FOMO marketing: why it works and how we do it right

The fear that others might experience something great and you’re not there – I’m sure everyone has had that feeling. In fact, it is a well-known phenomenon and has its own name: FOMO – the abbreviation for “Fear of missing out”. The fear of missing out on another, better option by making the wrong decision at the same moment sits deep within us. Basically, it’s that friends’ or other people’s experiences might be better than your own and you’re not there.

Where does FOMO come from and why does it trigger us?

Missing out on something is a universal fear that goes way back into human history. In the past, being left behind could reach life-threatening proportions in extreme cases. FOMO is so powerful because it’s ingrained in our brains, says psychologist Anita Sanz . “When we roamed in small groups, it was critical for survival to stay informed,” she says. “For example, if you weren’t aware of a new food source, you literally missed something that could mean the difference between life and death.” With that in mind, it’s no wonder we all prefer to “be there.” FOMO triggers our deepest needs – survival, among others.

Even today, FOMO works perfectly in intelligence. Reports of war and terror can indeed make the difference between life and death. But we don’t want to go that far here. We also find the fear of missing out on something in connection with the use of digital media – especially social media, and since 2013 the term FOMO has even been officially in the Oxford Dictionary.

How FOMO works in marketing

With exclusive offers that we should not miss or newsletter subscriptions that keep us up to date, online marketing has been acting more or less “unconsciously” for a long time. That is, whenever it is suggested that we are otherwise missing out on something. Push notifications from our social media channels on the smartphone also hit the same trigger.

FOMO-based marketing, on the other hand, uses this particular level of emotion in a very targeted way. Our need to have the latest info on an ongoing basis is deliberately addressed and reinforced. In this way, the attention of the target group is quickly reached and an enormously effective sales lever is activated. A 2013 study shows that 60% of respondents buy related items within the first 24 hours as a result of FOMO marketing. Food, travel and the event and party sector are predestined for such FOMO tactics.

New incentives and products are constantly reaching us via smartphones and mobile devices, coupled with the urge to want them. FOMO marketing triggers the desire not to miss anything and thus encourages people to buy products or services. Users become customers. The short reaction time and quick readiness to act brought about by FOMO favor impulse buying. Customers are cleverly told that it is better to buy now than to regret it later. They buy because they feel they are missing out on something good otherwise. We all know it: Some still from the tele-shopping channel, where the available quantity of the product decreases every minute, others again link the countdown on a sales page with it. Both have the same goal: to suggest to the customer that he should decide and take action now!

Who and where is the target audience of FOMO marketing?

Social media is the ideal playground and Millenials are the largest potential audience, according to the summary. Millenials, the later Generation Z, but also generally users of social networks and frequently used apps are the largest FOMO audience. With three billion active social media users worldwide, there is a huge target group here that is easy to reach with this strategy. Research results and suggest that FOMO is most prevalent among Millenials. Over 60% react to FOMO with a buying reflex. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests that fear of missing out is not exclusively related to younger age. According to Washington State University psychologists, people with feelings of loneliness, lower self-worth, and less self-care exhibit a tendency toward FOMO. Possibly the need to belong is also actively served here. If so, that’s a point where you should also include ethical considerations in your marketing.

FOMO in the social media environment

Social networks provide a permanent insight into what is happening in the world and what other people are doing in their everyday lives. More choices are consistently displayed in real time than users can track in the time available. The desire to stay tuned online to constantly keep track of what they would miss without using the medium is increasing. Who wouldn’t want to be there and share in great experiences of others when you already don’t have them yourself?

Posted pictures of great experiences of the friends strengthen the impression of having missed something. In addition, in the virtual world of social media, it is many times easier to maintain a large number of friendships. This would require significantly more effort in the real world. Likes and positive reviews are equated with well-being and create a sense of belonging. Everything you need seems to be available in the filter bubble of digital media. The perception is clearly distorted and confirms to the user that he is missing out on something if he does not stay online. Social platforms thus provide the ideal breeding ground for FOMO.

Incidentally, the counter-movement of FOMO is called JOMO “Joy of missing out”. This is where you rejoice in what you’ve missed. It is even wanted not to be everywhere, because it brings the superior feeling of being independent. The online behavior of friends is very well observed and tracked, but the reaction and the feeling is different. You emancipate yourself from the filter bubble. In addition, there is a trend toward digital detox: consciously refraining from consuming digital media in phases.