Everybody’s talking about FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out.
It’s a sillt buzzword that speaks to a major psychological principle that’s only getting more prominent as we get even more connected over social media. In short, FOMO is the principle that sends you over to a crowd of people just to see what they’re looking at, or leaves you disappointed when you’re the only one of your friends who isn’t playing Pokeman Go, even though you never cared about it to begin with.
FOMO is the fear that we’re somehow skipping something even better than what we’ve already got. So basically, it’s a fancy way of saying “the grass is always greener” or “you want what you can’t have,” and it’s being fueled by the internet to a massive degree. All we ever see are how great all our friends’ lives are and how shabby our own seem by comparison. We know we have neuroses, fears, and boredoms, but everyone else in the world looks like they’re having a great time.
But FOMO is an ultra-powerful marketing asset if you can leverage it properly.
Think about how Apple utilizes FOMO to move their products with lightning speed; they’ve got the cachet on cool, so all they really have to do is limit production – and let artificial scarcity do the rest. A simple notice saying “Supplies are limited; many orders may not ship until the summer” (as during the Apple Watch launch) tells people that if they don’t purchase right now they’ll have to wait another eight months for the magical little toy – but all of their friends will already have it.
Now, not everyone can be Apple, but we can still make use of FOMO to increase traffic and conversions.
Fear is always a part of marketing. It can be explicit (as in Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” ad), or it can be subtle, but you’re trying to reach people who want something, and want carries a concomitant fear of not getting it. Sometimes it’s as simple as “You want to have fun. This is fun. You don’t want to not have fun.” But where FOMO comes in is with a very simple addition: “Everyone else is having fun. You’ll be the only one not having fun.”
That’s isolating. It makes you feel like you’re on the outs with the crowd. And it can make you feel like what you are doing is a waste, an unwanted toy that suddenly feels a million times less impressive than it did a moment ago.
You can harness that feeling.
There’s an interesting little element in the modern video game marketplace called downloadable content, or DLC. DLC can be everything from new costumes for your hero, new maps to play on, or even entirely new feature sets that can change how the game operates, hopefully for the better. And the thing is – DLC is almost never free.
The people who they want to purchase DLC are already customers, milking more money from their most dedicated, hardcore fans, by dangling more stuff in front of them. And since gaming is a community activity, people without the DLC are frequently unable to play competitively with those who do (who quickly become a massive chunk of the player base) and are constantly exposed to the improvements the content offers through social contact.
And if they want to avoid that, well, all they have to do is fork over $15 bucks.
This works. It works crazy well. It takes advantage of the massive investment people have in the original product to continue to monetize it well into the future – sometimes years into the future, turning a $60 game into something someone has invested hundreds and hundreds of dollars into.
Which just makes them more likely to buy the next DLC.
How You Can Take Advantage
- When you develop your content, don’t give them everything all at once; leave room to expand on it. For example, if you put out “5 Ways to Clean Industrial Equipment Cheaply,” you can follow up by marketing “5 More Ways to Clean Industrial Equipment Cheaply” to the same people – with massive conversion rates that will help you identify highly engaged leads.
- Include a complementary content offer to go alongside otherwise free content. A blog post, for example, could be about five simple ways to increase your home’s resale value, and follow it up with “The Comprehensive Guide to Maximizing Your Home’s Resale Value” – which they can have in exchange for an email address.
In both cases, you’re leveraging their established interest by enticing them with something they actually don’t want to miss out on; if you want to increase your home’s resale value a little, well, you almost certainly want to maximize that value. And all it costs is an email address. And if you pass on the offer? That could be costing you tens of thousands of dollars.
Mic drop. #FOMO
Heinz is crazy. But also Heinz is genius.
They created an exclusive, limited-edition ketchup product. But instead of slapping “exclusive” on the bottle, they limited its availability to people who had bothered to like Heinz’s Facebook page.
Ketchup people, in other words.
The social ad they used to promote it? “This is for serious ketchup fans only.” The only way to learn about how to get this balsamic vinegar ketchup was to Like their Facebook page. And the thing is?
There’s a key takeaway to this: not everything is for everybody, and by limiting availability, you make people want to be in the pool of people who can have it. And if there’s a simple action – liking a page, handing over their email address – that gets them in that in-group, well, people will do it.
They’ll do it like crazy, because nobody likes to be excluded, even from ketchup. Telling people they can’t have something tends to make them want it, because they don’t want to miss out on something. So you can take advantage of this by giving people opportunities to move from out-group to in-group with ease, making the transition frictionless, and collecting valuable data in the process.
And that is how you turn regular people into ketchup people.
In short, FOMO is a powerful psychological force that can turn disinterest into ravenous obsession, because nobody wants to miss out on something rad. By hyping exclusivity and leveraging existing customers, you can drive lead generation and improve conversions.