How many ads do you think you see in a day? Some people estimate that an average consumer is exposed to thousands of ads daily. This is especially true for people who use the internet, where ads show up nearly everywhere. This ad-saturated environment might be a little like driving down a highway lined with billboards, one standing right beside the next for miles. You would soon simply ignore them.
That’s the consumer side, but there is also a marketer side—behind every ad is a person and a business. Businesses have more opportunities and outlets for their advertising than ever before. This is true even for Plain businesses like ours.
Fear of missing out
You’re probably familiar with acronyms such as ASAP, SWOT, CEO, FWIW, and CTA, but what about FOMO—the Fear Of Missing Out?
The dictionary definition of FOMO is “fear of not being included in something (such as an interesting or enjoyable activity) that others are experiencing.”
A person who checks his phone constantly for messages or updates on what his friends are doing is falling prey to FOMO. FOMO causes a person to attend every social event he possibly can so as not to miss out on anything interesting.
We might think of teenagers as being the most susceptible to FOMO, but it can happen to all of us. FOMO drives “get rich quick” schemes and other investments. When our friends tell us about the mountains of money they are making, we don’t want to miss out, so we jump on the bandwagon too.
FOMO is an actual marketing tactic. For example, marketers may try to create a sense of urgency by limited-time offers or by showing that only a few items are left in stock (Only 4 left—order now!). Other marketing tactics based on FOMO:
1. Indicating that “everyone else” has this item.
2. Making exclusive offers to “members only.”
3. Saying that “This is selling fast! Act now!”
4. Displaying how many other people are using the product.
5. Using messaging such as “Don’t Miss Out on This Great Deal!”
However, this article is not about how to use FOMO in your marketing. In fact, fear-based marketing can quickly become unethical, manipulating or pressuring people to purchase. If you are using FOMO techniques, use them with integrity.
FOMO isn’t limited to consumer behavior. Marketers and business owners run into FOMO too, as part of their work. So this article is about helping you as a marketer or a business owner understand how FOMO might be driving your marketing decisions in unhealthy ways. With this understanding, you can then make better decisions and improve your marketing.
Causes of FOMO for marketers
Herd mentality. We all share the human tendency to want to keep up with our peers and “follow the herd” so that we don’t miss out on something. As a businessperson, you watch what your competitors are doing and try to figure out what works for them.
“Everyone else” is offering a 20% discount, so I should too. “Everyone else” advertises on social media, so I should too. “Everyone else” emphasizes the quality of their product, so I should too. But wait a minute.
The logic of following the herd is that “if it works for them, it will work for me.” For example, if your competitor starts running glossy full-page ads in a high-profile national magazine, then you may feel pressured to start doing the same thing. They wouldn’t be running those expensive ads if they didn’t work, right? Not necessarily.
The “herd mentality” doesn’t take into consideration that perhaps the other person made a mistake. The reality might be that what looks like a successful campaign to you as an outsider might actually be money down the drain with little return for it.
The “herd mentality” also doesn’t take into account the fact that what works for one company might not work for another company. Just because something worked for your competitor doesn’t mean it will work for you. And if everyone in an industry is doing the same thing, it’s likely that none of them will stand out to the customer as being different.
Complex world with many opportunities. Our world is much more complex than it was fifty years ago. The pace of change has accelerated, with new technologies and opportunities nearly overwhelming us.
The internet offers a lot of ways to reach new customers and keep in touch with old ones. With so many options, a marketer can try one thing, and then try the next, and keep flitting from one experiment to the next with no plan.
Too much information. In today’s world, we are flooded with advice and information (like this article!). One marketing expert tells us to try this formula. Another one tells us to take his approach.
Having access to information is great, but the downside is that we have a hard time figuring out whose advice will work the best in our unique situation. Another downside is FOMO: we hear lots of ideas and so we want to try out new things for fear of missing out.
All this information and enthusiasm can lead to a haphazard, scattershot approach to marketing rather than following a focused, intentional plan. Random acts of marketing can bring you random instances of success, but wouldn’t you rather have a steady drip, drip, drip of success consistently over time?
