FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) is the acronym of a of a business strategy consisting in spreading negative, vague or biased information in order to harm a competitor.

Now is the time to write this article, because after many years, this is the first spring campaign in which I have not detected the use of this marketing strategy in any European market.

Remember that in the spring there is a confluence in time of productions of very different origins in European markets. There is, therefore, an oversupply and key market players try to defend themselves with all possible weapons.

Obviously disseminating biased or negative information about a competitor is not very ethical but it works extremely well if it is targeted at the end consumer. In this case, the stories that are generated have the ingredients for the press to participate unwittingly in an elaborate business strategy.

The scheme works as follows: you commission a biased study of the competing product (or source) from an institute (or other supposedly independent institution), you prepare a press release and ensure it is disseminated (as anonymously as possible) by editorials, news services and social networks, and you wait for “virality” to take its effect.fear

I remember some very elaborate ones and other less sophisticated but equally effective ones. To illustrate today’s article, I will give two examples which have now become categories in themselves: The catch survey and the analysis of the innocuous.

Catch Survey

About 17 years ago a survey was carried out in Germany about German consumers’ preferences regarding the origin of tomatoes. Curiously, this report was submitted in spring and showed that German consumers especially disliked tomatoes from Holland because they had “little flavour and were perceived as artificial.”

The issue was devastating to the interests of the Dutch farmers in a year when overproduction was very high. Interestingly, among the most highly rated sources was the local German production, which grew the same varieties and used the same production methods as the Dutch (white and bottled).

The following season, the Dutch agricultural organizations conducted a costly marketing campaign in the German market to try to recover their image.

Analysis of the Innocuous

A few summers ago, a report by a Central European laboratory warned of the presence of an environmental pollutant in fruit and vegetables from Spain. Some supermarkets reacted by blocking the import of Spanish products and having the store stocks removed by suppliers.

The issue lasted two months until scientific evidence proved with analysis and reports from environmental authorities that the alleged environmental pollutant is not only found on the surface of fruit and vegetables from all origins in the world, but also, that this compound is contained in most detergents and soaps that consumers use in their homes and those used to clean the shelves and floors of supermarkets and almost everywhere.

Moreover, the alleged environmental pollutant (perchlorate) is also spontaneously present in nature, so if this is/was a (serious) problem, we should ban all those detergents and soaps, and even excursions into the countryside.

Unfortunately, only yesterday (and several years have passed now), I once again signed the statement taking a position on this issue (perchlorates), which states that we perform specific monitoring (a few thousand analyses a year) of the levels of this alleged environmental pollutant in our products.

A question to readers: Have you detected any FUD strategy this year?

PS: For the unbelievers: “This is not a conspiracy theory but an observable reality, campaign after campaign, in whose absence (this year) must be the exception that proves the rule”.