Study finds fear drives people into the embrace of brand-name products

BY Justin Scuiletti  March 11, 2014 at 7:13 PM EST

Nobody to turn to when you’re scared? Reach for [insert product name here]™ to make everything better!

A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research may be music to the ears of businesses. It finds that when someone is put into a fearful situation without another person to turn to, they will turn to a brand to provide that missing support.

Researchers conducted separate studies in which participants watched different genres of movies, including horror. For each of the movies, the participant was given an unfamiliar brand of juice. At the end, the study showed that those who had watched the horror movie were revealed to have grown an emotional connection to the juice:

In one study, participants were asked to watch a movie and drink a new brand of sparkling juice. Movie choices were horror, action, or a documentary. Participants were asked to drink the juice during the movie, asked to wait, or given a choice to drink at leisure. Study results showed the most increase in emotional attachment to the juice in participants who viewed the horror movie and who were allowed to drink at leisure or asked to wait until the end of the movie.

The study’s authors claim that a product’s presence –even an unfamiliar one — can successfully curb fear the consumer is experiencing at the time. In turn, that success will create the emotional attachment that will drive the person towards that product in the future.

“When consumers are scared, they will reach out to an available brand for comfort,” study authors Lea Dunn and JoAndrea Hoegg write. “In this act of reaching out to share the experience, brands help relieve a consumer’s sense of fear. In turn, this shared experience leads to stronger emotional attachment.”