The Factory of Fear, pop-up theatre or playful exposure of a frightening reality?

Credit: Critical Mass

Whoever passed by the Ketelhuisplein at Strijp-S recently noticed that just across the square, in front of area 51 there is a new container project. It is “De Angstfabriek” or “The Factory of Fear” in English.

 Now, what is “The Factory of Fear”?

The Eindhoven News team was invited to find out. Precisely at 20:00, we rang the bell, to which the receptionist of the Factory of Fear attended, opening the door quite abruptly.

We were welcomed after stating why we were there. To be able to visit the factory, receive a guided tour and talk to the director we need to register and wait a little bit.

The experience consisted of involving us in the performance, where we got confronted with propaganda techniques used to manipulate crowds. The intended audience’s response we needed to create depended on the goal of the marketing campaign. Thus, it was an interesting interactive theatre performance put together by Critical Mass.

In order not to spoil the rest of the performance I won’t describe more. However, I must say it is well thought out interactive theatre performance. It opens your eyes to modern ways of propaganda manipulation which is not at all only in the world of “make-believe”.

Far from being a “horror house” like the ones in amusement parks, “The Factory of Fear” does not make you instantly frightened by sudden figures dropping from the ceiling. However, the kind of fear they used as the centrepiece for their performance has the potential to keep you awake for a long time if you realize what exactly is at stake there.

Fear-based propaganda

The kind of propaganda that uses fear to move crowds is being used worldwide to boost marketing, especially for political campaigns.

Fear is one of our most basic emotions, to which we tend to respond quickly and intensely. Playing with our fears is an effective way to make us take the actions intended by the advertiser while it feels like a genuine and spontaneous response.

This type of advertisement and crowd manipulation counts with a powerful resource, the big data. Using data from social media, for instance, makes it possible to profile a population and groups of individuals within it.

Personality profiling of a population

Individuals can be grouped according to personality types which tell what kind of response they have depending on the stimulus given. This way it is possible to come up with manipulation strategies based on how the advertisements make certain individuals feel.

Who isn’t familiar with the personality tests available online? What if this would be used to profile a population and map their responses to know what triggers fear and act on that? It turns out that marketers discovered this strategy already. Since a while, it is being used for different purposes.

Influencing feelings is a very effective and powerful way to call the audience for action because the action comes from the notion that something extremely important, such as their intrinsic values and beliefs, are being threatened.

It may sound like a conspiracy theory but we are all susceptible to that and it is important to be aware. Don’t be game in this game!

They started their activities in Eindhoven on August 21st and they stay until October 18th. There are two dates on which you can attend the performance in English, Friday 11th of October and Friday 1st of November.

Food for thought

The documentary “The Great Hack” explains in a contextualized way some of these techniques, how they work and what kind of results they can bring.

For the ones that are curious about it and want to read more, I suggest a quick search on google using “fear marketing strategy” and for the one that needs to see a scientific article about it to take it seriously I recommend this one:
Latour, M. S., & Zahra, S. A. (1989). Fear appeals as an advertising strategy: Should they be used? Journal of Consumer Marketing, 6(2).

Written by Diana Bizarro.

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