Symantec Backs Off Its "Beg For Mercy" Warning Message


Andy Greenberg

For security software firms, marketing products without engulfing users in full-blown fear tactics isn’t easy. Antivirus giant Symantec, at least, is willing to admit when it crossed the line.

On Monday I wrote about a pop-up window that the company showed to customers whose subscriptions were about expire, telling them to “Protect yourself now, or beg for mercy.”

Following widespread complaints from customers about that scaremongering pop-up, Symantec has pulled the aggressive message. The company’s spokesperson Rhonda Shantz wrote in an email that the over-the-top warnings were meant to resonate with a humorous video campaign that the company launched last month, but its irony was lost in translation.

“Getting the humor or emotional tone right in each communication is a balancing act. In the specific alert you reported on, the tone of the messaging lost the element of humor, and some customers perceived it as too strong, so we have since removed it,” Shantz wrote in an email.

Above are the before and after images of two of Symantec’s renewal alert messages.

Taken alongside the ZoneAlarm “Global Virus Alert” pop-up that Checkpoint used to prompt users to upgrade to a paid service last month, the cybersecurity industry seems to be stepping up its rhetoric to win over customers and keep them from dropping the industry’s services.

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