Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

30 Aug

Our neighbor has a sign by her gate advertising a certain security company.  In our last neighborhood, many homes had also chosen to pay for monthly security.

I don’t know whether it was the lack of funds or that we were just cheap, but my husband and I never talked about whether we should sign up with such a service.  Therefore, my only real ‘knowledge’ of home alarm systems comes from a few TV commercials.  I’ve noticed that they often employ the technique of fear to get you to consider their services.

Don’t you want to protect your family from all the possible ‘bad guys’ out there? Dad might be travelling a lot and away from home.  What’s a fearful mom to do in the middle of the night?

Or if you’re an elderly widow, all alone in her home, who feels vulnerable, what steps SHOULD you take?

Well, what’s wrong with wanting to safeguard your family, or provide for grandma?

Nothing at all! Those are legitimate concerns.  It’s just that they are not the best reasons for going with brand X alarm system.

It’s much EASIER for the company to advertise their product by playing on our fear.  They default to the shortcut or FALLACY, called the Appeal to Fear,  (aka scare tactics.)

It might look like this:

If you don’t arm yourself with our security system, then you might get hurt.

To bolster their claim, they use actors to create a convincing scene:

  • the potential intruder is apprehended by the rapid security company
  • relieved family members offer convincing testimonies.

I have just read Neil Postman’s iconic work, Amusing Ourselves to Death.

  I was startled to learn that before the 1880s, all print advertising promoted their products based on propositional reasons their goods would solve your problem or meet your need. They did not show pictures of cute babies or happy moms or successful blacksmiths content with their purchase.

Today vendors cater to our lazy buying habits by appealing to natural fear.  But we buyers SHOULD ask for evidence that their product will indeed meet our need.  And before we seek reasons, we need to have articulated the exact nature of our need or desire.  And that requires THINKING!

Unfortunately, thinking is becoming more and more an unused muscle!

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