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[CMSWire] What Your Brand Needs to Know About FoMO Marketing

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Click here to view the original article by Scott Clark on CMSWire.

The Gist

  • Urgency unlocks sales. Utilizing FoMO marketing effectively boosts customer engagement by capitalizing on their fear of missing out on limited-time offers.
  • Psychological insight matters. FoMO leverages deep-seated social anxieties, making consumers act quickly to secure perceived scarce resources.
  • Balance builds loyalty. Successful FoMO marketing blends urgency with authenticity, maintaining customer trust and long-term brand loyalty.

Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) marketing taps into ubiquitous social anxiety — missing out on rewarding experiences that others are enjoying. This marketing strategy creates a sense of urgency and exclusivity by promoting limited-time offers or unique events designed to provoke immediate action from consumers. The approach capitalizes on the fear that delaying a decision could mean missing out on something special, effectively boosting customer engagement and driving sales. This article examines how brands harness FoMO to enhance their marketing campaigns and the psychological triggers that are involved.

Introduction to FoMO

FoMO is a psychological phenomenon that is characterized by the anxiety and unease that arise when individuals perceive that others are experiencing more rewarding activities in their absence. For example, imagine a scenario where a large event is happening with popular music, free products from sponsors, and delicious food, while you are confined to an office. The thought of everyone else enjoying this event while you work can stir a powerful desire to join in, even if it means extending your lunch break beyond the usual half hour. The justification? Not wanting to miss out on the fun and freebies.

This scenario encapsulates FoMO, driving people to take action based on the fear of missing out on enjoyable experiences. This feeling can also drive compulsive buying behavior, as people make impulsive purchases to keep pace with their peers or to avoid missing out on perceived opportunities.

As such, FoMO is often used as a marketing strategy that taps into the anxiety consumers feel about missing out on something special or exclusive. In today’s consumer environment, FoMO marketing is highly relevant as it effectively captures attention and drives immediate action by leveraging psychological triggers. This strategy enhances marketing campaigns by creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity, encouraging consumers to engage quickly to avoid missing out on valuable opportunities.

Chip West, retail and consumer behavior expert at Vericast, a data-driven marketing technology partner, told CMSWire that FoMO marketing taps into the human fear of being left out and feeling as though they are missing out on what others are experiencing. “This psychological trigger may push consumers to make more emotionally driven purchases without considering if they even need or want the item,” explained West. “With social media, it is easy to reach consumers and convince them that everyone has the item but them. Social media also allows consumers to showcase themselves engaging with products, increasing the desire to participate.” West said that adding all of this on top of releasing “limited edition” items or products that are notoriously difficult to obtain intensifies the sense of urgency and need among consumers.

FoMO marketing as a whole, West said — when done correctly — makes consumers hold an emotional connection and sense of community with the certain item, brand or service, somewhat like sports fandoms and team loyalty. “Seeing as viral items can catch on like wildfire, FoMO can help brand visibility flourish along with brand loyalty. It also can help increase engagement and sales in the short-term, while cross-promoting by gaining attention to other products within the brand.” For FoMO to be successful, West suggested, brands need to ensure that consumers feel valued and excited, rather than pressured.

The Psychology Behind FoMO

The psychological foundation of FoMO is rooted in humans’ innate social needs and the anxiety of being left out of rewarding experiences. This fear can significantly influence consumer behavior, prompting quick decision-making to avoid the discomfort of missing out. Marketers harness these feelings by creating marketing campaigns that emphasize urgency and exclusivity, compelling consumers to act immediately to secure products or experiences that seem scarce or in high demand. This strategy can drive engagement and purchases by playing on the natural human response to avoid missing out on beneficial opportunities.

Liv Steigrad, brand messaging strategist at The Branding Psychologist, told CMSWire that FoMO and urgency are popular marketing tactics, but while they can be very effective, consumers today have been exposed to enough online marketing that there’s a high chance of backfiring. “Successful FoMO marketing can depend on whether it’s plausible or not. Is it even with limited capacity? That makes sense,” said Steigrad. “Is it a digital product with a giant flashing red countdown timer? Probably not. Chronically online consumers today are usually able to identify false scarcity in marketing and it can lead to the brand being perceived as pushy or scammy, ultimately damaging the brand reputation.”

