Instant MBA: the Scare 'n Snare, and the Chameleon Employee

How to to make scare tactics work on your customers, and how to hire adaptable staff

Written by Deborah Aarts

Academic insights made intelligible from the editors of PROFIT. This issue, research out of McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management and the universities of Toronto, Lethbridge, Guelph and Minnesota.

How to scare ’em to snare ’em

Fear in advertising is tricky business. Employed well, it can shock consumers into action; but when there’s too much doom and gloom, buyers get their backs up. So, how can you make scare tactics work?

According to new research by Ashesh Mukherjee and Laurette Dubé of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, all you have to do is inject a little levity. Over the course of two studies, Mukherjee and Dubé asked more than 250 students to respond to different sunscreen ads: some warned of skin cancer and some tempered those warnings with funny vignettes. When the spot included just the cancer warning, viewers weren’t fully sold on the product’s benefit. But when the warning was paired with humour, viewers were far more receptive to the sunscreen’s effectiveness. The researchers argue that humour mediates the defensive responses triggered by fright—so, it can’t hurt to lighten up.

Why you should hire cameleons

Your star performer has changed the way she works. Is she slacking off? Not necessarily, according to a study of workplace adaptability conducted at the universities of Toronto, Lethbridge, Guelph and Minnesota.

Researchers studied data on 737 NBA players over 15 seasons to probe whether shape-shifting helps or hurts career longevity. Over the period studied, about 10% of the players significantly changed their behaviours—from pumping out points one season, say, to playing more defensively the next—in response to the changing team needs or coach directives. Because these chameleons were able to accommodate new scenarios, they were much more likely than other players to return to the league season after season. The researchers assert that in sport, as in business, the lesson is: when players can adapt, they tend to stick around longer.

More Instant MBAs: Is it time to ditch your business plan? And, how to get kill at e-commerce

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com