100 Days of Pop: Episode 8

Hello fellow marketing Monsters-   When I was a kid, I would wait all year for the Halloween episode of my favorite primetime shows and in 2018, Halloween is hotter than ever.
Haunting of Hill House, Halloween brings back a badass Jamie Lee Curtis 40 years later and blows away the box office, Eli Roth’s History of Horror on AMC, Fortnitemares events on Fortnight, The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown never dies & I’m still left wondering who the hell is David S Pumpkins, it’s officially the best time of the year!

I’m Joe Cox, the guy who curates, uncovers and teaches you about art and science of pop-marketing and you are watching day 8 of 100 Days of Pop.  

Today we’re talking about the emotional experience of FEAR and exploring what marketers like us can learn from those beautiful nuts who design and create those Ultimate SCARE experiences that we call HAUNTED HOUSES!

With over 3000 Halloween themed attractions each year and over 30 million Americans that pay the dollar bills to get the crap scared out of them each year, let’s figure out what’s going on and more importantly, what we marketers can learn from the ART OF THE SCARE and these modern masters of the experience.

First off, a special thanks to the Dr. Margee Kerr, a sociologist that studies human fear.  She’s great and has some killer content on the subject that I am using for this video. Check out her video on TedX or pick up her book on the subject, SCREAM, Chilling adventures in the science of Fear.  

Here’s 3 things I learned from researching these designers of FEAR-


Haunted Houses are masters of 2 human-science based triggers


If you’re walking through the woods alone at night and you hear something rustling in the bushes  or you hear a noise downstairs late at night when you are the only one home, you’ve experience AGENT DETECTION.  Your response is a heightened level of arousal and attention. You’ll behave as if there is a willful “agent” present who is about to do you harm.  When agent detection is triggered, your ears turn on and all those thoughts about what’s for dinner turn off.

Fight or Flight is the moment that the fear is actually realized and the noise that you thought could be a tiger, is unveiled to be an actual freaking tiger.  

Doesn’t matter if it’s clowns grabbing you from behind, vampires jumping out from above, or a chainsaw-wielding maniac chasing you down a long hallway... the creative license is endless, as long as there are 2 moments-  The moment when we feel like something is about to jump out and the moment it shows itself. That’s it-

I think that is so cool-  As long as we know where we’re trying to emotionally get our user the sooner we understand that we can creatively wrap that in countless ways. The key is knowing where we want them to go.

Why the F would people pay money to get terrified?  In the Haunted House business, it comes down to chemicals in our brains that come out to play when we’re in this state of fright.
When fear is triggered, it releases a cocktail of chemicals and endorphins in our brain that aid us in survival.  Dopamine is released to keep us from feeling pain, adrenaline to give us more energy, and they all get squirt into the brain and acting like gas on a fire.
Fear is terrorfying and anything but fun when it’s real but if done in a place we KNOW is actually very safe-  Movie Theater, haunted house, hay ride, etc, it’s a very powerful safe high for people. A release and a break from reality.  

A content creator that knows brain chemistry and can embed it into their storytelling has a major head start in impacting their audience. How do you get your consumer to be hooked on a feeling.

Turns out that it’s not just a coincidence that Haunted Houses are best enjoyed with groups of friends. Turns out that fear, when experienced with other people, can be both more memorable for all involved and also will build deeper bonds and relationships.
We build a special closeness with those we are with when we're in an excited state. We're social and emotional beings — we need each other in times of stress, so the fact that our bodies have evolved to make sure we feel close to those we are with when afraid makes sense.”
So two things here for marketers.
The First- if you are creating a brand experience at a large event like SXSW, make sure people can go in together and in small groups.  Not only do we know that people amplify each other’s emotions, but the group experience can imprint longer and be more impactful on a positive or not so positive memory.
The other marketer’s trick is that just by SEEING and watching people react to fear or excitement automatically brings out that emotion in us the people watching.  Turn those cameras around when creating content and get all of those yummy human reactions, you’re more likely going to get those same emotions from your audience.
So don’t just waste all of that cash on the few thousand people coming through your event or brand experience, make sure you are getting great content from it and use it to amplify and circulate the experience to a larger audience.
Oh, there’s so much more!  I’ll make sure and send some of the inspiration for this week’s episode in my email, which you can receive if you signup at pop-marketer.com
Everyone have a very horrifying but safe Halloween and I’ll see you next week on 100 Days of Pop-  Scare ya later!

Joe Cox