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At a New Hampshire rally last night, the Trump campaign supplied signs saying "PEACEFUL PROTESTER" and "THIS IS A PEACEFUL PROTEST." Photo: Charles Krupa/AP

Corporations and advocacy groups have used fear to sell products and messages for decades.

The big picture: Academics codified it as the "fear drive" method in the 1950s, referring to the idea that engaging with fear can be the motivation for people to buy into anything that would make the feeling of fear go away. 

Punam Anand Keller, a Dartmouth College professor who's researched marketing and consumer behavior, says the tactic is everywhere — from the dentist warning of the severe health dangers if you don't floss, to commercials that lead with the dire consequences of drunk driving.

  • "It only works when people believe in the fear arousing part of the message," Keller says. "For those people who don’t believe, then the message isn’t effective."

Constant "fears and scares," particularly in politics, make a lasting imprint says Barry Glassner, a sociologist and author of “The Culture of Fear."

  • Glassner says fear-based messaging creates the same visceral, fight-or-flee response as coming upon a wild animal: Rational thinking gets much harder.

Go deeper

Congressional Hispanics want Lujan Grisham at HHS

Michelle Lujan Grisham arriving on Capitol Hill. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Hispanic lawmakers are openly lobbying to have New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham be named Health and Human Services secretary, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: These members are now following the example some Black lawmakers have used for weeks: trying to convince Joe Biden his political interests will be served by rewarding certain demographic groups with Cabinet picks.

3 hours ago - World

Map: A look at world population density in 3D

This fascinating map is made by Alasdair Rae of Sheffield, England, a former professor of urban studies who is the founder of Automatic Knowledge. It shows world population density in 3D.

Details: "No land is shown on the map, only the locations where people actually live. ... The higher the spike, the more people live in an area. Where there are no spikes, there are no people (e.g. you can clearly identify ... the Sahara Desert)."

Biden's Day 1 challenges: The immigration reset

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President-elect Biden has an aggressive Day 1 immigration agenda that relies heavily on executive actions to undo President Trump's crackdown.

Why it matters: It's not that easy. Trump issued more than 400 executive actions on immigration. Advocates are fired up. The Supreme Court could threaten the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and experts warn there could be another surge at the border.