Negative Messages and Emotional Clutter

I saw this ad today in an educational newsletter I subscribe to. I had a mixed and uncomfortable emotional response.

One the one hand, I’m annoyed by the suggestion that I have something to worry about – e.g. “you could be doing MORE to bolster your child’s self-confidence!!!”  That idea intrudes on my thinking in a way I don’t appreciate – and I see through the obvious emotional manipulation. Sure, make me worry about something, make me feel guilty – then offer me a solution to purchase to remedy those bad feelings.  No thanks.

On the other hand, this ad is connecting art and creativity with self-confidence, something I ALREADY BELIEVE (as a creative type person with creative kids). In fact, I was just thinking about enrolling my son in a local art class, once his back-breaking 8th grade homework load settles down. But not because I’m looking to boost his self-confidence, at least not directly — it’s because he LOVES art and drawing and clearly thrives whenever he’s in an art-focused social setting. It’s a subtle but crucial motivational distinction – and for me, the difference between clicking through the ad and deleting it.

As a product designer, I know that people are driven to action via their pain points, and one person’s deeply felt need is another’s “manufactured pain.” I know that fear-based marketing works on a lot of people – and sometimes it works on me. But more often than not, it’s a BIG turn-off. If I have a choice, I want to filter out these messages – they’re emotional clutter in my busy day. I respond much better to inspiring messages that tell me things are OK and could get EVEN BETTER – e.g. Apple Ads.

So what’s the upshot?  I cancelled my subscription to the educational newsletter, which was a “nice to have” but not crucial.  One less thing in my inbox; one less channel for ads that elicit guilt and anxiety to reach me. WIN.

What about you? Are you aware of, susceptible to, or skeptical of negative motivators in marketing and advertising?