The FOMO Effect: Marketing in an Overconnected World


Every so often, the lottery reaches some outrageous number and gains a little media coverage. Suddenly, people who never gamble feel the unusual urge to throw their hats into the ring, despite the fact that their odds of winning are actually worse than ever.

Humans are motivated by what we don’t have. Along with that motivation comes the anxiety of opportunity cost: the fear that there might be even better things out there that we don’t know about yet or haven’t considered before.

What if you were destined to win that lottery, if only you’d taken the time to stop at a gas station and part with a dollar?

In the marketing world, we call this the fear of missing out (FOMO).

What is FOMO?

The fear or anxiety of missed opportunities, experiences, great deals, knowledge—and especially, on anything that our peers are already privy to. When friends make casual references to products we’ve never heard of, we feel like dinosaurs. When they brag about great deals on things we’ve recently purchased, we feel duped (and then hesitant about future buying decisions).

FOMO Marketing Examples

Not only are modern marketers aware of this tendency, but they’re now finding clever ways to incorporate it into their marketing strategies. Rue La La references FOMO point blank, demanding attention by tapping into readers’ preexisting insecurity in this exact area.

Rue La La fear of missing out

With this simple email, Rue La La brilliantly reinforces relationships with potential customers and boosts the chances that future emails will get better response rates (since we’re all hardwired to reinforce our previous decisions).

Verizon’s Game Center also directly references FOMO in their hashtag marketing campaign, featuring #FOMOH (fear of missing out on hockey) and #FOMOF (fear of missing out on football).

How To Leverage FOMO Marketing

This Huffington Post article divides FOMO-based marketing into three distinct categories:

  • Fostering FOMO. Feeding the perception that people will miss out if they fail to engage with your brand.
  • Fighting FOMO. Offering FOMO insurance—for example, by curating lists of products, deals or opportunities for your target audience, keeping them comfortably in the know without all the work.
  • Flipping FOMO. Taking the countercultural approach by encouraging people to battle FOMO by rising above it—particularly, by unplugging. (People tend to appreciate marketing that feels like anti-marketing.)

One additional (and generally under appreciated) way to leverage FOMO in your marketing is to truly believe that people are missing out by not engaging with your brand. If you go into your marketing campaigns feeling like you’re manipulating people and exploiting their weaknesses, that sentiment will ultimately show through in your message.

Focus on the ways you’re honest-to-goodness trying to help people. Focus on the truly better lives a lack of engagement with your brand is preventing them from achieving. That’s the place where genuine, relatable (and successful) marketing campaigns come from.

What’s Next for FOMO Marketing

As with all marketing tactics, people will eventually gain resilience to FOMO. They’ll become selective about their FOMO and the brands they perceive to be worthy of it. Huffington Post sees future brand managers asking themselves, “Am I FOMO-worthy?” Fans might truly love a brand, but even more importantly, do they fear it? In other words, are they uncomfortable with the idea of losing touch with it?