Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. FUD. Tapping into this part of the human psyche is as old as the human race. It is the foundation of most sales training programs, advertising models, and coaching methodologies. It is also rampant in relationships and parenting. It is the recipe for every scary movie or suspense novel.
So why is so prevalent? Because it works (for awhile). FUD taps into the pain center of the brain. It shocks a person into paying attention. The ego hijacks the entire system of reason (mind) and intuition (heart) and screams “Listen to this or die!!!!” It essentially snaps you in to NOW but in a high-alert, ego-centric state that promotes survival instincts.
I used to be the master of using FUD to get what I wanted. I knew the exact language to use to shock people into paying attention to me – especially with large B2B tech deals. I was using my gifts of intuition and communication to poke at emotional bruises and pick at business worries. I wasn’t mean – but I was manipulative.
Then about 5 years ago, I stopped. Not all at once – more of a gradual awakening. I began to learn a new way. First from my top mentors. Then in books like The Go-Giver and Made To Stick. I also had a personal conviction to “love more” – and I didn’t find anything loving and empathic about manipulating people’s fears for my personal gain. I found that there was so much more joy and fulfillment in helping other people achieve joy and fulfillment.
In addition the personal conviction and awakening, there was also a pragmatic reason for not using FUD: it harms relationships. We are now in the Human Age – where kindness is a tremendous competitive advantage. Where providing context and insight are high-value skills that are contrary to FUD tactics.
While FUD may produce short term sales, it kills brands. It ensures that relationships stay permanently at a transactional state: customers buying stuff and employees getting paid to do a job. FUD is unsustainable. Eventually people become numb to it. And using FUD to grow a business may work for awhile, but at what cost to your brand?
So what’s the opposite of FUD? I believe it’s PURPOSE. When people are connected to the meaning of something, it eliminates FUD. When people’s hearts are fed by a transformational idea, they become eager advocates of that idea. This is the intent of a real Brand Promise. That when you believe what we believe, we will all change the world.
A real world example …
Our ideal client at root + river is a 40+ year old leader with a heart. They have built a successful business but don’t really understand modern marketing. No one compliments them on their marketing or their brand. They have noticed that their business is not attracting the next generation of customers and employees. They are experiencing a whole new world that barely looks like the world that they built their business in.
They have plenty of FUD. But we never talk about it in our marketing and messaging. At a maximum, we use content and storytelling to show that their FUD may be creating blindspots. We do address it eventually- where it belongs: in the privacy and sacredness of a coaching session. Instead of FUD, our message and marketing language is about returning to the heart, about becoming a brand that is an extension of your belief system, about authenticity, about wisdom, about influence. We remind these leaders that although their brand may be a bit stale, they are not stale. They are still relevant and still add great value to the world.
Does it work? Yes. In a very short amount of time, we have attracted an amazing array of thoughtful, purposeful clients that are re-invigorated and seeing tremendous results. Would we attract more clients if we used FUD language? Well, we’d probably get more leads. But not leads from leaders that are ready for us. Because it is nearly impossible to re-connect people to their purpose, their calling and their value when they are consumed with fear. Instead, we are attracting leaders that are defiant – refusing to just opt-out to a gated community and retirement. We are attracting leaders with high EQ – the awareness that they need to evolve. We are attracting leaders who believe in meaning – and see their business and brand as an extension of their purpose.
It really comes down to this … when you talk to me (or Emily, Jen or Cat), I want you to feel uplifted and encouraged. I want to “provide a word in season to those that are weary.” I want to be memorable because I invested in your heart. And that is why I will never use FUD again.
Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.