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3 Spooktacular Studies On Using Fear In Your Next Campaign

Halloween is just around the corner, which means that all the ghosts and ghouls will be coming out to play. But research suggests that fear isn’t just fun on Halloween – it can actually be a surprisingly effective emotion for encouraging action on social problems. These three studies show you how your communications campaign can keep the Halloween spirit alive year-round and make the world a better place in the process.

1) How to Boo-st Action on Climate Change

Climate change is an objectively terrifying problem, and the sheer magnitude of the issue can cause people to tune it out. But researcher Shu-Chu Sarrina Li found that a little bit of fear can be a good thing when it comes to communicating on the climate. The key is pairing feelings of fear with a call to action – like asking them to raise the temperature on their AC – that lets people feel like they can fight back.

2) Some Ghoulish Findings About Fear of Death and Charitable Giving

Why should skeletons and spirits only make an appearance at the end of October when there’s good reason to bring them to your fundraisers no matter the season? According to a study conducted by researchers Tomasz Zaleskiewicz, Agata Gasiorowska, and Pelin Kesebir, reminding people of their own mortality can actually make them more generous. We feel anxious when we consider death, and charitable actions can help soothe these fears.

3) Frighteningly Effective: Scare Parents to Increase Vaccination Intentions

Halloween is full of scary stories, but the return of preventable childhood illnesses is no campfire tale. There’s good news, though. A study by Zachary Horne, John E. Hummel, Derek Powell and Keith J. Holyoak suggests that scaring parents about the dangers of not vaccinating their children through graphic photos and stories of deadly illnesses can increase vaccination intentions.

So this Halloween, don’t be afraid of things that go bump in the night. It might just be a good communications campaign.

Posted on October 29, 2015

Lauren Griffin
Lauren Griffin is the Director of External Research for frank and the Journal Manager for the Journal of Public Interest Communications (JPIC). She earned her PhD in Environmental Sociology from the University of Florida. Follow her on Twitter @lngriffin25