Shiny object syndrome. Imagine a crow dropping out of the air to pick up a piece of tinfoil that caught his attention. As he flies off, he suddenly notices another shiny trinket in the grass. He drops the tinfoil and picks up the trinket. As he flies home, a piece of broken glass sparkling on the pavement catches his eye. He drops the trinket to investigate this new shiny object.
The term “shiny object syndrome” can be defined as “the tendency to continually chase new trends, new opportunities, and new ideas without evaluating their benefit first.” Shiny object syndrome is the inability (or unwillingness) to stay focused.
Rosewood has experienced its share of “shiny object” moments in the past. In the early years of the business, we had the idea of publishing a songbook of Christmas carols, but when the project became a bother, we sold the songbook to an employee. Rosewood also published a business directory called The Tulpehocken Trading Post, but it too was a distraction from Rosewood’s core focus and was discontinued.
Perhaps you have an employee or coworker who is full of marketing ideas: “Let’s start a blog! Let’s do a big sale next month! Let’s start using Instagram! Let’s start a newsletter! Let’s start posting on Facebook every day! Let’s start a YouTube channel!” And on and on.
These may be good ideas, but are they better than your current marketing plan? You know you have “shiny object syndrome” when starting a new project seems a lot more fun and appealing than faithfully sticking to the projects that you have already decided on.
Avoiding FOMO as a marketer
At Rosewood Marketing, we guard against the herd mentality, shiny object syndrome, and FOMO by creating marketing plans for our clients. We are intentional about making a plan—and then sticking with it. Of course, we love to try new ideas, but we try not to rush willy-nilly from one new idea to the next. We don’t believe in random acts of marketing.
Here are some tips for avoiding FOMO as a marketer:
1. Practice patience and discipline. Our marketing investments don’t bear fruit immediately. This is where patience comes in. Set your course and then be prepared to sit back and wait a while for results. I know, waiting is hard! But what if you change course right before you were going to see signs of success?
Another reason we need patience and discipline is that we can get bored doing the “same old thing.” But if it’s working, then the “same old thing” is exactly what we should keep doing.
2. Create a plan, and then implement it consistently. A marketing plan is like a roadmap, it shows you what to do next. But for every item included on a plan, there are ten items excluded. And those excluded items—the things we could be doing and aren’t—can make us wonder “what if.” What if we would try that? Sticking to your plan keeps you from going off the tracks due to FOMO.
3. Know your customers. Knowing your ideal customer helps you create your plan. Knowing your customers helps you know what will and what won’t work in reaching them. When you hear of someone else trying something new, you can say, “That likely won’t work for me because that’s not where my customers are.”
4. Know your brand. Knowing our business’s core values and mission helps us make marketing decisions. For example, suppose your neighbor tells you that you should be advertising on TV.
While his stories of success might seem appealing, you can immediately rule out TV advertising because it goes against your values. The same principle applies in many other situations. Your marketing strategies and tactics need to be aligned with your brand.
5. Keep a list of ideas for the future. I’m not advocating against trying new things. Trying new approaches in marketing is essential. Throughout the quarter or the year, keep a list of things that you want to consider trying in the future. Each year in your marketing planning, use this list to incorporate new things into your marketing plan.
6. Run pilot projects. A good way to be careful and intentional in your marketing is to start small and then increase your investment after the results are in. Otherwise, FOMO can drain your marketing budget dry before you realize what is happening.
Do you sometimes feel worn out with marketing? Do you feel like you need to keep chasing the latest trends and trying new things? Do you nearly always say “yes” when someone contacts you with a wonderful opportunity to advertise your business and almost as often end up regretting the quick decision?
If so, it might be due to that fear of missing out that we’ve discussed in this article. There is a better way. Make decisions based on what works best for your business and the niche market you are trying to reach. When you recognize that feeling of being driven by FOMO, slow down and reconsider before you commit to something new.