The Behavioral Responses of Consumers to the Intensity and Type of Fear Appeals Used in Anti-Obesity Advertisements: An Experimental Study on College Students in Tehran

  • Nader Eshghipour
  • Pejman Jafar
  • Hamed Ekhtiari
Keywords: Social marketing; Obesity; Fear appeal; Severity; Susceptibility; Behavioral intention


Introduction: Some communicators resort to negative appeals such as fear to encourage consumers to healthy behaviors. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of this type of content is yet questioned. Present study has been conducted to investigate how fear intensity and fear type applied in anti-obesity advertisements prompt
preventive behavior among consumers.

Methods: 208 college students in Tehran province were randomly classified in 7 groups (6 experimental and 1 control group) based on a factorial design; 2 (fear intensity: high and low) x 3 (fear type: physical, social, and reappraisal). Research hypotheses were tested applying appropriate statistical tests including structural equation modeling and analysis of variance, based on data gathered through questionnaire and interventions such as presenting participants with visual contents.

Findings: it was revealed that there is a significant and positive relationship between the perceived severity and perceived fear, as well as between perceived susceptibility and perceived fear, and also between perceived fear and behavioral intention. Analysis of variance confirmed the significant main effect of fear intensity on behavioral intention. The main effect of the fear type on behavioral intention was not approved. However, findings indicate the significant interaction effect of fear intensity and fear type on behavioral intention so that highly intense messages that representing physical harm and lowly intense messages that representing social harm stimulate more behavioral intention.

Conclusion: It is concluded that applying fear appeal in health warning advertisements is effective in inviting consumers to healthy behavior, especially once a proper combination of the type and intensity of fear is applied in messages.