PETA campaigns have lead to negative results due to too much “gross-out factor”.

Take a big picture approach

In order to properly execute fear in advertising, it seems that the solution is to blend fear into a larger story that includes a variety of other emotions as well. This makes sense, given that most consumer decisions are guided by emotions rather than information.

A campaign that showcases this perfect mix is AT&T’s “It Can Wait”. Building on a bigger idea of losing what you love as opposed to just a quick scare, this short film sends a deeper and more withstanding message.

Looking to make an impact of frightening proportions of your own? We would love to tell a scary story with you. Contact us to get started… if you dare!

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