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Fear Marketing

Fear is an interesting emotion, which affects the thought process and reaction of individuals. Therefore, fear can be used as a unique marketing tool in order to make the consumers loyal to a particular product or a service. It may not be the safest tactic, but if used correctly, it can create huge impact.

‘Fear’ as a Successful Marketing Tool

Fear as a motivating factor can be effectively used to grab the attention of the consumers, by combining credible threats with doubt and uncertainty. Whether it is the fear of losing something valuable or acquiring something dangerous, fear is a driving force that can be used to motivate the target audience to act accordingly. In fact, among the two varied emotions that are used as marketing tools, fear and hope, the former can induce customers to take prompt action faster than that of the latter.

Every individual is the subject of two primary fears: Fear of loss and fear of failure or rejection. Fear invokes the fight syndrome, in an attempt to revert to the comfort zone. If one doesn’t know the way back, one is likely to follow whoever shows the path. It is this aspect of the human psyche that can be used to promote and thereafter sell a product.

Targeting and Positioning

However, like any other marketing strategy, application of fear marketing also requires an extensive knowledge about its target consumer. In addition to this, one also needs to consider the product before firing off the initial salvo of fear marketing.

For instance, in case of fairness creams, the target consumer is not a person with a fair skin, but someone who is dark, and who has some psychographic issue at the back of her mind. In case of such an audience fear marketing works best, as it hits where it hurts the most. So much so, that even men are opting for fairness creams now. This is why south India is the largest market for fairness cream, with a share of 36 percent in India.

In one of the articles, Nedra Weinreich provided following suggestions to make fear marketing campaigns more effective:

  • Make sure the portrayed consequence of not taking action is severe, but not exaggerated.
  • Make the audience feel that the problem is relevant to them.
  • Provide a specific action that the audience can take to prevent the portrayed consequence from happening.
  • Ensure that the audience believes that the proposed solution is effective in preventing the consequence.
  • Portray the solution as something that the audience can easily do.

Most Influential Fear Marketing Campaigns

Fear marketing can be best used to lure the customers to buy a product instantly. For example, towards the end of the 20th century when the urban Indians were slowly becoming more and more health conscious, and were discovering the perils of cholesterol, FMCG Company grabbed the lurking fear of heart attack and used it as a marketing strategy to sell the cooking oil brand Saffola. This brand still relies on the fear factor to sell its product.

Again, the life insurance companies create a psychological fear in the audience that one should always be prepared for the worse. These companies make use of the most feared thing by every man – death, and thereby, increase their sale.  

Similarly, many beauty products like Fair & Lovely and Livon has used the same marketing tool to sell their products. Fair and Lovely sells its skin fairness cream by exploiting the colour/complexion insecurities of certain section of the Indian population, a psychological inferiority complex that has troubled Indian society for centuries. Livon, on the other hand, banks on the fear of hair loss and unmanageable shabby hair, which all girls detest and fear.

It is the fear of the dire consequences that one might face if one doesn’t buy a particular product that urges the consumer to buy a product. An insight into consumer perception has revealed that many customers buy mouth fresheners, deodorants and similar line of products because they are consumed by the fear of rejection rather than by the hope of acceptance.

Fear being a powerful driver of decision can be used as a successful marketing tool to get desired outcomes through persuasive techniques that tap into powerful emotions.


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