Resorting to Scare Tactics

In my senior year of high school, I was on the debate team. Every year, high school forensic and debate organizations choose a topic, which is debated at local, state, and national tournaments. For 2011-2012, the topic is “The United States federal government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s mesosphere.”

When I was on debate team the topic revolved around alternative energy. The winning team tended to be the one, which could convincingly show their solution was feasible, abundant, reliable, and resulted in less “death and dying.” For instance, coal mining is a viable and reliable, but extracting and using coal for energy results in human and environmental “death and dying.”

I chose to debate the merits of solar energy, and got trounced at every tournament. It didn’t take long for me to change my focus to dramatic and humorous interpretation.

What I learned from debate, however, was the power of “death and dying” or more gently “scare tactics.” Fear, not necessarily from the prospect of death, is an exceptional motivator. Take for instance, the fear of underarm wetness, or worse, odor. Bad breath, gray hair, blemished skin, yellowed teeth, and body hair top our list of hygienic faux pas, which incite our trepidations.

I extensively pulled out the “fear card” when I created communications for Dell Services. Customers fears about the challenges of linking to a wireless network was solved by using Dell Network Assistant. PC issues could be minimized by routinely using Dell PC TuneUp. And losing one’s precious memories could be diminished by using Dell DataSafe.

In the game of marketing, to drive demand and usage, it’s sometimes necessary to skip product accolades and resort to scare tactics.


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