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Fear, uncertainty and doubt, frequently abbreviated as FUD, is a tactic used in sales, marketing, public relations,[1][2] politics and propaganda.

FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor's product; to increase the general estimation of switching cost among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival.

The term originated to describe disinformation tactics in the computer hardware industry but has since been used more broadly.[3] FUD is a manifestation of the appeal to fear.


The term appeared in other contexts as far back as the 1920s.[4][5] By 1975, the term was already appearing abbreviated as FUD in marketing and sales contexts:[6]

One of the messages dealt with is FUD—the fear, uncertainty and doubt on the part of customer and sales person alike that stifles the approach and greeting.

FUD was first defined with its specific current meaning by Gene Amdahl about 1975 after he left IBM to found his own company, Amdahl Corp.: "FUD is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering Amdahl products."[7] The term has also been attributed to veteran Morgan Stanley computer analyst Ulrich Weil, As Eric S. Raymond writes:[8]

The idea, of course, was to persuade buyers to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software. After 1991 the term has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.

By spreading questionable information about the drawbacks of less well known products, an established company can discourage decision-makers from choosing those products over its own, regardless of the relative technical merits. This is a recognized phenomenon, epitomized by the traditional axiom of purchasing agents that "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM equipment". The result is that many companies' IT departments buy software that they know to be technically inferior because upper management is more likely to recognize the brand.[citation needed]

Security industry and profession[]

FUD is also widely recognized as a tactic used to promote the sale or implementation of security products and measures. While there are many true security threats and breaches, it is possible to find pages describing purely artificial problems. Such pages frequently contain links to the demonstrating source code that does not point to any valid location and sometimes even links that "will execute malicious code on your machine regardless of current security software", leading to pages without any executable code.

The drawback to the FUD tactic in this context is that, when the stated or implied threats fail to materialize over time, the customer or decision-maker frequently reacts by withdrawing budgeting or support from future security initiatives.[9]

Non-computer uses[]

Main article: Appeal to fear

FUD is now often used in non-computer contexts with the same meaning. For example, in politics one side can accuse the other of using FUD to obscure the issues. For example, critics of George W. Bush accused Bush's supporters, most notably the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, of using a FUD-based campaign in the 2004 U.S. presidential election.[10]

According to some commentators, examples of political FUD are: "domino theory", "electronic Pearl Harbor", and "weapons of mass destruction".[11]

The FUD tactic was used by Caltex Australia in 2003. According to an internal memo, which was subsequently leaked, they wished to use FUD to destabilise franchisee confidence, and thus get a better deal for Caltex. This memo was used as an example of unconscionable behaviour in a Senate inquiry. Senior management claimed that it was contrary to and did not reflect company principles.[12]

More recently, Clorox was the subject of both consumer and industry criticism for advertising its GreenWorks line of allegedly environmentally friendly cleaning products using the slogan, "Finally, Green Works."[13] The slogan implied both that "green" products manufactured by other companies which had been available to consumers prior to the introduction of Clorox's GreenWorks line had all been ineffective, and also that the new GreenWorks line was at least as effective as Clorox's existing product lines. The intention of this slogan and the associated advertising campaign has been interpreted as appealing to consumers' fears that products from companies with less brand recognition are less trustworthy or effective. Critics also pointed out that, despite its representation of GreenWorks products as "green" in the sense of being less harmful to the environment and/or consumers using them, the products contain a number of ingredients advocates of natural products have long campaigned against the use of in household products due to toxicity to humans or their environment.[14] All three implicit claims have been disputed, and some of their elements disproven, by environmental groups, consumer-protection groups, and the industry self-regulatory Better Business Bureau.[15]

See also[]

Books about "fear, uncertainty and doubt"
  • Merchants of Doubt
  • Doubt is Their Product


  1. Harris, Rhonda (1998). The Complete Sales Letter Book, Armonk: Sharpe Professional.
  2. The term FUD is also alternatively rendered as "Fear Uncertainty and Disinformation". See e.g., Jansen, Erin (2002). Netlingo, Ojai.: NetLingo. p. 179
  3. For example, FUD has been used to describe social dynamics in contexts where sales, lobbying or commercial promotion is not involved.Elliott, Gail (2003). School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse, Philadelphia: Brunner-Routledge.
  4. "Suspicion has no place in our interchanges; it is a shield for ignorance, a sign of fear, uncertainty, and doubt." Caesar Augustus Yarbrough, The Roman Catholic Church Challenged, p. 75. The Patriotic Societies of Macon, 1920.
  5. "Again he was caught in a tempest of fear, uncertainty, and doubt." Monica Mary Gardner, The Patriot Novelist of Poland, Henryk Sienkiewicz, p. 71. J.M. Dent ; E.P. Dutton & Co, 1926.
  6. Clothes (PRADS, Inc.) 10 (14-24): 19,, retrieved on June 10, 2011 
  7. Gene Amdahl, quoted in Eric S. Raymond, The Jargon File: FUD".
  8. Eric S. Raymond, "The Jargon File: FUD".
  9. The FUD Factor.
  10. The Anti-Kerry FUD. The Blog That Goes Ping. URL accessed on 2006-12-30.
  11. Dirty Bomber? Dirty Justice. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol 60, no 1, p. 60. URL accessed on 2007-05-14.
  13. includeonly>DeBare, Ilana. "Clorox introduces green line of cleaning products", '', January 14, 2008. Retrieved on February 5, 2010.
  14. Tennery, Amy. 4 'green' claims to be wary of. MSN. URL accessed on February 5, 2010.
  15. NAD Tells Clorox to Clean Up Ads. URL accessed on February 5, 2010.

External links[]

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