Steigrad said that the most effective FoMO marketing is achieved by brands that have built some type of community. “When their audience strongly self identifies with the product, the FoMO attaches to a part of their identity and becomes extremely effective.”

FoMO marketing offers several compelling advantages, including increased engagement as consumers are driven to interact more frequently and urgently with brands. It also typically leads to higher conversion rates as the urgency compels consumers to make purchases more quickly. Additionally, FoMO can accelerate the spread of marketing messages as consumers are motivated to share deals and limited-time offers with their networks, expanding the reach and impact of promotional campaigns.

Marshal Davis, president of Ascendly Marketing, a comprehensive digital marketing agency, told CMSWire that FoMO marketing has allowed his business to effectively create buzz around new product launches and special events. “By making customers feel they are part of an exclusive opportunity, we’ve boosted short-term sales and also built a stronger, more engaged community.” Davis explained that this approach has proven especially effective in attracting and retaining millennials and Gen Z consumers, who highly value exclusivity and experiences.

Strategies for Implementing FoMO Marketing

FoMO marketing employs various tactics such as limited-time offers, exclusive memberships, and flash sales to create urgency and drive consumer action. These tactics are prominently seen in real-world marketing campaigns. For example, a retailer might offer a “24-hour flash sale” to create a sense of scarcity, or a subscription service could provide “early access to premium members” to foster exclusivity. Each of these strategies is designed to make consumers feel they must act quickly to avoid missing out on something valuable.

lightening deal

In the image above, in what they call a “Lightning Deal,” Amazon is selling a set of earbuds for 15% off — but only for 24 hours! The timer is directly above the price, and customers who don’t want to miss out only have a limited time to purchase, “or the deal will be over!

Davis said that he has seen significant success by integrating FoMO tactics in his email marketing campaigns. “By announcing limited-time sales with real-time countdowns, we consistently achieve higher open rates and conversions,” said Davis. “This strategy spikes immediate sales and increases engagement on our digital platforms.”

Other FoMO marketing tactics are used to create urgency and drive consumer action. For instance, event-based promotions align sales with significant events or holidays to tap into the natural urgency and consumer excitement, such as offering exclusive discounts during the Super Bowl or Black Friday. Brands might also introduce early bird specials that reward quick purchases with special pricing, or launch limited edition products available only for a short period to create a buzz. 

Additionally, “last chance” notifications can be effective in informing customers about products that are almost out of stock or offers that are nearing their expiration. Using social proof, such as displaying how many people have purchased an item or showcasing customer testimonials, can also trigger FoMO, as consumers see that a product is popular or highly recommended. In addition, exclusive memberships or clubs that offer special perks can not only invoke FoMO but also help in building long-term relationships with customers. Teaser campaigns that reveal just enough information to keep consumers intrigued are yet another effective FoMO strategy, keeping the interest piqued until the final reveal. Together, these strategies enhance the perceived value of immediate action and effectively leverage psychological triggers to boost engagement and sales.

Examples of Brands That Employ FoMO Marketing

FoMO has been strategically leveraged by numerous brands to enhance consumer engagement and accelerate sales. By exploiting the anxiety that consumers might miss out on rewarding experiences, brands across various industries have successfully implemented FoMO to create urgency, boost engagement and increase sales. Here are some brands that have effectively used FoMO marketing to drive consumer engagement and sales:

  • Amazon: During its annual Prime Day, Amazon creates a sense of urgency with limited-time deals exclusively for Prime members. The fleeting nature of these deals leverages FoMO to encourage quick purchases.
  • Snapchat: The platform’s Stories feature, which disappears after 24 hours, capitalizes on FoMO by prompting users to check in frequently so they don’t miss out on content from friends and brands.
  • Spotify: By offering personalized playlists and notifications about new releases and concert tickets, Spotify taps into FoMO, making users worry about missing out on the latest music or live events.
  • Nike: The Nike brand uses FoMO in their sneaker drops, often releasing limited quantities through its SNKRS app. The limited availability and exclusive releases create a buzz and a rush to purchase before items sell out.
  • Apple: The brand regularly uses FoMO in its marketing by creating hype around one-time launch events and the limited availability of new products immediately after these events.

