The Ides of March is a term popularised by William Shakespeare in his play Julius Ceaser, in reference to the day on the Roman calendar that Julius Ceaser was stabbed to death on his throne. In the play, the words ‘Beware the ides of March!’ are uttered to Ceaser by a fortune teller who foresees his death, attributing it to this now notoriously unlucky day.
A longstanding reminder of the power of negative messaging, ‘Beware the Ides of March’ is a phrase penned in the 18th Century that exemplifies how scare tactics can work in written form. The phrase ‘scare tactics’ in itself is just a less romantic way of talking about the act of appealing to a human emotion in your tone of voice. Some of the most effective ways for brands to access the realm of human emotion by utilising these fail safe ‘scare tactics’ in your marketing:
Fear of Missing Out:
FOMO! Nobody is immune. Whether it’s missing out on iconic, life defining moments at concerts, festivals and holidays, missing out on the perfect, most idyllic Christmas, or missing out on amazing deals or offers, nobody wants to miss the boat. It’s probably the most used scare tactic – but with good reason. People jump on trends that they believe will end soon, like investing in cryptocurrencies or limited edition ranges, because the sense of urgency that’s instilled when people believe that this is their one chance is unparalleled.
Fear of Pain:
Pain is the most universal psycho-physical emotion, so it’s easily accessible. Pain on a physical or emotional level is frequently discussed in the media, through heartbreak, loss, disease and illness. Often we cherish relationships more when we consider what it might be like to lose a loved one, and that’s an easy emotion to replicate through media. With that said, this particular tactic is probably better described as invoking gratitude.
Though a little morbid to consider, it’s true to say that social fear is a motivator for most purchases, from cosmetics to diet plans, fashion, cars, and pretty much anything that we do ‘for the gram’* If you purchase something and your first thought is to post it on social media, or if you go somewhere nice and you’re excited about how it will look on Instagram, then your purchases are socially motivated. Almost everyone cares about how they present themselves to the world, so tapping into the idea that your product or brand could better them in some way is a powerful selling tool.
Fear of Other People’s Pain:
Appealing to the average person’s inner empathy is a tool commonly used by charities, and increasingly used by brands who seek to be affiliated by charities or causes. Often consumers will look to buy from brands who have ethical policies that resonate with their own – a good example of this is the sudden increase in Vegan beauty brands as Millennials and Gen Zers become concerned with the environmental implications of eating meat and animal products.
With every negative emotion comes a positive one – be that relief, gratitude or joy. So when advertisers seem to seek to inspire any form of fear in their demographics, they really seek to access the antidote to that fear which lies within their products or brand. We wouldn’t be surprised if Shakespeare’s fortune teller was trying to sell Julius Ceaser some sort of 24 hour security precaution.
*For Instagram, that is.