The traditional meaning of FUD relates to a malicious marketing strategy that involves the dissemination of negative information about the competitors of a particular company, with the final goal to undermine their credibility. The idea is to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about the products or services of competing businesses so that customers lose confidence in them.
Although FUD is deemed as an unethical practice, it is quite frequent in the business space. Many established companies try to spread FUD about their competitors as a way to retain their customers or to gain more market share. For instance, a big company can discourage customers from selecting products other than its own by disseminating questionable data concerning the alternatives available in the market.
In other words, FUD is a strategy that doesn’t take into account the true value of the products or services. It consists of spreading a negative sentiment regardless of technical merits, usability, or quality. Essentially, it targets customers’ emotions - mainly fear.
The expression “Fear, uncertainty, and doubt” dates back to the 1920s, but its short version “FUD” started to be used extensively around 1975. A well-known example of FUD happened when Gene Amdahl left IBM to found his own company, leading him to become a FUD target. Amdahl is considered the first person to describe FUD strategies in the computer industry.