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!

3 Parts of ‘Smart’ Marketing

I find myself pondering all of the things I’ve learned in my career about what’s smart, and what’s not so smart about marketing today. The following are three “parts” of marketing strategies that never fail for brands big and small, as well as in all industries.

smart marketingWith this month’s release of my new book — “Marketing for Dummies,” a new edition that focuses on the digital era — I find myself pondering all of the things I’ve learned in my career about what’s smart, and what’s not so smart about marketing today. The following are three “parts” of marketing strategies that never fail for brands big and small, as well as in all industries.

It’s Not About Creative

Thinking that the more clever or shocking your advertising is, the more your sales will go up is a trap that many big brands fall into. Take a look at the Super Bowl ad phenomenon.

GoDaddy historically does the worst, most tasteless ads every year. Yet they have experienced consistent growth each year and are at a pace to grow 20 percent. On the flip side, Budweiser always has the most heart-warming, talked-about ads with its horses and puppies, and quite often earns the coveted “most-liked ad” in the USA listings the day after. Yet, as pointed out in an article in Money.com, during their roll of Super Bowl ad success, sales have been going down along with their dominance in the beer category.

The takeaway here is clear: Creative entertains and builds name recall, but not necessarily sales results. If you are okay to entertain with your ads and not worry about the impact on sales, then go hire a creative team who can create a mini-movie in 30 seconds. If you need advertising to drive sales, ROI and profitability, like most businesses, then put your resources into the next three parts. Not saying creative is not important, but it should not be what drives your marketing strategy. What should drive it is a product of the knowledge you have about what inspires, moves, motivates and engages your customers — consciously and unconsciously.

Consumers disliked GoDaddy's Super Bowl ad in 2015.
Consumers disliked GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad in 2015.

Empathy Is the Foundation

The definition of empathy is: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Now more than ever, understanding consumers’ and what moves them to engage, trust and assign loyalty is critical for acquisition and retention. CRM and data analytics platforms and so many more programs help us understand how and why consumers make choices so we can build highly relevant content to deploy across channels used daily by those we want to reach most.

Yet, if our communications focus only on what we learn from “data” about their transactions, we fall short. We need to understand what drives consumers emotionally and psychologically to engage. What are the feelings that influence their ability to trust and what actions create positive feelings toward brands? As I’ve written in many columns and throughout my book, these feelings that drive consumers toward our brands are much deeper than the satisfaction with our products or services. They are the feelings associated with what drives human nature: a sense of belonging, respect, value and altruism toward common causes.

Your communications and marketing content needs to be rooted in “empathy” of shared feelings and mutual understanding. With all of the research about consumers’ values and their support for companies that engage in sincere CSR programs, it’s not hard to get a glimpse of the feelings that move sales today.

Survival Is in Our DNA

After years of studying human psychology and how it drives choice and behavior, this single fundamental element of human nature stands out the most: We are wired for survival, just like any species is, and all of our thoughts and actions follow suit.

Survival relates not just to our physical well-being, but to every aspect of our lives. Consciously, and more so unconsciously, our need to survive socially, professionally, and emotionally is part of the big and small choices we make daily. Shopping for a dress for the company holiday party is not just about what makes you look good, it’s about projecting the image you believe will help you look powerful, sophisticated, and smart in order to maintain your current position or ready you for a new one that is better and enhances your professional and financial position.

When you can create personalized communications, or mass communications around key personas for your customer groups, you hit the emotional chords that get customers to engage and start a journey with your brand to see if it will lead them to a stronger position in the areas of life that matter most to them: social, professional, emotional, financial and more.

Conclusion

While there are many more than three parts of survival for brands marketing products and services in today’s dynamic and complex market environments, these three fundamentals are part of any “smart” marketing plan. No matter what level you are in your marketing career, you will “dummy” down your short- and long-term results if you don’t apply empathy, address the survival DNA, and keep your creative or marketing content relevant to these two drivers.

This Will Scare the !@#$% Out of You, Marketers!

Sit down for this one: 80 percent of CEOs do not trust their CMOs or marketing teams to deliver results. Ninety percent of those same CEOs DO trust their IT and finance teams, or so claims a recent study by the Fournaise Group.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 10.27.11 AMSit down for this one: 80 percent of CEOs do not trust their CMOs or marketing teams to deliver results. Ninety percent of those same CEOs DO trust their IT and finance teams, or so claims a recent study by the Fournaise Group.

Its no wonder that 93 percent of marketing leads feel increasing pressure to perform along with the added frustration of feeling they do not have the resources to get the results expected from the board room. And it’s also no surprise that the average tenure for CMOs is slipping, down to 26.5 months in 2015 from 35.5 months in 2014.

Given these “scary” numbers and others and other statistics about marketing challenges today, its not far off to claim that many in our profession have become the “working scared.” Scared of the rapid pace in which technology changes, scared that IT will soon takeover their functions, scared that unrealistic expectations for ROI based on media strategies, which are tough to measure anyway, will run them out of jobs and thwart their career paths, and so on.

The fear associated with failing our CEOs, shareholders, marketing teams, ourselves and our families is resulting in a lot of knee-jerk purchasing behavior by CMOs and the like. A friend of mine who is a top sales executive for a global marketing technology company describes CMOs as reactive more than proactive, spending huge amounts on technologies they don’t understand in search of that golden and instant ROI.

While there may not be a lot of upside to working in fear, it does give us a better understanding of what drives our consumers to think and buy like they do. Just like CMOs who buy technology they don’t understand – and in many cases don’t even know what the acronym stands for – in order to avoid a painful loss, consumers seek to buy things to help them do the same, just in other areas of life. For example, consumers buy luxury labels for clothing and cars that cost so much more than functional alternatives because we fear losing social status among those we seek to impress. We buy educational products or college degrees for fear of losing a quality of life we anticipate or have now. We buy technology that will keep us connected with our jobs, our networks and our knowledge sources so we don’t have to fear being left behind. The list goes on.