Thursday, September 8, 2016

FUD: another Three-Letter Acronym

As preppers, we all have different reasons for taking the steps that we do. Marketing gurus know that most purchases are based on emotions and will do what they can to push those buttons to get us to buy their products. Since we're trying to prepare for potential bad things, the advertisers are going to focus on three emotional states associated with bad things. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (aka FUD) have been used as marketing tools for centuries, but it wasn't until fairly recently that they became staples for sales. Knowing how someone is trying to manipulate you is the first step to thwarting those attempts.

Everyone has their own fears and they come in different levels of intensity. I know grown men who will scream like a little girl and climb the nearest tall object at the sight of a snake. I've seen teenagers with five-foot long constrictors as pets wet their pants at the sound of a chainsaw (it was being wielded by a clown). Fear is such a powerful motivator that many fears have their own names.

Salesmen use fear a lot when trying to sell stuff to preppers. They assume that we're all motivated by fear of what may happen, even though a lot of us are preparing for things that aren't all that scary. Fear is a primal emotion that is easy to stoke, so you'll see a lot of it in advertising, but don't fall for it. Yes, there is a possibility that WW3 will break out, but it's not likely to happen tomorrow so there's no real rush to buy those radiation detectors and biohazard suits. Don't let a snake oil salesman pressure you into a purchase that you should probably think about.

Most of life is uncertain. We do the best we can to predict likely futures, but there is always a measure of uncertainty that tempers (or at least, should temper) our expectations. Someone who is unable to deal with uncertainty will have a rough life since none of us have perfect control over circumstances. The tendency of a large portion of the population to rely on outside forces/sources leads to a lot of uncertainty.

Examples of marketing to uncertainty are:
  • Buy it now, because it may not be here tomorrow 
  • Are you sure you can live without this? 
  • The competitor's version is getting worse reviews (may or may not be true) 
  • We used to carry that, but...

Someone who has been disappointed in the past (which is everyone) will harbor a bit of doubt when faced with a new experience. Doubt can be crushing, taking all of the joy out of life, if you let it. We all have doubts, but we must learn to live with them and treat them like another thing to prepare for: "Yeah, I may not get the (whatever) I want out of this item, but it will be good enough, or I will make it good enough."

Sales-weasels often try to place doubt about competitor's goods in order to get you to buy theirs. If they're emphasizing minor details, they're likely trying to get you to doubt an alternative to what they have. Phrases like “New and improved” or “Version 4.0” are intended to make you doubt older products and therefore buy newer ones. Unless it is something high-tech, older equipment often performs as well (or better) than the new stuff, and it's usually cheaper too.

At the end of the day, we need to remember that salesmen are just trying to get our money. They may be providing a good product or service or they might be trying to foist cheap crap on us, but all they really want is our money. Since very few of us can afford to waste money, take your time to do research and learn how to smile and nod your head at the salesmen. Don't let them prey on your fears or create uncertainty and doubt; demand facts and proof before handing over the cash.

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