CMS! Ep 14: The Content of DOOM! (Using Fear in Content Marketing)

In today’s episode of Content Marketing… Stripped! we have fear, motivation and auctioneer chants…

Today’s video is inspired by Tim Riesterer from Corporate Visions and his presentation on: Differentiating your Customer Message with Visual Storytelling. If you are in the business of crafting any kind of sales message, his video is essential viewing (and because he’s such a great speaker, it’s a joy to watch).

The essence of his message is that you need to wake up your audience from the word go, and one way to do that is to show them they’re in danger…

My content marketing version of his message is in today’s video and includes spiderwebs, rabid badgers and abandoned mineshafts. Enjoy!

Why danger works

In today’s episode of Content Marketing… Stripped! We look at using fear in your marketing to motivate your customer into action.

This isn’t about scaremongering, it’s about making your customer realise that without your product or service, they are, in some way: “unsafe.”

The reason this works (as Tim points out in his presentation) is because while our ‘modern’ brains are all about logic and rationalisation (which love facts and figures), it’s our ‘old’ brains that give us the motivation to take action. (For old / new brain explanations, have a look at this cracking video, illustrated by my good friend Martin Whitmore).

Why? Because it was our ‘old’ brains that kept us alive many many years ago when we were running away from animals that would like to eat us. If this part of the brain gets a tingle that all is not well, we jump into action. If it feels safe and happy, we snuggle down and stay put.

What causes fear in your customer?

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In the video above we look at using an extreme form of assessment to highlight the potential dangers our customer faces.

Presenting a message this way can be more effective than simply letting people know what you have to offer. As Tim points out, people aren’t moved into action simply because you’re having a launch, they’re motivated by the idea of moving out of the danger zone.

So think about your own customers and they dangers they face.

  • Are their old ways of working losing them customers? 
  • Are their current methods of fitness causing long term damage? 
  • Is their antiquated software putting them at risk of a security breach? 

Notice that the emphasis is on showing that the ‘current’ ways of working are actually causing danger or damage.

It’s not simply enough to tell people that they could be losing sales etc, you have to illustrate this for them.

A simple way to highlight the dangers

One of the simplest ways to start highlighting dangers is with a checklist or an assessment that you can offer prospects or visitors to your site.

But rather than simply  stating:

How to find out if you’re losing customers

See if you can draw a comparison to their “current” methods of operation. For example:

How certain WordPress themes are killing enquiries. Test yours here. 

The mistakes leaving businesses red-faced on Twitter. How many have you made? 

These are just a couple of simple examples, but hopefully gets you thinking about how you can show the contrast between what your customer is doing now, and what they really should be doing (which is hiring you or buying from you of course).

Now, good luck in giving your customers a little fright and don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

What about you? What is the contrast between what your customer is doing now and what they should be doing instead? Let me know in the comments below!

About Amy Harrison

I am a copywriter, content-trainer, speaker and filmmaker teaching businesses how to avoid drab business content and write copy customers love to read. You can also find me hanging out and sharing content over on Google+.


  1. Your “fear” headline examples are great.

    A lot of websites use fear headlines to get people to read. Here’s a headline from

    “7 Ways to Never Have a Heart Attack”

    • Fear appeals to our primordial instinct of staying alive (running away from things trying to eat us). That part of our brain is still around and a big motivator even today!


  1. […] love them all, but the “Content of Doom” episode’s been very […]

  2. […] Watch Amy’s humorous take on Tim’s presentation, or visit our YouTube channel to see the source of her inspiration (i.e., Tim). […]

  3. […] not talking about scaring them into action (although there is a reason fear is used in marketing). But highlighting the frustrations they will still face without you is […]

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