Using Fear to Sell
You can’t use this tactic with all products, but once you have determined that your product or service is the perfect candidate for using fear to sell, in order to make it work there are for ingredients to this fear recipe you must use in order for it to work.
In their book The Age of Propaganda – The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson stated:
“The fear appeal is most effective when:
1) It scares the hell out of people.
2) It offers a specific recommendation for overcoming the fear aroused effect.
3) The recommended action is perceived as effective for reducing the threat.
4) The message recipient believes that he/she can perform the recommend action.”
You must have all four elements in order for this to work, if you’re missing just one element it’s not going to work.
Think of it this way it’s like building a beautiful car, it has all the bells and whistles but it does not have an engine, no matter how much you want that car to work it’s just not going anywhere!
Now there is a fine line when using fear as a motivator to sell. You don’t want to create too much fear or you could actually cause people not to take any action at all. Like a deer caught in the headlights of a car they have no idea what direction to run they get paralyzed and don’t do anything.
When using the fear appeal your goal is not to create new fears you want to tap into existing fears, and your fear appeal will be more successful if the fears you target are specific and widely known.
So in order for your fear ad to work you must create an ad that is specific; it’s a known fear. People can say “I know about this”.
It has to be believable; it’s been talked about or people have heard about it.
And your ad offers a solution/recommendation that reduces/eliminates the threat and the reader also finds your ad believable and finds the solution doable.
For example here is a great fear appeal ad. Just the other day I received a flyer, well more of a door knob hanger at my house and is was for Lysol spray. This flyer ad has all 4 ingredients;
The headline on the top of the flyer reads: Did you Know? One single bacteria cell can multiply to more then 8 million cells in less then 24 hours. (That’s the fear)
Let Lysol Help You with a Cold and Flue Defense Plan. Lysol disinfectant spray kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. (Recommendation and reduction of threat)
Simply spray and wipe (You can easily perform the recommended action)
Another great use of the fear appeal is in the commercial Life Alert. It depicts an elderly woman (they use a woman because they are perceived as more vulnerable) who has fallen in the shower and she cannot get up and is stuck there for many hours until her daughter comes over and finds her.
It then goes on to say how a simple accident can turn into a deadly tragedy. Then it shows a confident elderly woman giving her testimonial that now that she has life alert she is no longer afraid of being in her own home, and has no idea how she lived without it.
This is a great product and provides a fantastic service for the elderly. However with that said any other form of advertising for such a product would fall flat on its face. Fear sells!!
The most common used fear technique in ads is deadlines; for a limited time, one-day sale, only for the next 24 hours, while supplies last and so on.
By doing this it instills the fear that they could be missing a golden opportunity for saving money, which in turn addresses the threat of buying your product or service before its too late.
Remember fear is not a silver bullet, you just can’t scare people and then wait for the orders to come pouring in, fear is just one way you can use to motivate people to find out more about your product.
You still have to convince your customer that your product or service provides the solution to the fear you just instilled, which means you have to motivate them to take action, and that action is to purchase.
I believe in you