Fear, Uncertainty and Dismal Doubt.

FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) drove billions of dollars of B2B marketing communications in the 90s and was the brainchild, so I’ve been told, of IBM.   “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” was the quiet mantra of IBM sales team and ad agencies.  With proper and subtle brand management, this notion was acculturated into the IT departments across American and beyond.  I’m not aware of any IBM ads ever mentioning FUD.

Digital Equipment may have been the company IBM was trying to scare people from; Apple at that time certainly wasn’t a factor. The strangle hold IBM had on business during that period, thanks to FUD, was broken by Dell when Michael Dell opened up the computer and showed us it was a bunch of simple parts — worth a good deal less than the white shirts at IBM were offering. Plus Dell took advantage of a technological breakthrough – the US Postal Service – to change the game by selling direct to the IT dept. For those old enough to remember, Dell boxes were flying in and out of IT depts. across the country.  It was Christmas every day for techies.  The fear was gone. Fast forward a few years and IBM sells its PC business and does some serious brand retrenchment, tossing “the fear” in favor of a more positive “building good systems” approach. IBM is crazy back.

Strategic planners need to understand fear, but they shouldn’t use it. Leave it to Disney and Comcast and CBS to deliver our required dose of fear. (NBC…Grimm? Really?) Plan strategy using the end-game of hope and deliverance and well-earned reward. Those are things in which it is worth investing. Peace!

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