Fear Appeals in Social Marketing

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Media, something so pervasive in our daily modern life is so essential that as an individual or society as a whole that it is inevitable to be effected one way or another. Whether it is natural disasters, health epidemic, new product launch or viral videos on the internet, mass media has allowed information to be conveyed to countries all around the world within a blink of an eye. Government bodies utilise mass media to communicate to citizens all over the country promoting health awareness campaigns to educate individuals of the consequences that some problematic behaviours incur. However, it is questionable as to whether these mass mediums have any impact on how individuals see themselves and are fear appeals effective enough to bring about pro social outcomes. An article published by Hyunyi Cho; Charles T. Salmon (2009), ‘Fear Appeals for Individuals in Different stages of Change: Intended and Unintended Effects and Implications on Public Health Campaigns’, presents a study conducted in attempt to examine the intended and unintended effects of fear appeals among individuals in different stages of change in accordance to the transtheoretical model. A pilot study was investigated to assess how individuals shift their mindset after being exposed to fear appeals on issues such as promoting skin cancer preventive behaviour providing statistical results. Gerard Hastings, Martine Stead & John Webb also published an article examining the use of fear appeals, however focusing mainly in social marketing. Hastings, Stead & Webb (2004) intend to study positive and maladaptive responses given from campaigns that were targeted to a certain group and individuals who were unintended based on analysis of other academic theories. Cho and Salmon (2009) examine the Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM) to explicate under which conditions individuals will be successfully persuaded by fear appeals. The EPPM states there are three types of fear appeal effects: no effect, intended effects and unintended effects. The reason for the arousal of intended and unintended effects is depicted on certain groups of individual’s worldview. Individuals are able to pick up certain aspects of a situation according to their interests. Any conflictions to an individual’s interest such as a threat will see them to respond with intended or unintended effects. Cho and Salmon explicate that when fear appeals suggest a perceived threat that is stronger than the perceived efficacy then the reaction given from individuals will likely be an unintended effect. In effort to suppress any sorts of obnoxious feelings toward fear, individuals will circumvent the message and manipulate information in order to avoid thinking about it (Witte, Berkowitz, Cameron & Lillie, 1998). Intended effects arise when the perceived efficacy is stronger than the perceived threat. From the fear appeals, individuals will recognise that they are susceptible to a significant threat and possibly deter themselves from the threat by engaging and performing preventive behaviour. The EPPM fear appeal effects are dependent on the individual’s perception and state of mind. They can determine whether to accept or reject the information given to them and whether to act upon a change. Behaviour change is an ongoing event (Prochaska et al., 1992), individuals assess the costs and benefits as to what decision is made. If their perception is set that advantages outweigh the disadvantages, individuals are likely to maintain preventive behaviour (Cho and Salmon, 2009). As stated by Slater and Flora (1994), health campaigns tend to promote long term benefits of conforming to a pro social action rather than influencing a one –time behaviour such as purchasing a commercial product. The Transtheoretical Model (TM) focuses on an individual’s decision to initiate in deliberate behaviour change. The model assesses how individuals adjust problematic behaviour or adopt a positive behaviour. According to Prochaska...
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