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March 17, 2013

Marketing Maven: for whiter, brighter teeth!

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Written by: Robin Itzler
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Marketing Maven FUD

Are you the victim of FUD?

If you read newspapers, watch television, visit websites or listen to the radio, there’s a chance you’ve been a frequent FUD victim. Not only are you a victim, but you probably don’t even know you’re being victimized. Here are some examples:

  • You’re informed that if you use a competing brand of whitening toothpaste, your teeth will look yellow.
  • You’re told that if you wash your hair with a competing dandruff shampoo, ugly flakes will remain.
  • You’re notified that if you use a competing tax service, you might pay unwarranted taxes.
  • You’re told that by supporting the other candidate or political party, everything you hold dear might be destroyed.

These are just a few examples of the marketing concept called FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Rather than telling consumers or voters about the benefits of their product, service or position, the marketing campaign is based on fear, uncertainty and doubt. Armageddon could happen to you personally or professionally if you go with the competing brand or politician.

In politics, FUD is referred to as negative marketing or mudslinging. The candidate doesn’t focus on what he/she would do if elected, but why their opponent would be a terrible choice. Although voters consistently tell pollsters they hate negative ads, those same voters remember them and vote accordingly.

Digital FUD campaigns

FUD is most successful on the internet because it only takes seconds to transfer information to the entire world.

Art Coviello, executive vice president of EMC Corporation and executive chairman of RSA, was the keynote speaker at a recent RSA conference. EMC is an international provider of IT storage hardware solutions to promote data backup and recovery. According to reporter Lain Thomson:

Coviello used the opening keynote address to criticize the habits of some in the industry for spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) as a marketing tool. Said Coviello: “I absolutely hate the term ‘Cyber Pearl Harbor.’“

If it’s on the Net it’s the truth – maybe

Many people are skeptical about what they read in newspapers, but less so when it comes to the Internet. By the time a story or ad is revealed as misleading or false, it could have been read by millions of people.

Think about recent research you’ve performed on the Internet. For instance, have you sought out an answer to a health issue? Claudia Pitts, Ph.D. writes in a column, “Playing Doctor: Women, Cancer, Marketing and the Internet,” most of us aren’t verifying online information:

…According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 113 million Americans a year search online for answers to their health questions; however, three-fourths rarely, if ever, check the sources of the material they find. We can certainly get information, but the information is unfiltered, unfettered and often of questionable value. The Internet has made it easier than ever before for charlatans and quacks to spread fear and misinformation. Mark Twain wrote: “Beware of health books. You might die of a misprint.” The same can now be said of the Web.

Marketing concern or fear

There’s a fine line between the marketing of concern and the marketing of fear.

Let’s assume Brand “A” is a healthy and nutritious food. Here are the two ways the product could be marketed:

  • Marketing of Concern: Brand “A” is a healthier food as it’s made with nutritious ingredients, while brand “B” is high in sugar.
  • Marketing of Fear: If you eat brand “B” instead of Brand “A,” you won’t get proper nutrients, which could lead to serious health issues.

Businesses and politicians that market FUD should be certain they have the facts and figures on their side. Otherwise they lose credibility and look foolish.

Here are two examples:

    • Microsoft vs Google: Last year, Microsoft conducted a FUD campaign against Google as they wanted people to be worried about breaches in personal security, a timely topic as everyone wants to maintain control over their personal information. Microsoft’s ads, which used Google’s name, effectively created fear, uncertainty and doubt about trusting Google.Although Google recently settled a privacy case brought by 38 states involving its Street View mapping project, some industry leaders question whether Microsoft privacy controls are superior to Google’s. It will be fascinating to see if Microsoft creates a follow-up FUD campaign against Google.
    • Republicans vs Democrats: A recent political FUD example comes from President Obama and his ill-fated handling of the sequester. The sequester was the president’s idea, but his fear campaign made it seem as if life in the United States would shatter if a paltry 2.4 percent of cuts to future growth were allowed to go through. Even the liberal media denounced the president’s FUD campaign.In his column, “How Republicans Got Their Grove Back,” Conn Carroll wrote:
      “As sequestration approached, Obama dispatched his Cabinet secretaries to wage a campaign of fear, designed to pressure Republicans to agree to tax hikes to end the sequester. All of these claims turned out to be completely false.”

Have confidence in your customers or voters

Don’t fall into the trap of using FUD as a marketing campaign.

Instead promote your strengths, which can indirectly highlight your competitor’s weaknesses. It could be as simple as a checklist of what someone should be looking for when it comes to making a selection.

Should your competitors or opponents use fear, uncertainty and doubt against you, have confidence that your customers or voters will see through the FUD and realize that you offer the best product, service or position in the marketplace.

In the Marketing Maven’s opinion, marketing with FUD is a dud!

Featured photo

Marketing Maven Robin Itzler wants you to avoid the fog of FUD.

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About the Author

Robin Itzler
Robin Itzler
Robin Marlena Itzler has worked in some facet of marketing, communications or training throughout her career. Recognized for her marketing expertise, Robin is theMarketing Maven for the “Orange County Breeze,” where her columns intertwine marketing and politics. She also authors the Pet Tails feature in the monthly “Breeze” print edition and Market My Words in Pet Sitters International's "World" magazine. As a training coordinator and public speaker, Robin is involved with a variety of projects – facilitating public speaking, writing and generational differences workshops. She and her husband own Royal Care Pet Sitting, which has been serving pet owners since 1998. Their love for animals began as humane shelter volunteers where for nearly 20 years they walked and bathed rescued dogs. A former NASD licensed securities representative, Robin once served as president of the Animal Assistance League of Orange County In 2011, she founded Motivate Your Something. Along with her autobiography, Life Is an Open Seating, Robin promotes her belief that everyone has at least one challenge in life that makes getting to the starting line harder. What is Robin's something? She is legally deaf.


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