You may have heard the term FOMO, but do you know what it means? FOMO – fear of missing out – is a form of social anxiety, a fear of regret. Modern digital technology, especially social networking, enables this phenomena to spread widely among the masses. It is further compounded by fear of social rejection and fear of a better option. What is FOMO exactly and how can we use it in marketing? Let’s try to understand. Due to the tremendous amount of information and entertainment that we are bombarded with on a daily basis, any Internet user can develop this fear. A research done by MyLife.com shows that this syndrome, in one form or another, is present in about 56% of Internet users. If you have ever had a feeling that you are wasting your life – you are among the 56%.
Clear signs of FOMO
- Frequent anxiety over missing important events.
- Mental focus on what everyone else is doing.
- Obsession over all forms of social interaction (for instance, attending every possible party)
- Obsession over social approval
- Obsession over being always available for communication
- Obsession over constantly refreshing your social feed
- Acute discomfort wherever your smartphone is not around
People suffering from FOMO tend to engage in spontaneous activities. They also tend to spend more time online, where emotions are the main currency. Let’s find out how FOMO works in Internet marketing through examples.
Time pressure is a trick that makes people take impulsive actions. People suffering from FOMO are more prone to impulse buying. They are afraid of wasting time as they are more worried about their losses rather than gains. This trick relies heavily on timed deals, emotional headlines and slogans.
Example: An appliance store uses a countdown timer as a part of Cyber Monday advertisement. This real time countdown sends an emotional message “don’t miss out” and sets a time limit. The advertiser shows that the sale is not going to last long, creating a feeling of scarcity and provoking a response from the customer.
If the quantity of goods or services is limited, it can add to their value. This trick is useful to persuade consumers they’re going to miss out on something very valuable if they fail to buy it right here and now. People tend to desire something more if it’s about to run out. That’s why we need flashing widgets and pop-up messages – to notify customers about sales and thus trigger a feeling of missing out.
Example: a hotel booking service Booking.com has been using FOMO for a long time. Take a look at the search results for vacant hotels in Barcelona. You’ll notice some distinctive trigger phrases like “popular”, “only 5 rooms left” (a hint that rooms are not going to stay vacant for long), “34 bookings in the last 24 hours” (a hint at the hotel’s popularity), “7 users are currently browsing this page” (a hint at high demand).
This trick motivates customers through social consumption. Flash mobs, marathons and giveaways are sparking customers’ interest. People tend to discuss, recommend, like and share advertisements if they get rewarded for it. A desire to win a competition can draw additional attention to the company, while consumer involvement lets them get better acquainted with products.
A tech blogger and a bank launched a cool giveaway. They decided to attract new customers by giving away a Rocket-X gaming PC. The shtick was that the conditions were unusual: customers were to create a PC configuration themselves – with a budget of US $5,000. The competition went better than expected: the bank got 23,743 new customers and the blogger got over 800,000 views.
Another application of the FOMO model relies on the fact that people like being different, being a part of an exclusive community. If customers get a feeling of being chosen over others, they become more active, tend to rate the product higher, and in general, help drive the conversion rate up. Customers with FOMO react to limited access products, exclusive groups and VIP-only offers.
Example: Good old Black Friday. It is known and loved by stores, consumers and marketing professionals. An online store X showed an outstanding example of applied FOMO in marketing. It announced a large sale on November 23d at 19:00, thus stimulating customers to buy, and indicating a scarcity of both time and product. Nevertheless, the sale was exclusive to registered customers. The offer served as a sort of a heist, an opportunity to feel “in the action”.
Emotions are what people suffering from FOMO most desire. Link a product to an attractive image or feeling. User-generated content, such as other customers sharing their positive experiences with the product, user reviews on websites and social media – are all effective ways to achieve it. Marketing buzz and emotional video ads go hand in hand.
Example: Marketing giants at KFC employ celebrities in their ads to set an attractive example. Most of us were conditioned since our childhood when “good” boys and girls were made an example of. The use of FOMO relies on emotions. People want to compete, be better, thriftier, smarter.