Scare tactics: How far should you go?

The UK Government’s new anti-smoking video has been dubbed as its most striking visual yet. If you have not yet seen it, the video shows a dad with his kids in the park, rolling up his cigarette. As he prepares his cigarette, the tobacco packet is filled with mucus and body parts. And as he starts to smoke, body parts and blood start dripping from the tip of the cigarette. It’s a pretty gruesome and scary video – but is it effective?

When it comes to content we all know that striking emotions, evoking curiosity and intrigue, and fear are good tactics to create shareable content. We are told to tell a story; to spark mental images in order to be memorable.

In an environment where users are habitually connected, it is important to make an impact. Especially considering that people only remember 10% of what they are told, as Dr Carmen Simon, Managing Partner at Rexi Media observes.

But how far would you go? And would it fulfil the goals you set?

There is no doubt that smoking is on the decline, with the number of adults smoking in the UK dropping below 20% for the first time in 8 years, according to the University of Central London.

But Simon Clark, CEO of smokers’ rights group Forest suggests ‘the Government should engage directly with consumers rather than use shock tactics.’ Clark describes the campaign as ‘poisonous’ and is accusing Public Health England of making ‘exaggerated claims’.

This sparks an interesting debate. Marketers need to be aware that making something sound over the top may be misconstrued to be a scam. It’s not be the case here, but it could certainly grow a little tiresome. So should using scare tactics for your recurring campaigns be repeatedly used? It can be powerful, but it can also backfire.

Will there be a point where these campaigns will simply be ignored? Or are scare tactics a necessary evil to grab the audience’s attention?

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