Selling Halloween DEATH (October 30, 2018)
If you google “Halloween risks” which (guess what!) I did recently myself, you wind up with no end of terrifying headlines. One article offers to reveal the "hidden dangers" of Halloween to you. Another will instruct you in how to keep your family safe from budget costumes. And a third wants to alert you about the horrific problems with Halloween contact lenses. I’m terrified. Are you?
What’s to be scared of here? Is there any there there at all? (Spoiler: NO.) Here are a few facts, and if you want references for them, please let me know.
There has never been a documented case of randomly distributed poisoned Halloween candy. NOT ONE.
This is kind of sad in a way, because back in the day the risk of death by candy made trick-or-treating a lot more fun. But although a few incidents have been reported that at first glance LOOKED like some sadist was randomly targeting innocent children, when they were followed up they turned out to be anything but random. Maybe a druggie uncle had left his stash lying around and sprinkled some dope on his dead nephew's candy, or maybe a stepfather with more interest in life insurance than a stepchild.
In other words, your average child has a lot more to worry about from her mom’s current boyfriend than she does when she's trick-or-treating from the guy with the weirdly decorated van across the street. Unless he's trying to get her into the van, of course.
People do occasionally drop nasty things like nails and syringes into kids’ treat bags, however. So, as a parent, before you grab your contractual percentage out of your kids’ candy bags, you might want to look at what's in there first.
Halloween is the deadliest day of the year for child pedestrian accidents.
This is true, actually. There are, on average, somewhere around 130 kids who are killed by cars hitting them on Halloween. That’s about twice what it is on any other day.
Of course, on Halloween there are about twenty times as many kids on the road at night as on any other night as well. So maybe your basic kid is actually safer wandering around at night on Halloween than on, say, Guy Fawkes’ Day.
On Halloween, perverts come out in massive numbers looking for children to prey on.
No more than on any other night of the year. See the aforementioned comment about your mother’s boyfriend and the guy with the van. Also, on Halloween the police have a tendency to round these guys up ahead of time and keep a stern eye on them.
Kids get kidnapped more on Halloween than on other nights.
Nope. See above. Boyfriend. Van. Police.
Well, I am no fun at all today. Aren’t you glad I delayed my newsletter a week so I could cover this hot topic in a more timely fashion?
When you get right down to it, then, unless you want to strain at gnats, no one really has any more to worry about on Halloween than on any other night. (Except maybe whoever is hanging out with Jamie Lee Curtis that evening.) So why all the overblown screaming panic?
Because fear sells. Advertising works not so much by creating a need in the targeted audience (which is what we are always told) as much as it creates anxiety. Anxiety=fear, right?
Halloween is by its very nature supposed to be a scary holiday, so we’re primed for fear when it’s the subject. And how scary is it really? Candy, costumes, parties, competitions between plain and sparkly vampires, blah blah blah. A bit of a yawn, really.
But we’re looking to be scared about Halloween from the get-go. We’re primed for it. So you can get a BUNCH of clicks around Halloween if you can scare people into clicking on the link to your stupid article. And here is how you effectively scare someone in advertising:
Step One. Make them feel vulnerable. Then
Step Two. Make them think that when it happens, it’s really going to hurt.
Step Three. Tell them how they can avoid it.
To get someone to look at your Halloween link, then, you want to make someone feel vulnerable (“Hey, your kid might die from that cheap Iron Man costume you bought him!"), remind them how bad they’ll feel when the inevitable happens (“Look at that poor burned kid. How awful!”), then promise that your information will save the day (“Read the label on the costume. You didn’t know that, did you?”).
These three steps are used in advertising all the time, of course. But to me they were especially apparent in the seasonal struggle to make a safe, fun holiday look like a slaughterhouse, and so I pass them along for your entertainment (I hope) and edification (I hope even more).
Boo! Happy Halloween!
--dr. diane holmes
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