Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) is a disinformation strategy used by marketing, sales, polling, and public relations to influence consumer perception of a competitor’s product by appealing to fear.
Professionals using the FUD strategy in campaigns will share negative and false information about a competitor, their service, or their products. They will spread questionable information about competition with the hopes that consumers will find their product more appealing. This strategy is commonly used in scenarios in which a company’s product is inferior to competition.
Examples of FUD being used as a professional strategy
An example of FUD at play in the corporate world was with Clorox in 2008. The team ran a marketing campaign highlighting a new product known as Green Works. The campaign slogan was “Finally, Green Works,” which implied that other companies’ green products were ineffective up until this point. It made consumers fear that other products and companies weren’t trustworthy or effective.
Other examples of FUD nowadays appear in physical security and security software industries. Many of these companies use FUD strategies to sell more products and software, emphasizing the fear and uncertainty of crime issues. The disadvantage to this is that, over time, customers can eventually reduce their security budgets and curb purchasing habits after the implied threats fail to materialize.
The same can be applied to the rise of cryptocurrency in today’s investment market. Cryptocurrency enthusiasts often used FUD regarding the stock market fluctuations and inflation issues with global currencies. In reality, the highs and lows of cryptocurrency are based on the fundamentals of the coin’s chart, not because of the information often shared on media platforms.
History of FUD
FUD’s current use began in the 1970s when Gene Amdahl, a former IBM employee who left to form Amdahl Corp., defined FUD as, “the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering Amdahl Products.”
The tactic was commonly used in the 1970s to describe disinformation in the computer hardware industry. Since then, the term has been expanded to a broader level.
The use of FUD in a more modern context often derives from the long-standing practice of casting unwarranted criticism on other people, products, or circumstances to further one’s own goals. More historically most FUD has been used within situations such as deliberately hiding facts agent provocateur scenarios; and agnotology, or the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt.