Using FOMO to Beat Your Competition

Consumers and humans in general are often in a state of frenzy, taken down by the fear of missing out on something someone else has, is doing, is experiencing, and thus falling behind in our conscious and even more unconscious need to be better, stronger, faster and more poised to survive than others in the world around us.

Voo Doo Donuts
“Voo Doo Donuts” | Credit: Jeanette McMurtry

It’s a real and paralyzing psychological state of mind that drives much of what your customers think, buy and do. And for that matter, you too!

Consumers and humans in general are often in a state of frenzy, taken down by the fear of missing out on something someone else has, is doing, is experiencing, and thus falling behind in our conscious and even more unconscious need to be better, stronger, faster and more poised to survive than others in the world around us.

Scientists, psychologists, sociologists and now us marketers call this it FOMO — the Fear of Missing Out, which drives us to addictions of always being connected, always watching others, and following paths to make sure we are not left out of opportunities others have that would benefit us somehow, or that we never make bad choices that would set us back somehow.

Per an in-depth-article posted by ABC Online, “FOMO can be described as the feeling that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you.”

And this fear can lead to high levels of anxiety, frenetic behavior and stress that our lives are not all they should be, that we will not reach the potential promoted through poetic social tiles on so many “friends” Facebook pages, or find the levels of self-actualization and joy we see in others promoted all over the Web.

FOMO can either paralyze us into a state of indecision or retreat to deal with deep feelings of failure, or it can invigorate us to get going and get doing what everyone else is doing. For businesses in B2B and B2C, there is a lot of good here we can tap.

My favorite example is illustrated by the line you see in the photo associated with this post. This line is about one hour, maybe two, in a remote part of Portland, Ore., a couple of miles from the mainstream attractions of downtown. Yet day and night, the line wraps around the block — as you see in the photo. It is nothing more than a doughnut store. And when I took this photo, it was raining.

People would ask me what the line was for, and more often than not, when I told them it was for doughnuts, they’d think for a moment and then jump in. And when people came out of the store with their precious doughnuts in hand, those still in line would stretch and strain to get a glimpse of this doughnut that they simply could not miss out on trying and being able to post and tweet about if it was indeed as cool as the long line implied it would be.

This is not just related to the force that social proof has over our thoughts and actions, but to our fears of not having what others have that in the end elevates their chance of survival over ours — be it a social, physical, financial, emotional or materialistic advantage. We can promote how in-demand our products and services are, and how far consumers will go to get what we offer. We can also offer some intrigue, like the doughnut store does by using interesting curious names for the doughnuts, to which they add bacon, whipped crème, sprinkles, pretzels and other novel toppings. If something is different from the norm, the FOMO often kicks in, even for things we don’t really need or know we want at the time.

The reality for marketers to note is that our FOMO has reached epic levels, as we are constantly exposed to new opportunities, events, experiences, products and opportunities to increase our personal cool factor scores with our smartphones, to which we are addicted 24/7. We check our phones and social pages constantly to make sure we are not missing out on the latest news, information, sales, events and so on.

How can we ethically tap into FOMO to build our brand and sales? Well, we’ve been doing it for years, as inspired by Lester Wunderman and other pioneers in direct response marketing. Those CTAs or calls to action that shout, “Act now, while supplies last,” or “Limited time only” or “Only three left in stock” propel us to act before someone else gets what we want and leaves us empty-handed, all appeal to  FOMO and provide us a way to avoid it. This appeal has always worked, and always will. So don’t drop it just because everyone has been using it for decades. Human nature, when it comes to psychological triggers, doesn’t change and never will.

Essentially, overcoming FOMO addresses our survival DNA, and helps us feel superior and capable of surviving over others. Therefore, if brands can create opportunities that make us feel exceptional, exclusive and superior in some way, we are more likely to capture their attention and better engage them in conversations and events that lead to purchases, repeat purchases, referrals and increased lifetime value.

Ways to do this that could cost you nothing or cost you a lot, depending on how you intend to execute, include:

  • Customer VIP Events. This works for B2B and B2C. Host an event that is more meaningful and valuable for customers than your brand, and send them away with much more than they expected. They will feel appreciated, grateful and that they have something others don’t. Your brand!
  • Create Special Offers for customers that have chosen to align with you. Offer discounts, early-bird pricing, free gifts and other perks for customers and members of your loyalty team only. Offer perks frequently enough to remind them that they are part of something exclusive that gives them that edge over others.
  • Offer Exclusive Products to “members only.” Costco is starting to do this more and more, because it works and it can work for your small or large brand, as well. Find a product that reflects the values of your customers and helps elevate their status in business or personal circle, and offer it exclusively to people that have chosen to align with your brand. Make it worth staying aligned with your brand and worth opening up your future emails to see what’s next in your offerings.

Regardless of what business you are in, make customers feel like they are getting something from you; be it service, products, insights, content and so on, that they can’t get elsewhere, and that others not in your “fold” can’t get. Again, something as simple as an event invitation or content like a checklist to success, can be the difference that takes FOMO out of your customers’ minds and puts your brand in for life!

Gamification: Game Playing? Or Game Changing?

Direct marketers have known for years that involvement devices in direct mail draw the reader in and often result in higher response rates. A couple of recent articles about “gamification” and the fact that the Super Bowl game is coming in a few days, got me to thinking about how direct marketers can seize the “gamification” phenomenon. Here are five ideas about how you can use our cultural obsession to play games to

Direct marketers have known for years that involvement devices in direct mail draw the reader in and often result in higher response rates. A couple of recent articles about “gamification,” and the fact that the Super Bowl game is coming in a few days, got me to thinking about how direct marketers can seize the “gamification” phenomenon. Here are five ideas about how you can use our cultural obsession to play games to boost response.

Two recent articles are worth noting for direct marketers. One article was about playing games. The other about gamification.

On one side of the coin, games are used to reduce stress by people who play on mobile devices. In this case, an eMarketer report said that 50 percent of mobile gamers spend up to 30 minutes daily playing games to reduce stress. Others use games to pass time.

On the other side of the coin, offices are using gamification to increase productivity, which reportedly increases stress. In office settings, gaming processes—gamification—engages users to solve problems that improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness and learning. An article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The ‘Gamification’ of the Office Approaches” noted how productivity inside offices can be tracked and measured in points, fostering competitiveness and excellence.

Gaming is all around us. Millions scratch off lottery tickets or pick random numbers, and casinos are often packed.

In a few days, the biggest football game of the year—the Super Bowl—will be played with millions watching, and a lot of money wagered, as it becomes a national obsession for several days.

Let’s face it: We’re a culture who loves to play games and keep score.

For direct marketers, we can use our cultural obsession with games for a marketing advantage to increase response.

Whether you use offline direct mail with tokens or other involvement devices, or online channels, gaming techniques that are vetted as being legal, can be a good way to perk up your results.

Here are five ideas:

  1. In direct mail, if you mail your prospects or customers frequently, add a game that builds over time for purpose, more interaction and anticipation of your mailing.
  2. For any channel you’re in, use games to create customer loyalty so your buyers return again and again.
  3. In social media, check-ins and badges using mobile apps are like games, and they get your name in front of the friends of your fans.
  4. Encourage people to play a game that requires completing surveys and gives information about themselves for use in nurture marketing programs.
  5. Let your prospects and customers track their game scores, but as a direct marketer using sophisticated marketing automation software, you can turn the tables and score your customers to determine who is most likely to come back and buy again.

Finally, if you’re stumped with generating ideas, get your staff together and play games to get the ideas swirling. Ideation meetings that include games often bring out unexpected creative ideas.

Bottom line, use the principles of gamification to reinvent and re-energize your direct marketing approach. By becoming familiar with gamification techniques now, you or your staff may identify the next big sales game changer.