Article

Kevin Adema
Kevin Adema 8 February 2017

Digital FOMO (How Consumer's Actually Think)

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) deeply triggers the consumer brain to engage and act with a brand's messages. Marketers must know how this works to harness true digital success.

As we continue to delve into today’s customer-first digital economy, Duke University Professor Dan Ariely – a specialist in both Human Psychology and Behavioral Economics – brilliantly points out how the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) deeply triggers our brains to “imaging possibilities, fuel regret and cause anxiety."

Marketers then must understand how a consumer’s brain actually engages with digital messaging and then subsequently make decisions.

Three things you need to know:

  1. FOMO rests largely on a person’s own mental framework of regret. Everyone always takes some amount of time to evaluate their life in context of the question: “where we could have been”. It’s a mental battle between "where we are now" and "what could have been". Ariely correctly notes that what happens in this space is either feelings of happiness or regret. Applying this to digital, what a brand’s voice must then do is speak directly to the underlying drivers of a person (see my earlier article on this topic here) but frame messaging in a way that either congratulations OR enables a clear path forward (through the brand) to achieve what was missed out upon. 
  2. FOMO then magnifies when we feel close to an alternative. Ariely uses examples of the Olympic medalist in second place or an airline traveler missing a flight by just two minutes to underline how the closer we are to the goal, the greater the regret can be. This mental model clearly shows marketers how pivotal close understanding of our audience becomes (analytics). If the consumer misses by inches or miles (for example) will drastically leverage either great regret or passive dismissal of the emotion. 
  3. Social media is a FOMO monster. Daily feeds of luxurious vacations, true love, wonderful meals, happy kittens all fuel various triggers by supplying an infinite stream of “what could have been” options. Understand then that not only is social a mechanism for you to reach and engage with your audience, that same audience is being bombarded with consistent reminders that will all activate the consumer’s potential regret. 

One other key takeaway:

These concepts also apply to marketers as well. When evaluating our own professional accomplishments or professional status, we reflect on our own set of actions, omissions or choices. Naturally we all aspire to be great, recognized and respected but with literally millions of marketers out there all touting their awards, their accomplishments and their successes, we too can look in the mirror of life and feel the regrets of almost-but-not-quite. 

The Mastering Digital Strategy program is built to remove regret. Giving marketers the full suite of skills from strategy, sales, profiling, content and analytics, Marketer FOMO can be a thing of the past. To help this happen, we’re cutting 50% off the regular price for the first 200 Digital Doughnut members. You can get that here.

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