Car brands, language and FUD

Anxiety, apparently, is a mixture of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD).

Back in the 80s, IBM mainframe salesmen used to build FUD into the verbal identity of their pitches when they were battling against upstart companies who had grown up to make IBM-compatible mainframes – at half the price.

Same product, same function. How do you battle 50% cheaper?

By building the buyer’s anxiety. Nothing is worth a 50% saving if you can’t be sure it works and you’re going to lose your job for buying it.

I know this because the job I don’t talk about much (before the job I don’t talk about at all) was working in the brand & marketing department for a firm that made IBM-compatible mainframes.

The world’s changed. With so much new technology being launched to increasingly shorter lifecycles, all new technology comes with FUD built in.

So now a salesman needs to use language to overcome FUD.


I was in Amsterdam visiting a client a couple of weeks ago and strolled into Tesla’s new showroom.

Although ‘shop’ is a better word. It has none of the visual or verbal clues of a car showroom.

Tesla brand shop











And it’s on Amsterdam’s equivalent of Bond Street.

I was approached by the salesman who asked me what I thought about the car and I said, maybe like everyone else that day, I’d be anxious about the range of this all-electric car.

His answer was the perfect FUD-defeater.

It went something like this…

I too used to be anxious about the range. [He built empathy with me.]

Just yesterday ... [He turned that empathy into something real, concrete and recent].

 I had to take the car to X, Y, Z for 3 different events which was over 300 miles. [He had even more at risk than I did: longer journey, more points, so more chance of failure.]

I was worried I wouldn’t get back [He captured my half-expressed fear and calls it out into the open – this is what we’re really discussing: not how far it goes, but Would I Get Home?]

So I started off and the range indicator said 250 miles, so what I did was drive a bit more cautiously and the indicator went up to 350 [He demonstrated how I could take matters into my own hands to deal with the ongoing uncertainty I would have.]

And I did a quick recharge at the first stop while I had lunch [He makes practical sense out of the vague doubts I had about charging the car.]

…and I didn’t need to recharge it for the rest of the day. In fact, when I got home I still had 50 miles more left in the charge.” [He had completely killed off my FUD and therefore my anxiety].

What does this mean for your brand language?

The only reason to write is to change people’s minds.

If you’re launching a new product, you have to understand the buyer’s anxiety -and all the components of that anxiety – which will hold them back from adopting your brand.

When we worked with the new tech launch of Mobispot, a wearable NFC band, we were closely focussed on this anxiety and our strategy was to show that NFC was already a success.

If you’re feeling anxious about a new product launch with a high tech factor, don’t fret. Email us and we’ll be happy to talk.