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Have you ever watched an advert and felt the urge to buy its product or service because you felt fear?
If your answer is yes, then, this happens due to the usage of the fear appeal that the brands use in their adverts. Many brands use this advertisement appeal to grab the audience’s attention and to make them interested in their products. While this appeal is somehow effective in driving sales, we can’t help but wonder if it is ethical to use.
Here’s how brands use it, why, and if it is ethical.
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How Do Brands Use The Fear Appeal In Its Advertisements?
What a brand wants the most is its product to be sold, this is why some brands use the fear appeal in their commercials to make customers buy their products.
Using the fear appeal depends on the type of product and what message the brand wants to deliver. The main message these brands want to deliver is that their product is the solution to end this fear, which they have implemented.
So, using fear is a method to drive sales and increase their revenue.
Why Brands Use Fear In Advertisements
The reason for using the fear appeal is purely psychological, which can be a motif for the audience to interact with the brand and buy its products.
When fear is triggered, the immediate response to it is a survival mechanism, which can come in the form of purchasing a product. Marketers understand this well, which is why they apply this method to trigger the audience’s emotions.
Triggering the emotion of fear will result in two things,
1- The advert will be memorable.
2- The consumer will probably take action to reduce the fear feeling.
How Fear Impacts Consumer Behavior
Ask yourself this, when you trigger fear in a person, how do you think they will react? One thing we all know for sure is that you got their attention.
When someone triggers your fear and then gives you the solution, you will most likely have a sense of urgency and respond immediately. This is what every brand wants, for its consumers to interact in any possible way.
For example, Cigarette brands use the fear appeal to encourage people to quit smoking by warning consumers of the risks and chronicling diseases that result from smoking. Also, deodorant brands depend on fear appeal, which comes in the form of “If you don’t use our deodorant, you will smell terrible and people will hate you” This triggers the consumer’s fear, which drives them to buy the product.
Types of Fear In Adverts
Did you know that there are many types of fear used in adverts? For example, FOMO.
Some brands use Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) to make the audience feel that they’re missing something or that they will regret it if they don’t try their product or service. This creates a sense of urgency for the audience to take immediate action.
For example, real estate brands use this appeal to urge consumers to buy a residential place in their new compound, because if they don’t, they will miss the clean air, the quietness, and the nature.
Also, an airline can use this appeal to drive more travelers to use their airlines or offers.
Another fear type is social rejection, a brand triggers the consumer’s fear of not fitting in unless they use their product/service. This appears in most of the adverts for skin care, perfumes, deodorants, and so on.
Another type of fear brands use to trigger the fear of insecurity. This type is used by insurance companies and security companies.
Organizations also use fea appeal to urge people to donate, which comes in the form of showing the audience what others go through. This triggers their fear and sympathy, which urge them to take the donating action.
Is It Ethical To Use Fear In Adverts?
Do you want the audience to buy your product out of fear or loyalty?
Sometimes using fear appeal is ethical if it promotes or raises awareness of a certain issue or a disease, like cancer, breast cancer, or back in the day when brands used it to promote the precautions to protect people from COVID.
While this could be ethical, using fear to manipulate the consumers or get their attention is not ethical. Many brands can use fear to grab the audience’s attention but this can trigger their anxiety, insecurities, depression, and even traumas.
As a brand and a copywriter, you have to balance between triggering emotions and fear while also keeping it ethical.
To conclude, there are many times when using fear to drive sales will be unethical; therefore, as a brand owner or a copywriter, you have to be aware of how to use it well without triggering any negative emotions in your audience.