Friday, April 24, 2009

Selling fear with that furnace

The old saying in advertising is, "don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle". People are looking for more than a product when they buy something; they're buying an experience. They want their purchase to make them feel good. So marketers are always looking for that something extra to make a sale. More and more, that something is fear.

Today in the car I heard a radio commercial for a heating and cooling company. They were advertising for the sale of furnaces and air conditioners. The angle they used to promote their business had nothing to do with quality or value or customer service. They were making the case that their employees wouldn't commit a crime against you, their customer. Isn't that wonderful? Doesn't that make you feel good? This ad is running on the St. Louis area's leading FM conservative talk station.

The ad described how you don't want just anyone coming into your house or your basement. How you wouldn't want dangerous people around your family. It went on to say how this company turns away 97% of their job applicants (obvious implication being these unhired individuals are working for their competition). Then it said the leading trades taught in prisons are plumbing and heating and cooling. God knows no one would ever want an ex-con working on their air conditioner or going down in their basement.

Listen to the tone of conservative talk radio. Check out the advertising, whether it be for service companies or school choices. How often are we being sold to our fears? Does this approach cross the wide spectrum of society, or is it targeted against certain demographic groups?

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