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Can You Do Fear-Based Marketing on Facebook?

Marketers have long had to make the choice between negative and positive marketing. Political ads are some of the most negative. The biggest consumer goods brands often keep it positive and light-hearted. But in one day, a TV viewer can see one deodorant commercial that demonstrates that your man-stink will destroy a beautiful moment (negative), while another suggests that the right body spray will drive women so crazy they’ll be forced to tackle you (positive, if you’re in your 20s).

You can show how sad and lonely the balding man is before or how many women want to stroke his new hair after, or even show both. TV commercials ask us: Are you afraid of oily or dry skin? Are you afraid of impotence? Are you afraid of getting into a car wreck? Are you afraid you’ll never be able to retire? Some marketers choose to play on those fears. I’m not making a value judgment here because if consumers are ignoring real risks, it’s a legitimate service for a company to get their attention and help them solve the problem.

Facebook’s positive like effect makes that approach more difficult. Because Facebook shows liked posts to more people than posts that aren’t liked and because it’s easier to click Like than write a negative comment, positive messages will always reach more people on Facebook than negative ones. It’s something to keep in mind when you extend other marketing campaigns to Facebook. They can like a clever video that plays on fear, but the conversation is more likely to continue when you evoke the positive side of the coin.

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