Sep 23, 2014 12:35PM

Ads Are Messing With Your Mind By Focussing On Death

You're going to die, so buy NOW!
Fear-based marketing is the worst. Reminding people that we're all marching slowly towards the grave used to be a strategy in ads for products designed to keep one safe-ish (insurance, alarms, bomb shelters) — but advertisers can (and do) use it for anything. A new study published in the Journal of Psychology & Marketing has just found that reminding humans of their overwhelming fear of death makes them want to buy pretty much whatever you're selling. Even if it's unrelated and pointless, like floss.
The research shows that even when being sold a magazine subscription, the application of 'terror management theory' aka wanting to live but recognising that you will inevitably die — prompts people to open their wallets. Morbid and good for the economy! Hence after 9/11, the number of Americans buying electronics, care and even homes soared. Is that why we furiously burn through our credit card when we're on our period? Jks, barren.
Participants in study were asked to read either death-related or non-death-related ads for stuff. Despite not 'liking' the death-related content, people were much more motivated to buy whatever said ad was selling. Interestingly, the death-ads didn't effect participants' mood, suggesting that "fear of death works outside of conscious awareness." Creepy. The study lead researchers to summarise that the most effective ads "provide consumers with their worst fear and a potential way to decrease this fear in a single shot." Ethical!