 

Other brands combine the fear of missing out with the fear of being perceived as part of a problem when competitors are seen as part of the solution. Erik Swain, co-founder, president and CEO of Respondology, a company with a goal of reducing hate and toxicity on social media, told CMSWire that it leverages FoMO by highlighting the proactive steps that many NFL teams are already taking to clean up their social environments. “These teams are not only enhancing their fan experience but are also setting a standard in the industry for a clean and engaging online presence,” said Swain. “The message is clear: Many NFL teams are taking action to protect their fans and ensure their social spaces are not amplifying hate. Are you going to join them?”

“This question strikes at the core of FoMO marketing — nobody wants to be left behind, especially not in an industry as competitive and as public as professional sports,” said Swain. “The fear that one might miss out on the benefits enjoyed by other teams who are actively moderating their social channels serves as a powerful motivator.”

Challenges and Considerations

Using FoMO as a marketing strategy comes with challenges and ethical considerations, such as the potential for consumer fatigue and backlash if customers feel manipulated by constant urgency. To mitigate these risks, brands should balance urgency with authenticity, ensuring that their marketing messages remain truthful and transparent. This approach helps maintain consumer trust and prevents negative reactions that can arise from the perceived exploitation of consumer psychology.

“One major challenge is ensuring that our FoMO-based campaigns maintain brand integrity and do not come off as manipulative,” said Davis. “We address this by balancing urgency with genuine offers that provide real value. In addition, we monitor customer feedback closely to adjust our strategies in real-time, ensuring they feel fair and exciting rather than pressured.”

The quick turnover of the “hype” of products is one of the challenges of FoMO marketing. “These days, products can quickly reach a turning point where the excitement and FoMO quickly dies down,” explained West. “This is attributed to the saturation in products and the virality of social media and its trends.” West said what is popular today might not hold consumer interest tomorrow, making sustained engagement challenging. “Another challenge FoMO marketing faces may be associated with a lack of trust when the consumer feels over-pressured to purchase an item. For some consumers, seeing an item continuously can bring up negative emotions and potentially harm their long-term brand loyalty.” West suggested that FoMO marketing requires balance and consideration to ensure that the consumer experience remains positive.

“Today’s high prices and inflationary pressures are added challenges when it comes to FoMO marketing,” said West. “While large audiences across demographics should represent ample opportunity for the retailer, some consumers may simply have to take themselves out of purchase contention as they decide to focus on needs vs. wants.” FoMO doesn’t always work out, West said, as consumers are now more cognizant to not over-extend themselves and make better well-thought buying decisions.

Julie Geller, principal research director at Info-Tech Research Group, an information technology research and IT advisory company, told CMSWire that many brands use this marketing strategy to boost short-term engagement and conversions by appealing to the emotional and functional triggers of their target audience. “However, this approach requires a significant commitment to authentically align with the brand. It often necessitates progressively more elaborate campaigns to sustain interest, which can lead to significant costs — a major concern for many companies.”

Geller said that in consumer markets, FoMO frequently projects desirable lifestyles, tapping into customers’ emotions. “In B2B settings, it might involve exclusive invitations to join prestigious groups of professionals,” said Geller. “Brands contemplating FoMO as a strategy must be prepared to continually surpass their previous initiatives and invest substantially in understanding market trends and gathering expert insights.” Geller said this approach is not only complex but also expensive, and should only be implemented if it resonates with the brand’s foundational values.

Final Thoughts

FoMO marketing can be an effective strategy to boost short-term engagement and sales, however, brands must balance the use of psychological triggers with authenticity and transparency. To succeed, brands should ensure their FoMO-based campaigns provide genuine value, maintain brand integrity, and adapt to shifting consumer sentiment. By walking this line, marketers can leverage the power of FoMO to drive results while preserving consumer trust and long-term loyalty.

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