The HIV/Aids pandemic is a major concern in Africa, and South Africa's major marketing communication campaigns do not seem to be producing the expected results. This study investigates whether the use of fear appeal marketing communication increases the likelihood of adopting appropriate social behaviour, and if different cultural or racial groups vary in their perception of different fear appeals, namely high, medium, and low fear, pertaining to HIV/Aids marketing communication. The role of fear and efficacy beliefs is analysed by using experimental research techniques to ascertain the influence of different levels of fear appeals. The findings indicate differences amongst cultural or racial groups pertaining to levels of fear and efficacy experienced after exposure to high fear appeals compared with lower fear appeals. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.