Protection motivation theory

This point has given rise to anew perspective on the use of fear appeals – the so called protection motivational theory. According to this theory four processes influence how an individual will actually respond to threatening information presented in a fear appeal. The individual will:

1) Determine how severe the threat is to him.
2) Determine how likely the threat is to occur.
3) Determine what action might be able to remove the threat – the so called coping response.
4) Determine how able he is to carry out the coping response behavior.

The result of a consumer’s threat evaluation on these factors will lead to his protection motivation — a motivation to adopt certain behaviors to protect him. This is different from fear itself because it is actually intended behavior designed to cope with a threat rather than an emotion that is felt by the individual (fear).

Protection motivation theory is an attractive concept for marketers because it suggests guidelines for designing communication to motivate consumers to respond to threatening situations. Based on the above four points, a fear appeal in an advertisement should (1) provide information about the severity of any threat, (2) suggest the probability of its occurrence, (3) indicate effective coping responses, and (4)show how easily the coping response can be used. For example, an advertisement for a muffler franchise might address the danger of asphyxiation from a defective muffler, provide evidence on how many such cases occur per year in the United States, explain how a sound muffler minimizes these risks, and show how easy it is to stop into a conveniently located shop and get an exhaust system check/repair in short time, even without an appointment. A number of recent promotional messages appear to be making use of this concept regarding the use of coping behavior suggestions in fear appeals.

Distraction- Some evidence suggest that pleasant forms of distraction can often work to increaser the effectiveness of persuasive appeals in encouraging attitude change. 39 Sales representatives often practice this principle when they take clients out to dinner. Advertisers can also use such pleasant forms of distractions as music for background activity.

The explanation for the effectiveness of distraction on attitude change has been that it retards counter argumentation. That is, distraction tends to make the receiver lose his train of thought or forget to argue against the message. This, according to the explanation would result in greater message acceptance.

Studies have shown conflicting evidence on that distraction concept. Also, in some cases distraction may actually reduce receiver’s attention to the message. Therefore evidence is still not clear regarding the effectiveness of this method of increasing attitude, change and the conditions that influence t.


As was discussed earlier active audience participation is a means of gaining attention to and enhancing the learning of a message. Similarly, participation can increase the effectiveness of a persuasive appeal. Marketers have learned the value of giving product samples to prospective customers, encouraging trial use of their products and providing coupons for trial purchase. In addition, they often develop television advertisements that place the viewers in the position of vicariously trying a product by using well developed camera angles and other production techniques that make them feel a part of the commercial.

Estimates are that between 15 and 42 per cent of radio and television advertising employs humorous appeals. Print media also contain many similar messages. Some brands such as Isuzu, Bartles & James Budweiser Lite, Energizer batteries and Little Caesar’s pizza have developed extensive campaigns based on humor. However, other companies hardly give it serious consideration arguing that amusing circumstances are not universal in appeal, they wear out quickly often humor is not really appropriate for the product being advertised and humor consumes too much advertising time or space. Daily experience and research evidence seem to support the contention that humor is not universal in its appeal. For example, studies investigating reactions to three basic types of humor (hostile, sexual, nonsensical) found that females and males differ in their perception as to what is amusing, also, much of humor is culturally determined and therefore responses to any humorous message may be quite different across groups.

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