Fear Marketing isn’t as negative a strategy as it sounds to be. Crudely put, it is a marketing strategy wherein you probe on the inherent fears of a customer, with an intent to make him/her buy your product as the solution to it.
Perhaps an example will best clarify the concept to the readers. Check out the following ads for Saffola:
Saffola is an ideal example of Fear Marketing: over the years, they have released ad campaigns about people developing heart problems if they don’t be careful. Everyone, especially the wives and mothers, have an inherent fear that their family might not be living a healthy lifestyle and that it may come and bite them later. It is this fear that Saffola taps, encouraging housewives to buy and use Saffola, doing ‘their bit’ for their family’s health. (The campaigns from Saffola have been on varying themes, but the most renowned ones talk about the heart being vulnerable to a lifestyle which is steadily growing unhealthy, and Saffola being the only ‘savior’ to the same)
There are many other products which are capitalizing on intrinsic fears of the customer. Some other examples:
1. i-pill : Emergency contraceptives:
Watch the ad below:
This is tapping into the fear of pregnancy and contraceptive failure among youth and newlyweds.
2. Pears Oil Control:
The storyboard of the campaign can be found below on this link:
Note: It’s not a fear per se, but then, almost every young man and woman would be able to associate themselves with this ‘paranoia’
3. Government Campaigns – Helmet, Polio Vaccination etc.
Government campaigns too frequently use fear marketing, showing people head injuries sustained due to lack of helmets, effects of contracting polio etc. Additionally, public interest campaigns against addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco etc. too, employ fear mongering by showing the adverse (and sometimes even exaggerated) results of addiction.
So, where all does fear marketing work, what all products can use it? As might be obvious from the campaigns above, it is usually effective for products that attack the hidden fears of people – the inferiority complex about looks, the guilt trips of eating junk food etc. The product proposes to assuage those guilts for the customer, and the customer readily shells out money for that ‘balm’.
There have been ethical issues raised now and then about these strategies, labeling them as ‘cheap’ and ‘below the belt’. But I believe that when ethicality comes into picture, there are many products in the market which are far more misleading in their campaigns about their effectiveness. The above products, on the other hand have been proven to work, even under close scrutiny of health organizations, who pay special attention to these sort of claims (they don’t really bother much about claims on improving ‘degrees’ of fairness). Hence, ethicality is not really a concern in these campaigns.
This is an interesting tactics to work with, the marketer’s analog of the Good Cop Bad Cop strategy. But a line has to be drawn to ensure that the product in general does not raise a negative vibe, and is rather seen as a protector against negativity.