Scaring is Caring: Fear as Entertainment

We’ve seen our fair share of fear based marketing campaigns, most notably around the traditional Halloween season in the US and in the recent spate of Prankvertising movie promo stunts (Chucky ad hoarding, Devil baby, telekinetic coffee shop), however there may be tangible value in building a scare tactic into a brand’s entertainment portfolio.

For many being scared is fun, a genuine form of entertainment – yet brands, somewhat understandably, are nervous about entering into this fairly dark space. Which is odd, given the queues outside movie theatres for the latest horror blockbusters and the thrill seekers that are actively seeking out the world’s most challenging theme park rides.

The world, whether we like it or not, is a scary place. Financial woes plague many, and the news bombards us with a catalogue of scary scenarios that we cannot resolve. Proactive fear in a controlled environment with a definite resolution – although terrifying – can offer a tangible release and provide a key emotional benefit.

However, don’t take my word for it, apparently there is credible research to back this all up. A recent study from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business (entitled: ‘The Impact of Fear on Emotional Brand Attachment’) has analysed consumer awareness of product placements in movies and found that the scarier the movie the stronger recall rate and bond with a given product.

“Marketers are afraid of fear. Their worries about negative associations outweigh their desire to tap into the massive market commanded by fear-based entertainment such as horror films or video games,’ says Lea Dunn, author of the research paper. “Our study shows advertisers should consider offering up their brands as something to cling to in the dark when the knives come out and the blood starts to splatter.”

So, my question is this. When will we see a major music brand activation that uses scare tactics? Perhaps a large-scale experiential horror maze as a gig venue at a music festival, a creative artist residence in a haunted house, or – in simple product placement terms – a resurgence in Thriller style music videos. 
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