Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What the heck is FUD?

Marketers use Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt to get you to move away from Competitor's products.  In the industry, this is known as FUD.

I was perusing a website devoted to early Chrysler vehicles (the first to offer hydraulic brakes in a mainstream car) and saw the term FUD used.  What is FUD?

FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.  FUD is described succinctly in this Wikipedia Entry - it is a means whereby competitors spread rumors, lies, or innuendo about someone else's products, in order to insure sales of their own, less competitive items.

FUD is present in our daily lives, and has been used for decades - as far back as the 1920's, apparently, perhaps before.  The idea is to convince the customer to stick with "tried and true" technology and companies, instead of trying new things which have an unknown provenance or reliability history.  FUD can take many forms - attacking the quality of an item, or perhaps the soundness of the company behind it.

In our computer age, FUD carries a lot of weight.  People want products that are reliable, compatible, and won't be obsolete in a few years.  A newcomer to the marketplace has to overcome a lot of FUD as a result.

If you buy a computer, for example, from a "no-name" company, how do you know they will be in business in a year or so, if you need a warranty repair or parts or upgrades?  That is the subliminal message the mainstream marketers use when attacking new, lower-cost competitors.

Of course, in this economic era, that sort of argument can backfire in a big way, as "mainstream" old-line companies go bankrupt or morph overnight, and as product lines are "orphaned", even by major competitors such as Microsoft and Apple.

Life in the center of the herd is safe, of course, but the grass has been trampled down and pooped upon by the other cows.  At the edge of the herd, the grass is more plentiful, but there is increased attendant risk of attack from predators.  And at the trailing edge of the herd, there is risk, but no reward.

Recognizing FUD for what it is, is important to you as a consumer - and as a voter.  When you see a salesman or a politician using fear tactics to sell a product or a policy, you have to ask yourself why they are doing this.  And the answer is, they can't compete on the merits.  And if this is the case, walk away from the FUD sellers, as at best, all they have to sell you is mediocrity, and at worst, a very bad bargain.

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.  These are not useful emotions, but ways in which you can be tricked.