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Fear: Persuasion's Old Friend
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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There are a few basic truths when it comes to trying to influence a crowd. First, the message must be simple enough for everyone to understand. Like Seth Godin readily repeats, a large crowd needs an average idea; an average message. Second, the message should contain a call to action. What should the crowd do once they finish hearing it?

Third, if all else fails, use fear to motivate.

Humans are prone to be moved out of fear, whether because there is a looming disaster or an event that is completely unfamiliar to us. Fear can move people to do incredible things, and that is why fear is so often used. We see it all the time in political ads, and because of that several campaign managers have been deemed as "fear mongers."

Even weather people do it. We live in Charlotte, NC, and as we write, weather reporters are shouting out the impending winter weather that has yet to grace the Carolinas. The snow, the ice, the cold — oh my! Why the fear? Well, first, it gets the weather folks to be in the limelight for a change, since our weather is milder than others. And two, it can convince the public that the weather can actually be very dangerous. 

Though we have no qualms with those who use fear in their advertising and marketing, we do believe that fear is best used when used seldom. Everyone knows it works, but there are better ways to influence your consumers than scaring the daylights out of them.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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